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Government agrees on priorities ahead of EU summit on migration issue

The Czech government has approved its mandate for the upcoming EU summit on migration to be held in Malta, making the protection of the European Union’s external borders as well as agreements with Turkey and countries in Africa a top priority. The news was revealed by the State Secretary for European Affairs Tomáš Prouza. Leaders, including Czech Prime Minsiter Bohuslav Sobotka, are to take part in the two-day summit beginning Wednesday. Meanwhile, EU interior ministers meet on Monday to discuss greater cooperation on border protection and asylum procedure as well as cooperation with Turkey.

Government agrees on early retirement package for miners

The country’s miners will be allowed to retire five years earlier than the rest of the working population the government agreed at its cabinet meeting on Monday. The plan was put forward by the Ministry for Labour & Social Affairs; if passed into law, it would mean miners would be able to retire at the age of 58. The ministry tabulates that the total cost of the early retirement package will be an estimated 11.6 billion crowns until 2055 – the estimated expiry date for brown coal mines in the country.

Former PM Špidla to head Czech-German group

Former Czech prime minister Vladimír Špidla will head a Czech-German working group with the task of bridging a growing divide between the Czech Republic and Germany over the EU’s continuing migrant crisis, the daily Lidové noviny reports. According to the daily, German diplomacy expressly asked for the nomination of the 64-year-old politician in the hopes he might blunt anti-immigration rhetoric by some Czech government members. Mr Špidla was prime minister in 2002-2004 and the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities from 2004 to 2010. Although the Czech Republic and Germany enjoy strong economic ties, relations between the two countries are said to have suffered over differences on migrant quotas, which the Czech Republic opposes.

Defence Minister throws hat in the ring to run Prague ANO branch

Defence Minister Martin Stropnický has confirmed his candidacy to head the Prague branch of the ANO party. Recently, the minister got backing from ANO leader Andrej Babiš. Party members will vote to find a new leader following the departure of Radmila Kleslová, who was heavily criticised for highly-paid consultancy services at a number of major firms. She stated she was hounded by the media and denied there had been any conflict of interest.

Poll suggests one-third of Czechs consider membership in NATO more important than in EU

A new poll released by the STEM agency suggests that one-third of Czechs think that membership in NATO is more important than membership in the European Union. According to the poll, the country’s membership in NATO has support from 69 percent of those asked; around half of respondents ranked membership in the EU as equally important. Over the years, the importance of NATO for Czechs has grown steadily. The Czech Republic joined the European Union in 2004.

Strike at Lufthansa affecting flights to Prague

A strike by Lufthansa flight attendants continues on Monday and will affect over 900 flights, including scheduled flights to Prague, the ctk news agency reports. All four flights between Prague and Frankfurt have been scrapped. The Lufthansa Flight Attendant's Union has not said for how long the strike action may continue but there are reports it could run for several more days.

Freight train accident closes track north of Prague

A freight train accident near Drísy north of Prague has closed the track between Stará Boleslav and Mělník, the ctk news agency reports. Four carriages carrying tankers with crude oil derailed and one of them turned over. Czech Railways reported a small oil leak. Clean up work is expected to continue for several more hours and passengers have been asked to make use of replacement busses provided by Czech Railways. The damage is estimated at over 11 million crowns.

Police detain 33 people in checks related to cannabis festival

Prague police detained 33 people at the weekend following controls as a result of the international Cannafest 2015 fair focussing on cannabis and healing herbs. The arrests pertained largely to possession or driving under the influence of an illicit substance; 282 people were stopped for misdemeanours and fined on the spot. The fines amounted to 164,000 crowns, the police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulová confirmed.

State prosecutor appeals court decision on Ztohoven

The state prosecutor has appealed a decision by the district court for Prague 1 in October not to arbitrate a case against three members of the guerrilla art group Ztohoven. The three had made international headlines earlier when they took down the presidential flag at Prague Castle. As part of the stunt, they replaced the flag with a pair of giant red underpants symbolising opposition to the head-of-state’s policies and stance on Russia and China. Damage incurred (largely to the roof of the Castle) was estimated at almost 100,000 crowns. The judge in the district court questioned the number tallied and there was an apparent lack of evidence against the three charged.

Art historian František Dvořák dies aged 95

The highly-respected art historian František Dvořák, the author of more than 35 monographs, has died at the age of 95. The news was confirmed by his family on Monday. Mr Dvořák published his last monograph, about painter Karel Chaba, earlier this year. The historian had expressed the desire to write a book about the art collections at Prague Castle.