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Czech foreign minister hands out Gratias Agit awards

Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček on Friday handed out Gratias Agit awards to fifteen Czech expatriates and foreigners for promoting the good name of the Czech Republic abroad. Among this year’s recipients were Bohdan Pomahac, a leading plastic surgeon living and working in the United States and the head of the Festival of Czech Art and Culture Prague-Berlin Dušan Robert Pařízek.

The Czech foreign minister thanked the laureates for their good work and highlighted the fact that while some of them had been driven from their homeland during the communist regime they were not bitter and selflessly contributed to promoting the country’s good name abroad.

The Gratias Agit awards were first handed out in 1997 and the ministry has since honoured over 300 individuals and institutions.

Čaputová to pay her first official visit to Prague as president next week

Zuzana Čaputová, who is to be sworn in as Slovak president on Saturday, will pay her first official visit to the Czech Republic on Thursday.

The new Slovak head of state will be received with honours at Prague Castle by President Miloš Zeman, meet with the speakers of both houses of Parliament and attend a concert given in her honour on Prague’s Kampa Island.

She will also lay flowers at the grave of the late president Vaclav Havel and lay a wreath at the statue of Slovak politician Rastislav Štefánik, one of the co-founders of Czechoslovakia.

No meeting with Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has been scheduled, since he will be attending a meeting of the European Council at the time, according to the Office of the Government.

Visegrad Group has no joint candidate for EC president

The prime ministers of the Visegrad group states did not agree on a joint candidate for European Commission president at their talks in Budapest on Thursday.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said it was necessary to choose a candidate who would be best for all, adding that the Visegrad Group, comprising the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia had no ambitions to try to push through a candidate of their own choice.

Hungary indicated last week that the group of four might present a joint position as regards the filling of crucial posts and support candidates who take the V4 region seriously and support its interests.

Czech farmers to get 32 billion crowns in subsidies in the 2019-2020 period

Czech farmers will receive 32 billion crowns in subsidies in the 2019-2020 period with the bulk of the money coming from EU funds, according to the spokeswoman of the Czech Agricultural Intervention Fund Vladimíra Nováková.

They are being drawn by 31,000 farmers and agricultural companies, including those in the Agrofert conglomerate, which is at the centre of a dispute relating to the prime minister’s suspected conflict of interests.

According to Nováková these are direct and compensation subsidies which cannot be questioned in relation to the prime minister’s possible conflict of interests. She added that the EC had not questioned their distribution.

Senate holds hearing on the Danube-Oder-Elbe waterway project

At a hearing in the Senate on the advantages and disadvantages of the Danube-Oder-Elbe project which would further develop the network of European waterways and open routes for the Czech Republic to three seas, its critics described it as a megalomaniac project which would not pay off.

They say its proponents have downplayed the cost of the project which would be enormous.

On the other hand its supporters say the waterway project would bring enormous economic benefits, boost river transport and improve water management.

According to the Czech Transport Ministry the project would cost 585 billion crowns, with the Elbe branch alone costing 300 billion.

One of the project’s strongest advocates is Czech President Miloš Zeman.

Parliament to propagate best Czech wines

The Czech Parliament will in future propagate excellent Bohemian and Moravian wines which may be sold under the label “Parliament wine” and will give them as protocol gifts both here and abroad.

The speaker of the lower house, Radek Vondráček, on Friday handed out awards to those winemakers who won in an open competition allowing them to use the “Parliament wine” label.

He awarded wines in seven categories. Thirty-six winemakers entered the competition with 106 wines.

Weather forecast

Saturday should be clear and sweltering hot around the country with day temperatures reaching 34 degrees Celsius.