Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has called on European leaders to make an all-out effort to preserve the Schengen open space. In a letter sent to the heads of governments on the eve of Thursday’s EU summit, Mr. Sobotka said Schengen is a symbol of the EU’s functionality and its demise would undermine public trust in the alliance as well as fueling nationalist and xenophobic sentiments. The Czech head of government said his country was ready to actively participate in securing Schengen’s outer borders and he welcomed the EC's decision to create a common border and coast guard.
A court in Slovenia has sentenced a 25-year-old student to 15 months in jail for sending a letter containing a poisonous substance to Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš last year. He was found guilty of producing and selling illegal substances. The judge ruled that the accusations of terrorism were unsubstantiated and there was no direct proof that the young man had any connection to the group which tried to blackmail the Czech government into giving them tens of millions of crowns. According to the court the student had simply fulfilled a client’s request in sending the letter containing the toxic substance to a given address. The student’s lawyer has appealed the decision.
The line-up of judges serving on the four panels of the Constitutional Court will in future be subject to rotation so as to ensure greater plurality of opinion and expertise, Constitutional Court head Pavel Rychetský told the ctk news agency. Judge Rychetský said the change was approved by the wider plenum of the Constitutional Court. The four panels deal with individual complaints that make up 90 percent of the court’s agenda. Until now their line-up was permanent, with judges retaining their place on the panel throughout their mandate and was therefore indirectly influenced by the choice of the president and Senate who alone have the right to appoint Constitutional Court judges.
President Miloš Zeman on Wednesday met with the country’s political leaders to coordinate their stands on foreign policy issues. The meeting at Prague Castle was attended by Prime Minister Sobotka, the ministers of foreign affairs and defense as well as the speakers of both houses of Parliament. The talks focussed on the migrant crisis, over which the president and prime minister clashed sharply a few weeks ago, cooperation within the Višegrad four group of states and the Czech Republic’s activities in presiding over the alliance. According to the prime minister all parties agreed on the need to strenthen border security, welcomed the EC initiative to establish a joint border and coast guard and rejected the idea of a "mini-Schengen".
The Czech National Bank board on Wednesday confirmed its commitment to intervene on foreign exchange markets until the end of 2016 in order to weaken the crown and maintain an exchange rate of CZK 27/EUR. The board also agreed to keep interest rates, now at a historic low, unchanged. The two-week repo rate will be maintained at 0.05%, the discount rate at 0.05% and the Lombard rate at 0.25%.
Former Czech president Václav Klaus has said he wants to form a broad grouping to deal with the issue of the immigration crisis. Klaus, the founder of the centre-right Civic Democrats (ODS), said the platform would stretch across the whole political spectrum from the communist party to his former party. He said it would help give politicians a mandate from the public to refuse immigrants. Klaus said he had been in contract with leaders of political parties and groups over the past two months but the contacts did not include the Bloc Against Islam or the Freedom and Direct Democracy Moment of Tomio Okamura because their views did not coincide with his. Klaus said he would head the platform.
Czech energy company EPH confirmed that it has reached a broad agreement to buy out Italian power company ENEL’s shares in Slovenské Elektrárne. A final deal still has to be signed, a spokesman said. Under the first stage of the deal EPH should buy around 33 percent of Slovakia’s biggest electricity producer and nuclear power plant operator. The remainder of its 64 percent stake would be delivered when the Mochovce nuclear units 3 and 4 are completed in around two years time.
A new law due to come into force next year will make it possible to hunt wild boar of all ages and genders throughout the year, rather than from the start of August to the end of December as at present. The wild boar population has overbred in recent years due to mild winters and has been causing damages to farmers to the tune of billions of crowns.
The Olomouc regional court has sentenced a Vietnamese national to ten years in jail for drugs peddling. The man was caught red-handed trying to cross the Czech-Slovak border with two suitcases packed with marihuana, altogether 20 kilograms. He is believed to be part of an international gang involved in smuggling soft drugs. Three other suspects are being tried in Slovakia.
French chanson singer Charles Aznavour is due to perform in the Czech Republic for the first time ever next April. The 91-year-old singer will be here within his farewell tour in the course of which he has performed in dozens of cities in the US, Canada and Europe. His Prague concert is scheduled for April 6 and tickets should start selling just before Christmas. Aznavour has no previously performed in the Czech Republic, although he was here for the filming of a movie in 2001.
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