Prime ministers of the Visegrad Four block met in Prague on Wednesday at the end of the Czech presidency of the grouping. A final press conference was held by the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the grouping had continued to maintain an opposition to obligatory EU immigrant quotas. He added that the grouping had pushed forward with the creation of a four country army contingent for NATO. And the Czech Prime Minister added that it would propose that the EU set aside more resources to help Ukraine cope with its internal refugees as a result of the conflict in the country. He added that it would also seek for EU farm ministers to address low milk and pork prices. Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said the Visegrad Four has played a significant role over the last year. Hungarian leader Viktor Orban said it had probably been the most difficult year for the V4, but it had emerged stronger as a result and played a stabilizing role. Leaders said they hoped Britain would stay in the EU following an upcoming referendum. Poland now takes over the Visegrad presidency.
Czech police are proposing to create a single body to combat organized crime. The move was announced on Wednesday by police president Tomáš Tuhý. The central body would likely be divided into five sections and deal with terrorism, cybercrime, the most serious corporate crime, organized crime, and corruption. The body could start operating in 2020. Tuhý said the fight against organized crime would be more effective with such a body. Minister for Justice, Robert Pelikan, later warned that he would consider resigning from his post if the changes are pushed through.
Czechs last year placed bets totaling 152.2 billion crowns. That’s a rise of just over 10 percent on the previous year. Winnings paid out from bets came to almost 122 billion crowns, an increase of just over 14 percent, leaving the betting companies with outright earnings of just over 30 billion. According to the Czech Ministry of Finance that is around a billion crowns down on the 2014 results.
President Miloš Zeman on a visit to Armenia has suggested that the Czech parliament pass a motion over the 1915 massacres of Armenians by the then Ottoman Empire and describe them as genocide. Zeman made the comments during a meeting with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargyan. The Czech president added that he had referred to the massacres during WWI as genocide twice earlier. One of the occasions was during the visit by the Armenian president to Prague in 2014. The comments were then officially described as Zeman’s personal opinion. Last week the German parliament passed a motion describing the Armenian massacres as genocide, a move which prompted Ankara to recall its ambassador.
Czech foreign minister Lubomír Zaorálek has said that he expects the Russian government to refuse a move by members of parliament to recognize soldiers who took part in the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia as war veterans. The move to give veteran status has been proposed by three Communist members of the Russian Duma. They said that the so-called operation Danube, the code name for the invasion, had been a pre-emptive move by the then Soviet Union to prevent Czechoslovakia moving into the Western camp during the Cold War. The Prague Spring reforms in Czechoslovakia had created unease in Moscow.
Leaders of Czech coalition government parties have agreed that raising teachers’ pay is a priority but they are still deadlocked on what percentage increase should be offered. Party leaders met Wednesday but said they would delay a final decision. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and his Social Democrat education minister Kateřina Valachová have backed pay rises of around 10 percent. But they have hit opposition from finance minister and ANO leader Andrej Babiš, who earlier stuck at 5 percent. The education minister has put forward a plan B option of 5 percent increases for each of the next three years. Teachers are among the lowest paid graduates in the country.
Czech footballers this morning departed for France and the start of the Euro 2016 competition. They were due to land in the city of Tours, which they have chosen as their base, in the afternoon. Manager Pavel Vrba and his squad will be staying in a four star hotel converted from a 17th century castle. The Czechs’ first match is against Spain in Toulouse on Monday. Spain surprisingly lost 1:0 against Georgia in a warm up match on Tuesday night.
The jobless rate in the Czech Republic in May dropped to 5.4 percent from April’s 5.7 percent. The overall number of unemployed has fallen to just under 395,000, that’s the lowest total since January 2009. The number of vacancies being offered through the national labour office stands at just over 129,000. That is the highest total since October 2008. The office expects the jobless total to continue shrinking in the coming months.
The state should lend bankrupt mining company OKD up to CZK 1 billion, the minister of industry and trade, Jan Mládek, said on Wednesday morning. A day earlier Finance Minister Andrej Babiš said he was looking into the conditions under which the state could make loans to OKD. Mr. Babiš put forward a figure of CZK 400 million that the firm would need to keep operating until August; however, Mr. Mládek said he did not know how his cabinet colleague had arrived at that amount. The industry minister said that only the state would risk making a loan to OKD but there was no 100-percent guarantee it would be repaid.
Plans have been announced for major changes to Prague’s tram system. From August 28, nine of the city’s tram routes are set to change, 12 will remain the same and three new ones will be added, operators Ropid said. Intervals will be shortened on some busy routes. Around 1,800 comments on tram routing were submitted by members of the public in a survey conducted in February, while city districts also took part in a consultation process.
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