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Foreign minister hands out medals of merit to those who assisted Czech entry to NATO

Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček handed out Medal of Merit awards to 14 people who assisted the Czech Republic’s entry to NATO 20 years ago.

Among the laureates was the former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, who was a leading voice in advocating for expansion of the military alliance to central Europe, former NATO secretary general Javier Solana and his successor in the post George Robertson, officials who headed NATO at the time of the country’s admission and during its first years in the alliance.

On the home scene, the awards went to the former foreign ministers Jaroslav Šedivý, Jan Kavan and Karel Schwarzenberg, former defence ministers Vladimír Vetchý, Alexandr Vondra and Luboš Dobrovský as well as former army chiefs of staff Jiří Nekvasil and Jiří Šedivý.

Czech Republic first country to eradicate African swine fever

The Czech Republic is now officially regarded as having eradicated African swine fever, transmitted by wild boars, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

State Veterinary Administration spokesman Petr Vorlíček said this makes the Czech Republic the first country in the world so far to have eradicated the disease on its territory.

However, the disease continues to spread in Europe, including in neighbouring Poland, so the risk of in being reintroduced is high.

MPs approve Aliens Act change to expedite expulsion of foreign offenders, ease employment

The lower house of Parliament has approved an amendment to the Aliens Act that would make it easier to expel foreigners who have been repeatedly convicted of crimes in the Czech Republic.

The Minister of the Interior, Jan Hamáček (Social Democrats), who drafted the amendment, said it would speed up the expulsion process to at most six months, in part because the Supreme Administrative Court would have at most 90 days to appeal such an order.

Currently, proceedings to revoke a foreign offender’s residence permit can now last over two years, Mr Hamáček said, noting the case of a drug dealer that took six years.

Regarding the employment of foreign nationals, he said the Aliens Act amendment would also allow the government to introduce extraordinary work visas for a limited period of one year, thereby giving the government greatly flexibility to respond to market conditions.

Among other things, the draft would let the Cabinet set quotas for economic migrants or introduce compulsory integration courses for foreign workers.

MPs vote to create National Sports Agency to handle subsidies in place of Education Ministry

MPs have backed a proposal to establish a National Sports Agency that, among other things, would take over responsibility from the Ministry of Education for distributing state subsidies in this area.

The lower house of Parliament had moved to establish the agency last autumn as part of a broader overhaul of state support for sport, citing a need for greater transparency and simplification of the process.

According to a survey of the Czech Union of Sports, which backed the proposal, most of the country’s nearly 7,500 clubs lack money to hire qualified trainers and host children’s activities.

In addition, the Union argues that due to the complexity of subsidy programmes, clubs have difficulty in applying for money under the current system.

Prague court sentences Algerian men for gang rape of Irish tourist

The Prague Municipal Court has sentenced three Algerian men for the gang rape of an Irish tourist and other crimes and banned them from entering the country for varying periods. The judgment is final, subject only to an appeal to the Czech Supreme Court.

The victim met one of her attackers, Tajíb Banjittú, early last April and agreed to go back to his room in a tourist hostel in Prague 1. Once there, he and five other men raped her, she told police.

Six suspects, all men in their twenties, were arrested in a police raid at the hostel and later appeared in court, where they pleading innocent. Three were acquitted.

Tajíb Banjittú was sentenced to 6 years in prison and expelled from the Czech Republic indefinitely. Muhammad Habib Uld Ajsu, who was convicted of possessing narcotics and psychotropic substances, got 4.5 years and was expelled for 10 years. Zakariah Uld Ajsa was sentenced to 3 years in prison and expelled for 10 years.

Prague High Court judge handling drug cases indicted on charges of bribery, abuse of power

A judge at the High Court in Prague and four other suspects have been indicted over alleged bribery in attempts to influence rulings.

If found guilty judge Ivan Elischer faces up to 12 years in prison for bribery, abuse of power and extending preferential treatment. The 58-year-old magistrate has been at the court since 2013 and specialises in serious drug cases.

According to the news agency ČTK, the other defendants are of Vietnamese origin, including an acquaintance of the judge, Hung Quoc Nguyen. Mr Elischer was arrested by the police’s national organised crime unit in a raid last March.

Voayer Gallery exhibition of “real naked people” to open on Prague’s Wenceslas Square

A controversial promoter who in recent years has staged short-term exhibitions of “real naked women” in the Slovak and Czech capitals has announced plans for a long-term instalment on Prague’s Wenceslas Square.

Mário Petreje told state news agency ČTK that his Voayer Gallery would open on 5 April at the House of Fashion and feature both sexes on a rotational basis.

He said the adults-only exhibition is a celebration of freedom and the beauty of the human body and also intended to introduce the wider public to less common sexual practices, including sadomasochism.

Media tycoon Jaromír Soukup officially registers new political movement

Czech media and advertising tycoon Jaromír Soukup has formally registered a political movement bearing his name with the stated aim of “defending national interests against corrupt politicians and oligarchs”.

A spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, which handles such requests, on Wednesday confirmed the registration of the movement, called List Jaromíra Soukupa.

Mr Soukup hosts a popular talk show on the private cable channel TV Barrandov, which he took over in 2012. Critics say it panders to voters of populist and extreme right-wing parties and politicians.

Smartwings grounds its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft

The Czech airline Smartwings has announced it is complying with the directive of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on grounding the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft type.

The company currently operates 7 Boeing 737 MAX. A number of night flights had to be redirected to Ankara and Tunis as a result. The company has a fleet of 40 other planes at its disposal.

EASA issued the directive on Tuesday after a number of countries and airlines independently grounded their planes in reaction to the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight which was operated by this aircraft type. It was already the second deadly accident of the 737 MAX, raising serious questions over its safety.

Weather outlook

The forecast for Thursday is for mostly cloudy skies, with light snowfall in mountainous regions and scattered showers in the lowlands. Average daytime highs should range between 6 to 10 degrees Celsius.