The lower house on Friday met to debate the migrant crisis and the official stance of the Czech government to developments. Opposition deputies criticized the government for not having rejected mandatory refugee quotas outright and expressed concern over the fact that the EU was not able to bring the influx of refugees under control. Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek defended the government’s stand, saying that the priorities were to secure the EU’s outer borders, bring the flow of migrants under control by establishing functional registration hot spots and maintain the Schengen open space.
A Turkish national, convicted in his homeland of a crime with a terrorist subtext, will not be extradited to Turkey, the regional court in Hradec Kralove ruled on Friday. Nazmi Sahin, 30, was arrested in the Czech Republic last year on an Interpol warrant. His lawyer Zuzana Dostalkova dismissed claims of terrorism, saying that her client had been convicted of political activities which she likened to dissident activities in communist Czechoslovakia. The judge ruled Sahin was free to go. He had been moving around Europe for six years and has reportedly been granted political asylum in Italy.
Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky, who is under fire for speaking freely to the media about the case of the five Czechs kidnapped in Lebanon, will remain in office. Following a meeting of coalition leaders on Friday, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the minister had erred, but not to such an extent that he should be sacked. Stropnický told the daily Hospodarské noviny last week that the release of five Czechs kidnapped in Lebanon was conditional on Prague's decision not to extradite terrorist suspect Ali Fayad to the US. Deputy PM Pavel Bělobrádek on Thursday called on Defence Minister Martin Stropnický to consider resigning from his post. Similar calls have come from the opposition on the grounds that the defence minister had committed a grave breach of security.
A Prague court has cut the sentence on former judge Ondřej Havlín by 15 months to five years and three months at appeal. A former state prosecutor František Fiala’s prison sentence was also confirmed but cut to three years and 10 months. Havlín and others were found guilty of influencing court cases in favour of the accused, mostly drink drivers, in return for bribes and other favours. The sentences are now binding.
A massive fire broke out overnight at the main building of Prague’s National Museum at the top of Wenceslas Square, one of the main landmarks of the capital. Around 20 fire crews were rushed to the scene with the fire given the highest danger level. The fire was brought under control after around an hour with around 200 square metres of the roof damaged. The blaze could have been started as a result of ongoing massive reconstruction works at the building which has resulted in it being closed to the public with the exhibits removed for storage.
Czech utility ČEZ announced that two of its units at the Dukovany nuclear power plant closed for emergency checks on welds to pipes outside the core reactor areas will resume power production in the next days. ČEZ said Thursday that Dukovany-1 is powering up and should be supplying electricity to the grid from Friday. The unit was closed for checks on pipe welds after X-ray images produced by a sub-contract company were shown to be flawed. Dukovany-2 should power up Friday and produce electricity for the grid Saturday after an unplanned outage of 148 days for the similar repeat X-ray checks on welds to piping. For much of the last half year only one of the four units at the reactor has been operational due to the emergency checks.
Education minister Kateřina Valachová has backed a demand by teaching unions for a hike in wages of 10 percent. Valachová said the increase was large but legitimate given the level of teachers’pay and the difficulty in finding qualified and motivated staff. The minister said she would begin talks with the minister of finance, Andrej Babiš, about inserting the raise in the budget for 2017 and 2018. The cost of a 10 percent rise would be around 13 billion crowns a year. Average teachers’wages are currently around 26,000 crowns a month, some of the lowest for university graduates across all professions in the country.
A row between the Czech coalition government appears to be boiling over about the comments of Minister of Defence, Martin Stropnický, confirming that five Czech hostages held in Lebanon were exchanged for the return of Lebanese citizen Ali Fayad to his homeland. Christian Democrat leader and deputy prime minister Pavel Bělobrádek said that Stropnický should consider resigning or prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka or ANO leader Andrej Babiš should decide whether he be sacked. Bělobrádek said confirming such sensitive information broke the government line not to comment on the exchange which caused a strong protest from the US. Prime Minister Sobotka called a meeting of coalition party leaders Friday to discuss the row.
Defense minister Martin Stropnický has said that a team of Czech instructors, ground crew and technicians could be sent to Iraq to help train local staff to use the L-159 jets which the Czech government has agreed to sell to Baghdad. Stropnický’s comemnts came during a NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels. The minister said he would like to put the proposal to the government. The contingent would represent further help in the fight against Islamic State. Czech Republic has agreed to sell 15 surplus to requirement subsonic L-159 aircraft to Iraq. The deal has been stalled by British concerns that some radar technology for the planes which it is supplying might fall into the wrong hands.
ANO leader and minister of finance Andrej Babiš has said future hotspots to process immigrants seeking refuge in the European Union should be sited outside Europe. Babiš made his comments before a meeting with the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte in the Hague on Thursday. The Czech minister pinpointed Turkey as the prime location for a sort of European Ellis island, a reference to the historical US immigration site outside New York. The Czech minister said operating such sites should be the responsibility of the EU adding that Greece and Italy had clearly failed in their responsibility to police the common Schengen area frontier. If the hotspots fail then a wall, such as that between the US and Mexico, might be an option, Babiš added.
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