A team headed by a Czech scientist is to study the influence of insects on forest vegetation on six continents, the ctk news agency reports. The project headed by Vojtěch Novotný from the Czech Academy of Sciences has received a 92 million crown grant from the European Research Council. The team will work in Japan, Ghana, Panama and Papua New Guinea among other locations. The Czech Academy of Sciences has been operating a research centre in New Guinea for almost two decades.
Attending an EU-Eastern Partnership summit in Riga Czech president Milos Zeman said Russia should consider joining the EU’s Eastern partnership. Mr. Zeman, who recently visited Moscow, noted that Russia had been invited to participate and had rejected the offer earlier on and may well be regretting its decision now. The Eastern Partnership project, launched at a summit in Prague in 2009,seeks to deepen relations between the EU and six former Soviet-bloc states and help them on the road to democracy and economic prosperity. Russia has criticized the project as an attempt to damage its interests and undermine its relations with the said countries.
The crash of a Hungarian Jas-39 Gripen fighter jet at the Časlav, airbase southeast of Prague, on Tuesday was not caused by technical error, Czech Defense Minister Martin Stropnický told reporters on Friday. The minister did not elaborate further, saying the investigation by Czech, Hungarian and Swedish experts had not been concluded. The plane crash-landed during an international military drill in the Czech Republic. Both pilots ejected and were unhurt. The plane was completely destroyed. The information that the crash was not caused by a technical error means that the Gripen fighter jets used by the Czech army will not have to be grounded.
The leader of the Communist Party Vojtěch Filip has made it clear that the communists would not support the vote of no-confidence in the Sobotka government. Mr. Filip told reporters on Friday that his party welcomed some of the social measures effected by the Sobotka administration and that the Communist Party was not about to assist the return of right-wing government. Politicians like Miroslav Kalousek damaged the Czech economy for years and are now doing everything possible to return to power, the Communist Party leader noted.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s centre-left government will face a no-confidence vote in the lower house on Tuesday. The demand for a no-confidence vote was tabled by the opposition in reaction to a vote on a bill which would secure continued state support for biofuels. Opposition TOP 09 deputy leader Miroslav Kalousek told the lower house earlier this week that by supporting the bill the centre-left government was serving the interests of Finance Minister Andrej Babis’ business empire Agrofert. Although the government has enough support in the lower house to survive the no-confidence motion, the opposition Civic Democrats said the governments malpractices were such that it was no longer possible to let them pass unnoticed. The opposition has 52 votes in support of the motion but would need 101 to push it through.
Fourteen employees from the Czech government Agency for Social Inclusion, which is aimed at helping integrate Roma and other deprived groups, into mainstream society, handed in their notices on Thursday. They are walking out after a disagreement with the Minister for Human Rights, Jiří Dientsbier, over the way the agency should be run. According to the agency’s Lucie Macků, they are in particular angered by the recent dismissal of the agency’s long time head Martin Šimáček. She said the employees don’t want the agency to remain within the ministry’s authority and have called for it to be established as an independent entity.
A number of well-known personalities have protested against the Days of Jerusalem Festival, which is to be held as part of the Pilsen s 2015 cultural events. In an open letter addressed to the European Commission, parliament, and council, they claim that the label European Capital of Culture is being used to help legitimise Israel’s political strategy. They are asking the Commission to “take steps to ensure that no event held as part of the European Capital of Culture official programme is breaching EU foreign policy and misinforming or manipulating the public for the political gains of a third party state.” Among the signatories are the linguist Noam Chomsky, former Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and British film director Ken Loach. The festival will be held in Pilsen in June, presenting dance, music, visual arts, films and cuisine.
Dozens of people have called the Sazka lottery firm in recent days, claiming to be the winners of a record 2.5 billion crown lottery jackpot. The spokesman for Sazka said people are making up various stories about losing their ticket – one claimed the dog had eaten it. He also said they had received calls from women who would like to marry the prospective billionaire. The winning ticket was bought in the Pardubice region only one day ahead of the Eurojackpot draw. Its owner still hasn’t come forward five days after the winning number was announced.
NATO has requested the Czech Republic to renew its surveillance mission of Icelandic airspace, the defence ministry’s spokesman Petr Medek told the Czech News Agency on Thursday. He said the army is set to reveal the details at a press conference on Friday. The Czech air force took its turn protecting Icleand’s airspace last autumn over the course of nine weeks. Iceland is the only NATO member state with no air force of its own. The head of an airbase in Čáslav, Petr Hromek, told the daily Lidové Noviny on Thursday that the mission should take place in July and August this year.
President Zeman has signed an amendment to the energy law, the president’s spokesman Jiří Ovčáček said on Thursday. The new energy law, among other things, cushions the burden on industrial users of supporting renewable power. It has drawn criticism mainly from the national energy regulator, ERÚ, which has warned that that it could spark a massive new drain on public and state resources adding up to 150 billion crowns. The new energy law also enables households to install rooftop photovoltaic power stations with up to 10 kilowatt output without obtaining a license.