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Greece recalls ambassador over comments by Zeman

Greece has recalled its ambassador to the Czech Republic for consultations because of comments about the country by President Miloš Zeman. Ambassador Panayotis Sarris confirmed the news to the Czech News Agency. Mr. Zeman said last week that the Czech Republic should only adopt the euro once Greece’s involvement in the single European currency was clarified. He indicated that he had been disappointed that Greece had not exited the Eurozone and expressed fears that Czech taxpayers could end up paying Greece’s debts. Recalling an ambassador is regarded as a vehement form of protest.

EU foreign policy chief Mogherini to visit Prague next month

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, is due to visit Prague on January 11 for talks with the Czech minister of foreign affairs, Lubomír Zaorálek. The Italian politician had been due to visit the Czech capital in November but the trip was cancelled, officially because of an injury to Mr. Zaorálek. However there was speculation that Ms. Mogherini had chosen to stay away because of statements by some Czech politicians, including President Miloš Zeman, concerning Islam and refugees.

PM and union head sign collective agreement on benefits

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and the leaders of three Czech trade’s unions have signed a collective agreement on civil service employees. Under the deal, which comes into effect at the start of next month, such workers will get five days paid sick leave a year. They will also receive special bonuses linked to landmark birthdays and for spending set periods in service. For instance, staff who reach the age of 60 will get CZK 10,000, as will employees who have been in service for 10 years.

Cabinet decides no moves to adopt euro in 2016

The Czech government on Monday decided that no move would be made in 2016 to dump the Czech crown and adopt the euro. The Czech Republic currently meets nearly all the criteria for joining the euro zone apart from a minimum two year term in the ERM-2, in which the Czech crown would have a limited range to move against the euro. Monday’s decision still means that the earliest date for Czech adoption of the euro remains 2020.

Poll: Half Czechs feel refugee crisis has harmed Czech-German relations

Around half of Czechs believe that the refugee crisis has led to a worsening of relations with Germany, suggests an opinion poll carried out this month by the STEM agency for the Czech-German Fund for the Future. Germany has taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees this year, a move that eight in 10 Czechs do not understand, the survey indicates. Prague was opposed to Berlin’s plan for compulsory migrant quotas and surveys suggest Czechs are among the European nations with the least welcoming attitude to refugees.

Market leader United Bakeries changing hands

The biggest group of bakeries in the Czech Republic, United Bakeries, is changing hands. The Luxembourg-based company Moulins de Kleinbettingen is set to acquire a majority stake in United Bakeries from entrepreneur Marek Pařík under a deal that has been approved by the regulator. United Bakeries’ biggest rival on the Czech market is Penam, owned by the Agrofert group of Finance Minister Andrej Babiš; it made an unsuccessful bid to acquire United Bakeries two years ago.

Prague councillors take steps to curb buskers

Street performers in Prague will only be allowed to appear on either side of the river Vltava every other hour from March under an edict approved by city councillors on Tuesday. The regulation still needs to be confirmed. In addition buskers will be barred from using electric amplifiers, as well as percussion and some wind instruments. Performing with animals will also be forbidden if the move gets the green light. Residents complain that buskers, who have been allowed under regulations introduced in 2013, are too loud and constantly perform the same material.

Spirits mafia receive jail terms of up to 13 years

A court in Olomouc has sentenced a man to 13 years in prison for running a large-scale illicit spirits operation. Radek Březina, who Czech media refer to as the boss of a liquor mafia, has also had his property seized. His brother Tomáš, Březina’s closest associate, received a four-year term, while five other members of the gang got prison sentences ranging from six to 12 years. The group deprived the state of nearly CZK 7 billion in taxes. In 2012 there was a temporary ban on spirits in the Czech Republic after a spate of poisonings. Nearly 50 people died in total and several others were left with lasting health problems.

Zuzana Hejnová voted Czech sports personality of the year

In sport, 400 metres hurdler Zuzana Hejnová was voted the Czech sports personality of the year. The ceremony took place Monday night. Second placed was speed skater Martina Sábílková. It is the second time Hejnová has earned the award with the previous triumph taking place in 2013. The team award went to the women’s tennis team which retained the Fed Cup against Russia. Junior awards went to snow boarder Ester Ledecká and cyclist Jiří Janošek.