The Defence Ministry has announced plans to spend around 1.2 billion crowns on munitions in 2016 to refill depleted stocks especially for ground and air forces. The news was confirmed on Monday by the ministry press department’s Jiří Caletka. Stocks dropped in years of austerity measures introduced by the last centre-right government. The estimate is not final, depending on the result of public tenders as well as the exchange rate in the case of purchases by NSPA serving NATO members.
The head of the opposition Civic Democrats Petr Fiala has slammed the National Security Council over information reported in the media that an alleged six million crown ransom was paid for the release of two Czech women held in Pakistan last year. Antonie Chrástecká and Hana Humpálová were released last March after two years of captivity. At the time, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec denied that any negotiations were held or ransom paid to the kidnappers, believed to be linked to al-Qaeda. In its most recent issue, the weekly Respekt claims otherwise. Petr Fiala criticised not the ransom but the leak of information, which – in his view – could put other Czechs at risk in the future.
The police watchdog, the General Police Inspectorate, as well as the Czech police hierarchy said on Monday that they will investigate how a series of pro and anti-immigrant demonstrations in Prague were handled on Saturday. The pledges follow criticism that the police stood by on some occasions and might have provoked incidents on others. A statement by the police presidium said that no conclusions about failings or otherwise would be arrived at before a proper examination of the facts. Bosses at public broadcaster Czech Radio complained that police failed to intervene at one point on Saturday when a broadcast van came under attack by some demonstrators. Minister of Interior Milan Chovanec has called for a full report from the police within two weeks.
The Czech government on Monday discussed the terms of a deal demanded by Britain on reform of the European Union. On the key issue of withholding some benefits to workers from other EU countries, the Czech government is arguing that such a move only be applied to newly arrived workers and not those already living in Britain. As part of a proposed deal unveiled last week by European Council president Donald Tusk, Britain would be allowed to limit work related benefits if the influx of workers put too much pressure on its system. Czech State Secretary for European Affairs Tomáš Prouza said Prague’s final position will be hammered out with its Visegrad regional partners ahead of a summit next week on the reforms.
Austrian investigators say a massive avalanche which caught seventeen Czech skiers in the Austrian Alps on Saturday, was in all likelihood not anyone’s fault but broke away on its own. The skiers were in two groups when the avalanche hit: five lost their lives. The Tirol police spokesman described the avalanche as several hundred metres wide; the tear point where the slab had broken away was reportedly a metre deep. The mountain service has said that avalanche warnings are still in place in areas.
A Norwegian court has ordered the country’s child welfare services to return a nine-month-old baby to its Czech-Norwegian parents. The decision was confirmed by the spokesman for the Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The baby, who is awaiting a kidney transplant, was taken from the parents a number of weeks ago on the grounds the parents had not sufficiently bonded with the infant. Czech lawyer Pavel Hasenkopf said that detailed hospital records had played a key role in overturning the original decision (and what he described as “lies and manipulation” by the authorities). He added the family would release more information about the case in the coming days. The news of the baby’s return to its parents was welcomed by Czech Labour and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová.
London football club Arsenal got back on winning form after four winless matches, taking all three points against Bournemouth in the Premier League on Sunday. The Gunners got goals from Özil and Oxlade-Chamberlain while goalkeeper Petr Čech made several key saves late in the match to retain the clean-sheet, his twelfth with Arsenal this season. The final score was 2:0. The result puts the Gunners within three points of league leaders Leicester. The two clubs face each other next weekend in a match which could go a long way in deciding who wins the title this year.
Czech exports reached a record 3.9 trillion crowns in 2015, the Czech Statistics Office reported on Monday; the figure represents a rise of 7.2 percent from the previous year. A little over 83 percent of domestic exports were destined for the European Union. Exports to neighbouring Germany alone increased by 8.7 percent to almost 1.3 trillion crowns; Germany is the Czech Republic’s main trading partner. Czech exports to Slovakia and Great Britain also saw a rise in 2015 but to Russia fell by almost 31 percent.
The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic climbed in January to 6.4 percent from December’s 6.2 percent, the Labour Office announced on Monday. Just over 14,000 Czechs were added to the jobless total during the month giving a total of around 467,000 seeking work. The number of vacancies stands at around 108,000, the highest January total since 2008.
Around 200 taxi drivers protested on Prague’s main highway in the centre of the city early on Monday morning. Only one lane of the normally busy highway was left free for traffic. The protest was called by the Association of Taxi Concessionaries against what they describe as unfair completion from unlicensed taxi drivers using such services as Huber. They also want to highlight the stalled talks with Prague City Hall about higher permitted fares. Talks between licensed taxi drivers and town hall officials collapsed in November last year.
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