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PM Babiš: Czechs back EU in condemning Turkish offensive in Syria

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) said on Thursday that the Czech government agrees with the European Union’s condemnation of Turkey’s ongoing military offensive in northern Syria to create a refugee zone.

Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies attacked Kurdish militia on Wednesday, pounding them with air strikes and artillery before starting a ground operation. The assault began days after US President Donald Trump withdrew American troops from the area.

Following a meeting in early September with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the United Nations, Mr Babiš had said that the Visegrad Group (the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland) supported Ankara’s intention to create a refugee zone in northern Syria.

Earlier this week, however, the Czech prime minister said that he was surprised by the situation and warned that military intervention could lead to another wave of refugees heading for Europe.

Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček (Social Democrats) had earlier warned in an official statement that the Turkish offensive would “only worsen the situation of civilians and refugees in the region”.

China terminates Prague-Beijing sister city agreement

Beijing has terminated its sister agreement with Prague and will suspend all official contacts with the Czech capital, the Czech News Agency reported on Thursday quoting a statement from Beijing authorities supplied by the Chinese Embassy in the Czech Republic. The embassy goes on to say that representatives of the Prague coalition had been intentionally interfering in China's internal affairs and deliberately violated the sister agreement with Beijing.

Earlier this week Prague authorities voted to terminate the city’s agreement with Beijing, after which the Chinese Ambassador to the Czech Republic Zhang Jianmin posted on Facebook that Prague’s own interests will suffer, triggering a reaction from the Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček, who said that threats have no place in diplomacy.

Czech kindergarten directors say quality of education at risk

About 500 heads of nursery schools and kindergartens throughout the Czech Republic have complained in a letter to Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) that pre-school education is being neglected.

The letter charges that Minister of Education Robert Plaga (ANO) has failed to invest in kindergartens despite increasing numbers of children being enrolled.

There has been a marked rise in class size after pre-school attendance was made compulsory in order for disadvantaged families to receive certain social benefits.

Pre-school teachers often now have up to 28 children in their classrooms, the headmasters say.

Home Credit withdraws from controversial Charles University partnership

Consumer lender Home Credit announced on Thursday it will withdraw from a controversial partnership agreement with Charles University announced earlier this week.

A spokesman for the company said Home Credit did not want to be drawn into irrational debates about the nature of the cooperation before it had even begun.

Hundreds of Charles University students and faculty had called on the rectorate to cancel the agreement, accusing the company of lending irresponsibly, thereby adding to the personal debt crisis.

Home Credit is part of the PPF Group controlled by Czech billionaire Petr Kellner. Under the cooperation agreement, the consumer lender was to give Charles University half a million crowns annually, mainly to the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics and the Institute of Economic Studies.

PPF’s Škoda Transportation to deliver up to 45 metro trains to Warsaw

Škoda Transportation has been confirmed as the winner of a tender to supply of up to 45 six-car metro trains for Warsaw.

The first set is due to be handed over to the Polish capital within two years of signing the purchase contract.

Škoda Transportation is part of the PPF group controlled by Czech billionaire Petr Kellner. The total value of the contract is almost 8 billion crowns.

O2 Czech Republic to remove most public phone booths by end-2019

The telecom group O2 Czech Republic plans to remove all public pay telephones by year’s end except for those it is obligated to keep in the country’s smallest municipalities.

Out of the roughly 3,900 telephone booths currently in operation, some 1,150 will remain in municipalities with up to 200 inhabitants, an O2 spokesperson said.

Slovak students win competition to design Czech Embassy in Ethiopia

The new Czech Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, will be built according to a proposal by students of the Faculty of Architecture at the Slovak University of Technology (STU) in Bratislava.

Jana Hájková and Kristína Boháčová, both 23, won an international competition announced by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with the Department of Architecture at the Faculty of Civil Engineering (ČVUT) in Prague.

The students’ concept used exterior materials that are in harmony with the Ethiopian environment and connected both Czech and Ethiopian culture. The new embassy should be built by 2025.

September CPI drops 0.6 pct, biggest m/m drop since 2006

Consumer prices in September fell by 0.6 percent, the biggest month-on-month decline since September 2006, according to the Czech Statistical Office (ČSÚ).

The drop stemmed mainly from a price decrease in ‘recreation and culture’ and in ‘food and non-alcoholic beverages’.

The year-on-year growth of consumer prices decelerated to 2.7 percent in September, which was 0.2 percentage points down on August. The Slowdown in the year-on-year price growth occurred mainly in 'food and non-alcoholic beverages'.

The biggest influence on the growth of the year-on-year price level in September came again from prices in 'housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels', where prices of actual rentals for housing went up by 3.8 percent.

Petr Čech to become ice hockey goaltender in English league

One of the Czech Republic’s most famous football stars, Petr Čech will now be minding the goal on skates. The former Chelsea and Arsenal goalkeeper has agreed to play as a goalkeeper in the British ice hockey team Guildford Phoenix until the end of the season. His ice hockey debut could come at Guildford’s Sunday game against the second team of the Swindon Wildcats.

The Czech sports star, who is also an accomplished drummer, told British media that after 20 years of playing football professionally, it will be a great experience to play some ice hockey, which he enjoyed following and playing as a child.

Weather outlook

Friday should be clear to partly cloudy throughout the Czech Republic with daytime highs of between 14 to 18 degrees Celsius.