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People signing petition against giant wheel in Prague

The inhabitants of Prague are signing a petition against plans to build a 60-metre wheel on the bank of the Vltava River. The Prague 5 district authority has already approved the project and signed a contract with an investor, but the plans have met with opposition from conservationists, members of the public and Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová. Since Prague is on UNESCO’s cultural heritage list the wheel cannot be built without approval from conservationists. Over 600 people have signed the petition against the wheel so far.

Strike at Air France continues to disrupt traffic

A strike by cabin crew at Air France continues to disrupt traffic. Two flights between Prague and Paris were cancelled on Friday morning. The afternoon and evening flights remain on schedule for the time being. The strike, over a new contract for flight attendants, is expected to last all week.

Finance minister opens talks on draft state budget

Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has opened negotiations with fellow members of the Cabinet on the state budget for 2017, meeting with the justice, environment and culture ministers. The draft budget is counting on a deficit of 60 billion crowns next year. The bill includes pay rise for teachers, nurses and doctors, higher pensions and higher health insurance payments that the state pays on behalf of children, pensioners and the unemployed. Justice Minister Robert Pelikán told journalists after talks with Mr Babiš that his ministry would get additional 650 million crowns that would be used for increased salaries of court personnel and the hiring of new staff in the judicial sector and the Prison Service. Pelikán originally wanted two billion crowns more in the budget.

The government must approve the budget bill and send it to the lower house of parliament by the end of September.

Football: Mixed results in qualifying for Europa League

Austrian club Admira drew first blood against Slovan Liberec on Thursday evening in their third round qualifying match for the Europa League but the Czech club got two goals from Vuch to win 2-1. The second leg against Admira will be on August 3.

In other qualifying matches, Macedonia’s Shkëndija defeated Mladá Boleslav 2-0, while Slavia Prague drew with Portuguese club Rio Ave.

Social Democrats outline priorities ahead of budget debate

The Social Democrats have said in the debate on the draft state budget for next year they will be emphasising as priorities increases in funds for national security, social services, and education. The statement was made on Friday by the party’s leader Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. Interior Minister Milan Chovanec will alone be seeking an additional three billion crowns to increase police numbers and to improve not only cyber-security but also anti-terrorism measures.

Foreign national to appeal court decision in flag theft case

A Chinese citizen found guilty of stealing Tibetan flag from a protestor during the Prague visit earlier this year of China’s president, has filed an appeal. The foreign national was arrested during a scuffle between supporters and opponents of Xi Jinping in March of this year; he was fined 15,000 crowns for his role in the incident.

ČEZ seeks prolongation of Dukovany second unit operating license

Czech electricity giant ČEZ has applied for a prolongation of its existing operating license for the second unit at its Dukovany power plant until July 10, 2017, spokesman Jiří Bezděk told ČTK. The current license is due to expire at the end of this year. Mr Bezděk said the application to the State Office for Nuclear Safety was made because of a prolonged shutdown at the reactor to check on pipe welds at the unit. ČEZ filed and a similar request by the regulator for Dukovany’s first unit earlier this year, which was granted. ČEZ has over the last year stepped up its X-ray checks on pipe welds at all four of the Dukovany units after it was found that previous checks by a sub-contractor were flawed.

Czech Army wants to boost number of soldiers to pre-crisis level

The Czech Army wants to raise the number of soldiers in its ranks to 24,500, the level it stood at prior the global economic crisis in 2008, the deputy chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces, Jaroslav Kocián has said. He made the statement on Friday at a ceremony for graduates from the University of Defence in Brno. The Czech Army currently has some 19,000 soldiers.

Finance Ministry revises downward its estimate for economic growth

The Finance Ministry has revised downward its estimate for the country’s economic growth in 2016, from 2.5 percent in April to 2.2 now. Next year, the economy is expected to grow by 2.4 percent instead of 2.6. In 2015, the Czech Republic saw economic growth of 4.5 percent. Reasons for the slowdown include an expected rise in oil prices as well as indirect aftereffects of the Brexit, under which Great Britain voted to leave the European Union.

National Centre for Combatting Organized Crime to begin operating next week

The country’s National Centre for Combatting Organized Crime will begin operation on Monday, in line with the merger of two former police units. The reorganization of the police led recently to a serious rift among the parties in government. The ANO party at one point had threatened to leave the coalition but backed down eventually. Some 870 police officers will serve in the new unit; Police President Tomáš Tuhý expressed the view the new centre will be more effective in crime-fighting.