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Agrofert unit returns CZK 50mn granted to Stork’s Nest complex

Imoba, which is part of the Agrofert conglomerate once owned by the current prime minister, voluntarily returned an EU subsidy of CZK 50 million on Thursday. Imoba said it repaid the money, issued to the Stork’s Nest complex near Prague, because it did not expect to be treated fairly in the courts.

Earlier, Imoba said such a move would not represent an admission that grant regulations were breached. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO), the billionaire founder of Agrofert, faces criminal charges over having allegedly wrongly acquired EU funding earmarked for small businesses.

Czech PM rejects Italy’s call for greater EU solidarity in sharing-out migrants

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has said the Czech Republic would reject Italy’s demand for greater EU solidarity in accepting refugees at the upcoming EU summit in Brussels.

Speaking ahead of the two-day meeting, Mr. Babiš reiterated the Czech government’s stand that the migrant crisis should be resolved in the countries of origin and stressed that the responsibility for protecting the EU’s southern border now lies predominantly with Italy, Spain, Greece and Malta.

He said EU politicians were making a grave mistake by automatically accepting responsibility for a growing number of refugees and warned that this policy would fuel radical parties and movements on the continent.

Poll: Czechs happiest since 1991, Moravians most of all

Czechs are the happiest they have ever been since 1991, according to a survey by Masaryk University in Brno published on Wednesday. Nearly 90 per cent of respondents said they were “happy” or even “very happy”.

The “happiest” demographic of all, according to the survey, are young Moravians, but seniors living there are also happier than in other regions of the Czech Republic, the data show. Nearly one in three Moravians polled said they were “very happy”. In Prague, only 14 per cent of respondents said they felt that way.

The survey, part of a comprehensive study on changes in the values of Czech society since the fall of the Berlin Wall, also found that tolerance had dropped among the general population, with 28 per cent of the respondents saying migrants have a bad influence on society.

EDUA takes over James Cook Languages’ Czech, Slovak and Polish units

EDUA Group, this country’s largest private educational group, has taken over the branches of James Cook Languages in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, the companies announced on Thursday.

In the Czech Republic, EDUA group’s brands and affiliates include the language schools Jipka, Tutor, and the Caledonian School. Its continuing education and specialised corporate training units include Top Vision, Digiskills, and BridgeWaterBlu.

Defence Minister pledges transparency in military tenders, plans recruitment drive

Newly-appointed defence minister Lubomír Metnar (ANO) has said his main priorities are to increase the transparency of military tenders and recruit more professional soldiers.

His predecessor, Karla Šlechtová, had long pointed to clientelism at the defence ministry, charging it was both widespread and present at every level. Ms. Šlechtová (independent) also implied she had not been renamed to the post because she had highlighted suspected corruption and halted suspicious orders.

In the near future, the military plans to buy new helicopters, radar systems and combat vehicles. Mr. Metnar pledged to ensure the procurement process is both transparent and efficient. He also said he wants to increase the number of professional soldiers fivefold, to have a standing force of about 30,000.

Historic “presidential train” begins whistle-stop tour across ex-Czechoslovakia

A special “presidential train” departs Prague’s Masaryk train station on Thursday on a tour to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia. The train will have nine historic carriages, including those used by the very first president of independent Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk; post-war president Edvard Beneš, and the country’s first post-communist president, Václav Havel.

Over the summer, the “presidential train” will make stops in a total of 15 towns in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Tourists and history buffs will have a chance to view the oldest carriages – such as the one made in 1909 for the Austrian Emperor Franz Ferdinand, which Masaryk used in 1930 – from a special platform. The newer carriages, used by Communist-era presidents such as Klement Gottwald, Gustáv Husák and Antonín Novotný will be fully open for viewing.

Twilight ‘vampire’ Robert Pattinson to be awarded at Karlovy Vary film festival

British actor Robert Pattinson, best known for playing a vampire in the "Twilight" series, will be a special guest at the closing ceremony of this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

During the July 7 ceremony, he will receive The Festival President’s Award, which is presented to outstanding personalities of world cinema.

Mr. Pattinson started his film career by playing Cedric Diggory in the 2005 fantasy film "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire". He is now among the highest paid actors in Hollywood. In 2010, he was named one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people in the world.

Charles University to open CZK 400mn centre opposite Prague train station by 2023

Charles University has allocated some CZK 400 million towards opening a new centre opposite Prague’s central train station, overlooking a park. It will house classrooms, conference facilities and a library, as well as a cafe open to the general public.

The university bought two buildings for this purpose in 2010. Following a major reconstruction, the centre, which will mainly serve the Philosophical Faculty, should open in 2023.

Central bank ups interest rates

The Czech central bank on Wednesday unexpectedly increased the two-week repo rate by 25 basis points to 1% in order to contain inflation.

At the same time, it increased the Lombard rate by 50 basis points to 2% and kept the discount rate unchanged at 0.05%. The new interest rate levels will come into effect on June 28,2018.

It is the third hike in under a year, as the country’s economy continues to accelerate and record-low unemployment pushes up wages. Analysts had not expected a hike until August.

Weather outlook

Friday should be partly cloudy with occasional light showers. Thunderstorms are expected to develop in the northeast. When the sun is out, temperatures should be between 24 and 28 degrees Celsius.