Defense Minister Martin Stropnický has confirmed that the military terminated a contract with the Czech firm Česka zbrojovka on the delivery of 2,300 bulletproof vests for the army on the grounds that the vests do not afford the required standard of protection. The company making the vests reportedly used other connecting materials than required resulting in lower quality protection which fails to meet the conditions set down in the tender for the respective contract. The producer claims that the vests afford reliable protection and is taking the matter to court. The military is to buy the vests from a US firm at a higher price.
Justice Minister Robert Pelikan has slammed a proposal for Czechs with legally held firearms to be able to use their weapons against terrorists. In a debate on Czech public television Minister Pelikan said he hoped the government would not support the idea which was like something from the Wild West. He was referring to a proposal by Interior Minister Milan Chovanec for a constitutional amendment which would enable Czechs with a firearms license to use their weapon against perpetrators of terrorist attacks such as those in Berlin or Istanbul. The proposal, which would have to be approved by Parliament, has evoked many negative reactions tions. Presently over 300,000 Czechs have a firearms license and there are over 800,000 registered weapons in the country.
The civil march for Aleppo which is to draw attention to the plight of the war-ravaged Syrian city reached Prague on Sunday. The several dozen activists who set out from Berlin after Christmas expanded to around 200 people in the Czech capital. The march passed by the Syrian and Russian embassies in Prague sporting banners reading “Stop Putin in Syria” and “Assad is the biggest terrorist”. The march will continue through Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Greek, Turkey and hopes to end in Aleppo. It was organized by Anna Alboth, a Polish journalist based in Berlin, as a protest against international inactivity in ending the violence in Syria. Alboth has been actively helping refugees arriving in Germany since 2015.
Heavy snow continued to complicate traffic around the country on Sunday. Several roads in the Krusné Hory Mountains in the north-west of the country are impassable and the highly-frequented crossing to Poland via Harrachov remains closed to trucks. A snow drift warning is in place for higher altitudes around the country. Drivers setting out on longer journeys have been advised to make sure they have enough petrol, hot tea and blankets. More heavy snow is expected in the coming hours and the start of the week is expected to bring another bout of Arctic weather.
Representatives of leading Czech firms have put economic growth in 2017 at between 2.5 and 3.1 percent, according to the ctk news agency which conducted a poll among employers. According to employers, growth should be fueled by the drawing of EU structural funds, but could be undermined by a lack of qualified workers. The Czech National Bank predicts a growth of 2.9 this year and 2.8 in 2018.
A new nuclear power law which took effect in 2017 has tightened security at the country’s two nuclear power stations, Czech Television reported on Sunday. The legislation has significantly increased the number of employees who need to have security clearance to work at a nuclear power facility. While in the past this concerned the station’s management and those who worked directly with nuclear fuel, which was around 200 people, now anyone who has access to sensitive areas such as the vicinity of reactors or nuclear fuel storage facilities much have clearance. This has increased the number of people with security clearance five-fold.
The roof of a newly constructed sports hall in Česká Třebová, in the northeast of the country, collapsed during an evening game of floorball on Saturday night. Some eighty people were in the facility at the time of the accident but everyone managed to get out in time. No injuries were reported. The players in the tournament were schoolchildren from different parts of the region aged 15 -16. The cause of the accident is being investigated. Although the incident was preceded by several days of heavy snow experts are inclined to believe a construction error caused the collapse.
President Miloš Zeman and Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek debated key foreign policy challenges in the year ahead at Lány Chateau near Prague on Saturday. At a press briefing following the talks Minister Zaorálek said they had agreed on the need to build a good working relationship with the new US administration, and stressed the importance of a functional European Union. Other issues discussed were the fight against terrorism and security issues. The talks are part of regular consultations on foreign policy between the government and president. President Zeman, who openly supported US president elect Donald Trump during his election campaign has received an invitation to the White House in April.
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