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Czech foreign minister rules out Austria joining Visegrad Four

Czech foreign minister Lubomír Zaorálek has said he sees no perspective in the near term of Austria joining the Visegrad Four grouping, which comprised the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary. In an interview with the Austrian paper Die Presse, he said it was already difficult sometimes to get agreement between the four. He added that the splitting of the EU is a great danger and that it would be difficult to imagine cooperation between France and Germany if Marine Le Pen won the French presidential elections.

Human rights minister launches equality campaign

Minister for human rights Jiří Dienstbier on Friday unveiled a campaign in support of gender equality which should be launched by the end of the year. The campaign will focus on domestic violence as well ways of better combining work and family life. The minister pointed out that women are on average paid 22 percent less than men in the Czech Republic. He added that cases of rape were often grossly underestimated with the total running to around 10,000 a year in the country.

Probe into suspected embezzlement of Pakistan ransom funds closed

The State Attorney’s Office said it has closed an inquiry into suspicions that funds were embezzled in connection with release of two Czech kidnapped in Pakistan three years ago. The office said there were no grounds for any case to be answered. Hana Humpálová and Antonie Chrástecká were released in March last year after being held for two years. Rumours have abounded that a ransom was paid for their release but the payment has never been officially confirmed.

Czech town votes over proposal for women’s prison

Citizens of the Czech town Králíky are voting Friday in a local referendum over whether to support plans for a women’s prison to be sited in the district. The Ministry of Justice has proposed that a former children’s facility be turned into a prison for 200 women at the town of just under 5,000 in Eastern Bohemia. The ministry says it will take note of the referendum outcome although it is not binding on it.

Czech shops sign up to Black Friday sales

Czech shopping centres and major retail chains are taking part this year in so-called Black Friday sales for the first time. One Prague shopping centre said 60 outlets were taking part by offering reductions of up to 50 percent on previous prices. Shopping centres outside Prague also say they will take part. Up till now it was mostly e-shops that signed up to the sales. Black Friday is an import from the United States and is regarded as the start of the pre-Christmas shopping season.

Defense Ministry files criminal complaint over man in SS uniform

The Defense Ministry has filed a criminal complaint against a man who attended a commemorative ceremony honouring Czechoslovak war veterans wearing an SS uniform. The ceremony took place in the town of Rakovník on Veterans' Day, November 11, and the man wearing a Nazi uniform stood next to the guard of honor at a memorial to Czechoslovak pilots from Rakovník who served in the British Royal Air Force. The incident caused public outrage at the event itself and was later widely commented on in the media and on social networks. The mayor of Rakovník and the town council distanced themselves from the ceremony and the Defense Ministry slammed the police for failing to take action.

Sparta Prague progress to next round of Europa League

There were mixed results for Czech football clubs in the Europa League on Thursday night. Sparta Prague beat Southampton 1:0 at home and will proceed to the next stage of the competition in the Spring. Liberec kept their hopes alive with a 3:0 win against Qarabag. But Viktoria Plzeň lost 4:1 away against AC Roma and are out of the competition.