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Czech foreign minister: Donald Tusk as head of EC is an asset for central Europe

Central Europe could lose its representative at the head of the European Council as a result of Poland’s unwillingness to support Donald Tusk's bid for a second term as President of the European Council, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek told journalists in Brussels on Monday. Mr. Zaorálek said this would be a great pity since Donald Tusk has a good understanding of the problems and interests of the region. A vote on whether he should continue in office is due to take place on Thursday. The governing Law and Justice party in Poland has officially said the country will not support Donald Tusk for a second term, accusing him of acting against Polish interests, as well as supporting the Polish opposition. Tusk’s 30-month term as the President of the European Council is due to end on May 31.

Czech Republic criticized for discrimination of Romanies, HIV suffers and detention of migrants

In its annual human rights report for 2016 the US State Department says the Czech Republic needs to tackle discrimination against Romanies, stigmatization of HIV sufferers and corruption. It also points to the problem of overcrowded prisons and the long period of detention of migrants and asylum seekers. The report criticizes the lack of Romany representation in Parliament and public life, but concedes that elections in the Czech Republic are free and fair.

Two Czechs held in Turkey to go on trial in May

The Czech Foreign Ministry has confirmed that the two Czechs detained in Turkey on charges of terrorism will go on trial in May. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Irena Valentova told the news site aktualne.cz that the ministry was devoting special attention to the case and hoped for a positive outcome. Miroslav Farkas and Marketa Všelichová were arrested in November 2016 trying to cross the Turkish-Syrian border and charged with aiding terrorist activities within the People's Protection Units YPG which Turkey considers a terrorist organization.The Chief Prosecutor's Office in Ankara is seeking a prison term of between seven and a half years and 15 years. Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek, who visited Turkey in January to try to negotiate their release, said he hoped the two might be expelled from the country.

PM wants to speed up expansion of nuclear plants

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka wants to speed up the planned expansion of the country’s nuclear power plants, Temelin and Dukovany. Following talks with the government’s commissioner for nuclear energy Jan Stuller, Mr. Sobotka said proposed changes to the construction law, currently being debated in Parliament, could speed up the planned construction of a new reactor at the Dukovany nuclear power plant by three years. Construction of the new reactor could begin in 2025 and end approximately ten years later. The government’s long-term energy strategy envisages continued reliance on nuclear energy, with plans for the expansion of Dukovany by one reactor and the Temelín plant in southern Bohemia by two. The government has yet to decide on the question of financing. One reactor is estimated to cost at around one hundred billion crowns.

Government council calls for support network for socially-challenged families

The government’s council for human rights has criticized the lack of a support network for socially challenged families, citing this as the main reason why the Czech Republic has proved unable to reduce the high number of children who are institutionalized each year. In 2016 the country had 6,500 children in institutional care. Half of them had behavioural problems, learning disabilities or speech defects that indicated long-term neglect. Many of them improved significantly after being put in foster families. The council says many children could be spared of the trauma of being taken away from their parents if their parents received timely and professional help in dealing with their problems.

Czech Airlines posts profit second year in a row

Czech Airlines, the national air carrier, has reported a profit for the second year in a row, following years of financial losses and austerity measures, the news site idnes reports, noting that private capital clearly benefitted the airline. The airline reports progress in all areas – a higher number of passengers, 11 new air-links and an increase in the number of flights by 9 percent as compared to the previous year. Its 2016 profit of 241 million crowns is an eight percent increase year-on-year. Korean Air acquired a 44 percent stake in Czech Airlines in 2013.

Weather forecast

Tuesday should be cloudy to overcast with rain and day temperatures between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius. Meteorologists predict frequent rain showers throughout the week.