The Czech Republic is planning to contribute 150 soldiers to NATO’s new Spearhead Force next year, the country’s foreign minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, said after a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday. The government will decide on their deployment in concrete operations and inform Parliament if it does so. The creation of the Spearhead Force is an interim measure; at a summit in September NATO agreed to create a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, which will begin operations in 2016 and could quickly mobilise if an alliance country comes under attack in Eastern Europe.
Disgraced doctor Jaroslav Barták has received an 18-year jail term for conspiracy to murder three people and to blackmail three others. He was already serving a 12-year sentence for raping and blackmailing a number of his assistants when he committed the latest crime. Mr. Barták’s intended victims were former military intelligence chief Andor Šándor, lawyer Oldřich Choděra and Orthodox priest Eugen Freimann. He hoped to raise over CZK80 million via blackmail that he would use to fund his escape from prison. The once prominent doctor has appealed Tuesday’s verdict.
The authorities in Plzeň are considering moving a monument to the late Czech president Vaclav Havel that has been repeatedly damaged. The West Bohemian city joined a number of others in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in getting a Havel’s Place memorial spot at the end of October. However, a glass love heart, referencing the symbol the writer commonly attached to his signature, was removed from it soon afterwards. A replacement was also taken. Plzeň City Hall will consider a safer spot for the monument in spring, Mayor Martin Zrzavecký said.
Pay-rises for MPs and senators should in future be decided on by the government rather than legislators, the minister of finance, Andrej Babiš, said on Tuesday. His ANO party and government partners the Social Democrats are in favour of a 1 percent pay-rise next year, with the latter’s chairman, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, calling for a lower house debate on the issue next month. A four-year freeze agreed by a previous centre-right government envisaged an increase of 26% from 2015. A Chamber of Deputies budget committee recently suggested a pay rise of 14%, a figure President Miloš Zeman described as greedy and pledged to veto.
Tuesday is the first time that adverse weather conditions have ever halted all tram services in Prague, a spokesperson for the public transport authority said. While frozen rain on overhead lines caused the majority of routes to be closed on Monday evening, no trams left the city’s depots on Tuesday morning. They have been replaced by emergency bus services.
Frozen rain has severely hampered public transport in the Czech Republic since Monday evening. Rail transport has been particularly hard hit, with few trains running around Prague, in Central Bohemia and parts of Moravia. Hundreds of passengers were trapped inside trains on Monday night due to frozen overhead lines. No trams are running in Prague or Olomouc. In Brno most trams are operating but practically all the city’s trolleybuses have been halted. Road transport has in the main not been affected. Thousands of households are without power and the number of injuries caused by falls has been higher than usual.
Lenka Zogatová, an important figure on the Brno arts scene and in recent times director of the Czech Centre in Bratislava, has died. Zogatová organised illicit concerts by alternative musicians in Brno in the 1980s, including a legendary show by the singer Nico, who she passed off to the authorities as being from Jihlava but singing in English. A theatre studies graduate, she also worked at HaDivadlo and the National Theatre Brno after the fall of communism.
Average attendances at Czech first division football games were down in the pre-winter part of the season, which came to an end on Sunday. The average gate over the 16 rounds between late July and end of November was 4,705 around 300 lower than in the same period in 2013. Champions Sparta Prague had an average attendance of 7,861, about 2,000 lower than last year, though the defending champions have yet to welcome their biggest rivals Viktoria Plzeň and Slavia Prague to their Letná stadium.
At least thirteen people are reported injured in an accident near the town of Andělská Hora, north of Prague, where a school bus collided with a truck early on Tuesday. According to the internet news site novinky.cz none of the injuries are life-threatening. The injured are being transported to nearby hospitals. The daily says the accident was most likely caused by black ice.
The Czech government is against binding quotas for the acceptance of Syrian refugees, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said following a meeting of the cabinet on Monday. Minister Chovanec said the Czech Republic was not prepared for an influx of thousands of refugees and he would present this stand at a meeting of EU interior ministers on Friday. He said that to his knowledge, several other EU countries would likewise make a stand against binding quotas. In response to a UN appeal, 15 countries around the world have agreed to set up special quotas for fugitives fleeing Syria’s civil war. More than two million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries since the start of the conflict, and another million, still in the country, have reportedly been displaced.
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