Deans of five Prague universities have called for a major change in financing for scientific research in higher education institutions in the Czech capital, at a joint press conference on Wednesday. If overall financing for sciences and access to EU funding for Prague universities does not improve, the deans warned that institutions will soon not be able to meet European standards of education and research. The access to EU funding for Prague universities has been limited by law. As a result, funding for research and innovation in other regions has been steadily growing, while in Prague it has stagnated. The situation will most likely not change in the next three years according to current government plans.
ANO party chairman and businessman Andrej Babiš is considering making the publishing house MAFRA, which he purchased earlier this year, a publicly traded company. On Wednesday, Mr. Babiš said that before this happens, he is also planning to make other purchases in the media sector. He wants to be a minority shareholder in any of his traded companies. Mr. Babiš also owns the holding company Agrofert, which is one of the largest firms in the Czech Republic by revenue.
The Social Democratic chairman Bohuslav Sobotka met with President Miloš Zeman on Wednesday afternoon for the first time since the October elections. Since the Social Democrats received the most votes in the elections, it is expected that the president will most likely charge Mr. Sobotka with putting together the next government. During the Wednesday meeting the president did not do so, though speaking after the meeting, Mr. Sobotka said he expects this to happen next week. Mr. Zeman said earlier this week that he does not want to confirm a new government before he recovers from his recent knee injury. Mr. Sobotka delayed the traditional meeting with the president for two weeks after the general elections, because of an upheaval in the party right after the elections.
A number of right-wing extremist groups are planning on staging demonstrations in the center of Prague on Sunday during celebrations of a state holiday marking the Day of Freedom and Democracy. The Worker’ Youth group is planning on marching from Wenceslas Square through the historical center of the city. Traditionally on November 17th, the Czech Republic commemorates Nazi repressions of Czechoslovak university students in 1939 and the student demonstrations in 1989, which eventually led to the fall of the Communist regime.
Some residents of the town of Dobrovíz, where the internet shopping giant Amazon is planning to build one of its Central European distribution hubs, are protesting against the American company’s decision. Locals are concerned with the damage to the environment that will be caused by the construction and operation of the 95,000-square-meter warehouse, as well as the burden on local infrastructure from approximately 450 lorries that will be coming in and out of the complex on a daily basis starting in the second half of next year. The town’s mayor said that he has not seen any exact plans of the project and has not yet met with either the developer or Amazon representatives, though those meetings are in the plans. Amazon made the announced that it has chosen the industrial complex in Dobrovíz near the Václav Havel airport and another location near Brno for two new distribution centers over a month ago.
Leaders of the miners’ unions have reached an agreement with the management of the coal mining company OKD on a new collective contract until 2018. OKD employees called off a series of major strikes planned for the upcoming weeks. The unions threatened strikes primarily because the company was unwilling to meet their demands on employee bonuses. The agreement negotiations, which have been going on for the past 13 months, were further complicated by the austerity measures that OKD, a subsidiary of New World Resources (NWR), began introducing this year in response to a worsening situation on the coal market.
The Czech Republic is set to reopen its embassy in Luxembourg after little over a year. The diplomatic mission was closed at the end of last year but is set to begin operating again from next February. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the move on its website, saying it was intended to support the development and strengthening of traditionally strong relations between the two states. The previous Czech government shut a number of the country’s embassies as a cost-cutting measure.
President Miloš Zeman has signed letters of credence for a number of new Czech ambassadors, including former astronaut and MEP Vladimír Remek, who will be heading to Moscow soon. Mr. Remek is one of two ambassadorial appointees who were at the center of a dispute earlier this year between President Zeman and former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg. The former minister had other candidates in mind for the ambassadorial posts in Moscow and Bratislav, while the president stood behind Mr. Remek and former first lady Livia Klausová as his appointees. Mrs. Klaousová’s credentials was signed last week by the president.
Representatives of the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats failed to agree on substantive issues during their first talks on forming a coalition government on Tuesday. The main differences between the two parties are over a church restitution law and corporation tax. However, members of the negotiating teams said they had found common ground on the introduction of property declarations and registered checkout tills. The Social Democrats, who came first in elections last month, had previously held coalition talks with ANO, who finished second.
The annual student film festival FAMUfest is celebrating its 30th year this week. Starting on Wednesday night the festival will present the films made by Prague’s film school students. In addition to the films from the past year, the festival will also feature student films from previous years, going back to the early nineties. Awards for the best films will be presented on Saturday.
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