The Višegrad Group states should coordinate their foreign policy and push for an end to the violence in Ukraine, incoming prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka told journalists in Prague. Mr. Sobotka said the crisis in Ukraine would send repercussions across central Europe and it was important to act without delay in pushing for a democratic solution to the conflict. The best and most democratic solution would obviously be early elections, Mr. Sobotka said, adding that he had received information that a summit of the Visegrad Group – Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic – was being organized. Mr. Sobotka also announced that his first foreign trip in office would lead to neigbouring Slovakia.
Tennis star Tomáš Berdych has joined the Czech Davis Cup team in Ostrava ahead of a first round tie with the Netherlands in the city next weekend. Berdych flew to the Czech Republic from Australia, where he reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open for the first time. The world number seven is considering whether to quit the Davis Cup team after the Czech Republic won the competition twice in a row. He said on Monday that he hoped to help the Czechs to a tenth straight win in the competition and then would “see”.
Czech hospitals have a lack of organ donors which is limiting the number of life-saving transplants undertaken, the ctk news agency reports. According to Eva Pokorna, a chief transplant surgeon at Prague’s IKEM heart clinic, this is largely because hospitals are unable to spare the finances to employ specially trained staff who would manage the agenda and negotiate the issue with the families of potential donors. According to Czech law it is the duty of individual doctors to broach the subject with relatives and they often lack the time and space to do so. Last year IKEM conducted 50 heart transplants and there are 114 others on the waiting list. The Czech Republic is half-way down a list of European organ donors with 19 organ donors per 1 million inhabitants as compared to Croatia which tops the list with 36 donors.
The Bulgarian energy regulator has fined Czech energy distributor Energo-Pro 3.7 million crowns for allegedlz abusing its dominant position on the market. The company has not yet commented on the development. Energo-Pro received two fines on the same grounds last year. The Czech firms CEZ and Energo-Pro as well as Austria's EVN, which distribute electricity in Bulgaria, came under severe scrutiny last year following mass protests over high electricity bills. The Bulgarian energy watchdog launched an audit into pricing but failed to find grounds on which to revoke the company’s licenses.
President Miloš Zeman has met with the last two nominees for ministerial posts before appointing a new centre-left government on Wednesday. Lubomír Zaorálek, nominated for the post of foreign minister and Jiří Dienstbier who is slated to take over the government’s human rights agenda are both vocal critics of the president. Despite this, the head of state made no indication that he would refuse any of the prime minister’s nominations. Mr. Dienstbier, who ran against Miloš Zeman in the presidential elections last year, has said he wants to increase the powers of the Ombudsman, push for a law allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children and introduce social housing. Lubomír Zaorálek wants to improve the country’s reputation in the EU.
Czech police sometimes have such poor equipment that they believe it could limit their ability to do their jobs and endanger the public, according to a police union survey quoted by Czech Radio. Officers in Moravia and in areas near the German border most frequently complained about lacking clothing needed for specialised operations and other equipment. Some said they had to buy shoes, thermal underwear, torches and other items out of their own money.
The authorities have called a smog alert in Moravia and Silesia following a severe worsening of air pollution in the regions. The amount of dust particles in the air now exceeds permitted norms several-fold at all monitoring stations in the region, and in the worst affected areas they are five times higher than normal. Children, chronically ill people and senior citizens have been advised to stay indoors. If the situation should worsen further the authorities could ask local companies to scale down production.
The president’s chief foreign policy advisor Hynek Kmoníček is scheduled to meet with the Ukrainian ambassador to Prague Boris Zajchuk on Wednesday to discuss the security of Czech diplomats and Czech citizens in the country, the ctk news agency reported. The Czech Foreign Ministry has issued a travel warning relating to certain parts of the country and has urged tourists to stay away from public protests.
Councillors in the Plzeň Region have elected Václav Šlajs of the Social Democrats governor. The position became vacant when his party colleague Milan Chovanec was chosen to become minister of the interior in the new Czech government. Around 2,800 people signed a petition objecting to Mr. Šlajs’s nomination on the grounds that the 61-year-old was a member of the Communist Party and an army officer before 1989 and dozens of people protested during Monday’s regional council session. Mr. Chovanec said his successor, who joined the Social Democrats in 1993, should be judged on his achievements.
Much of the Czech Republic has been hit by snow, with road transport impacted in many parts of the country. Approximately 120 gritting trucks were out in force on Monday in the Central Bohemia region alone, while the police attributed 40 traffic accidents in Prague to the difficult conditions. Nevertheless, major roads around the Czech Republic were passable on Monday afternoon.
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