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Coalition partners ANO, ČSSD remain at odds over culture minister candidate

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) and Social Democrat (ČSSD) chairman Jan Hamáček failed to find common ground at a meeting Monday over the appointment of a new Minister of Culture.

Hamáček said the Social Democrats, the junior coalition party, insist on their candidate, Michal Šmarda, and say President Miloš Zeman is violating the Constitution by failing to appoint him.

President Zeman said last week that Mr Šmarda was unqualified for the job, a view PM Babiš said on Friday that he shared.

Critics say the president is trying to exercise undue political power through his largely ceremonial position. He and Mr Babiš are due to meet to discuss the situation on Tuesday. The Social Democrats have threatened to quit the government if their candidate is not appointed.

Auditors: Culture Ministry needs uniform, transparent system for allocating funds

The Czech Ministry of Culture needs to be more uniform and transparent in how it dispenses grants and funds activities in the sector, the Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ) says in its latest report.

The report analysed the distribution of over 500-600 million crowns allocated by the ministry in the years 2016 to 2018. It found there was no effective digital system in place to both centralise and track the flow of money.

The NKÚ also noted that nine different sections within the ministry allocated subsidies, each having their own regulations.

The result is a fragmented, overly complex system whereby, for example, an entity seeking support for a dance and theatre festival must submit two markedly different applications.

Warning issued over depopulation of small towns and villages

The Association of Local Administrations has warned that Czech small towns and village are facing depopulation and called on the government to take steps to resolve the situation, Czech Television reported.

The main reasons people are moving away from smaller urban areas are a reduction of services and insufficient civic amenities.

The head of the Association of Local Administrations, MEP Stanislav Polčák of the Mayors and Independents, told Czech Television that young people were moving to regional cities, leaving only older people in some areas.

The problems faced by specific municipalities are recorded on a special interactive map that the association has been working on for three years.

‘Million Moments’ plans mass anti-gov’t protest march on 21 August

The anti-government protest movement A Million Moments for Democracy plans a march through Prague on the 50th anniversary of a protest held a year after the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Organisers of the march on 21 August say they want both to commemorate past events and draw attention to current political issues that threaten the Czech democracy.

The group has accused Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) of undermining the rule of law while milking Brussels and Czech taxpayers to line his own pockets.

The Czech police have recommended that Mr Babiš be charged with fraud tied to the use of EU funds. He is also accused of having a conflict of interest because many decisions he makes benefit the Agrofert business empire he founded.

In late June, A Million Moments for Democracy organised the biggest public protest since the 1989 Velvet Revolution that overthrew Communism, calling for Mr Babiš to resign.

Extra 1 billion crowns earmarked to recruit new teachers

The ministers of finance and education agreed Monday on a draft budget for the education sector of 213 billion crowns in 2020, roughly 8 percent more than this year. That includes an extra1 billion crowns earmarked mainly to recruit new teachers.

Minister of Education Robert Plaga (ANO) said more teachers will be needed in the coming years due to higher birth rates earlier in this decade.

The draft budget counts on raising teachers’ salaries by 10 percent next year and by 9 percent in 2021, in line with the government’s pledge to raise salaries in the education sector to 150 percent of 2017 levels.

Czech scientists develop camouflage army fatigues that change colours

Scientists from the Technical University of Liberec have developed a military uniform that changes camouflage depending on the environment, the ČTK agency reports.

The camouflage fatigues are made from a material that contains thermochromic pigments and change colour depending on the environment.

If the temperature exceeds 37 degrees Celsius, the material changes from a mix of green and brown – the classic ‘forest’ colouring – to a mix of brown and beige – the classic ‘desert’ colouring.

The scientists spent two years developing the material so that it could withstand long-term exposure to sunlight and still return to the ‘forest’ colouring.

7 Czech gaming studios heading to Gamescom fair in Germany

Seven Czech gaming studios plan to present their products at the upcoming Gamescom international trade fair in Cologne, Germany.

The exhibitors at the Czech national booth include established studios such as Bohemia Interactive, Charged Monkey, BadFly Interactive and Czech Games Edition as well as the start-ups Charles Games, Gold Knights and Outside the Fox.

The national booth is being organized by the Czech Game Developers Association and the state CzechInvest agency with the support of Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Gamescom runs from 20-22 August. It is the second time a Czech national booth is participating.

Czech piano maker Petrof has best year since global crisis

Czech piano maker Petrof has had its most profitable year since the global financial crisis, earning more than 12.5 million crowns in 2018.

Petrof said 90 percent of its sales come from abroad, with its pianos sold in 65 countries worldwide, including China, which has become its largest market. Domestic sales grew 55% compared to the previous year.

The Hradec Králové-based company has been making pianos since 1864. Petrof said it hired another 50 employees in 2018 to meet demand.

Czech rock climber Adam Ondra knocked out of World Cup in Japan

Czech professional rock climber Adam Ondra failed to advance to the finals at the World Cup in Japan on Monday, and thus did not qualify for the Olympic Games.

Climbing is one of four new sports set to make Olympic debuts at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The new triathlon format will see athletes awarded medals based on scores across three formats: Speed, Lead and Bouldering.

Ondra, who has seven world medals in Bouldering and three world championship titles, was among the pre-tournament favourites. He finished 18th in the combined qualifying round after being penalised for using a bolt meant for clipping the rope to as a foothold.

28 arrested after Baník Ostrava fans attack Sparta Praha supporters

Police arrested 28 fans of the Banik Ostrava football club following a riot after the team lost an away match against Sparta Praha by a score of 0:2 on Sunday afternoon.

The visiting fans attacked local supporters, firefighters and police officers. At least one victim has been hospitalised.

Of those arrested 19 could be charged for disturbing the peace while seven may face charges for instigating a riot.

Winning start for Berdych on return to court

Tomáš Berdych made a successful return to the tennis courts on Sunday after a layoff with injury. The Czech, who is 33, beat Italy’s Andreas Seppi 6-1 3-6 6-3 in the first round of a competition in Winston-Salem in the US for his first ATP win in almost six months. He entered the competition as a wild card.

Berdych achieved his highest ranking, fourth in the world, in 2015. He has reached at least the semi-finals of all four Grand Slams but has never won one.

Weather outlook

Rain is in the forecast Tuesday for the Bohemian and central regions of the Czech Republic, with partly cloudy skies expected in Moravia. Average highs should range from 18 degrees Celsius where rain is anticipated to 27 degrees Celsius in the east.