Former Czech member of the European Parliament and diplomat Jana Hybášková has been confirmed as the European Union’s new ambassador to Namibia. Hybášková previously the 28-strong EU as ambassador in Baghdad. She was previously a member of the European Parliament between 2004 and 2009 and before that worked for the Czech diplomatic service with postings in Slovenia, Kuwait, and Qatar. She speaks Arabic fluently. The announcement was made in Brussels on Wednesday amid a series of other staff changes.
Škoda Auto, the Czech Republic’s biggest car maker and one of the main industrial motors of the economy, has boosted first half operating profits by around 23 percent to 522 million euros compared with the same period in 2014. Overall turnover rose 7.5 percent to 6.4 billion euros. The manufacturer, part of the Volkswagen Group, said favourable currency rates and lower prices for raw materials helped the improvement. Car deliveries in the first half topped 544,000, a rise of 4.2 percent.
Tighter rules on the gaming industry were approved Wednesday by the Czech Cabinet. The proposed measures include giving local council greater power over opening hours, including an obligatory closing period during the night, and higher taxes on companies. Taxes on lottery games should increase from 20 to 25 percent. The proposal would also ban gaming machines from bars and restaurants. The Czech Republic has long had a reputation as a gaming paradise compared with other European countries but with the serious social impact that around 100,000 people are now estimated to be addicted to gambling.
Czech police detained almost 40 illegal immigrants, of which 13 were children, on Tuesday night, Minister of Interior Milan Chovanec announced on Wednesday. He warned that the increasing trend is set to be long term. So far in the first six months of the year police have detained around 3,000 illegal immigrants. Next year the total is expected to be between 5,000 and 7,000. The minister said an extra 1,200 beds in detention centres for illegal immigrants by the end of this year should be sufficient if the situation did not dramatically worsen and as long as it was possible to return some of the immigrants back to Austria and Hungary.
The Czech Post office is preparing to rush out a special edition of stamps in honour of Sir Nicholas Winton, who organised transports of 669, mostly Jewish children, out of Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia before the outbreak of WWII. The move almost certainly saved their lives. Sir Nicholas died at the age of 106 on July 1. The special edition of stamps, in a limited edition of 750,000, should go on sale on September 2. Czech Post said the special edition is intended as a tribute to Sir Nicholas Winton.
Bonus payments to top ministry officials have risen sharply in the first half of 2015 compared with the same period a year earlier, Czech Radio reported on Wednesday. Total bonuses rose by around 65 million crowns to reach almost 220 million crowns. The figure for the first half of 2014 was 155 million. Among the year on year increased spenders with total budgets almost doubled include the ministries of agriculture, foreign affairs, industry and trade, environment, and regional development. Ministers argue that the need to offer bonuses to motivate top staff and the bonuses are small compared with those in the private sector.
It should be clear by the end of the week when Minister of Foreign Affairs Lubomír Zaorálek will go to Lebanon in connection with the five missing Czechs. Ministry spokeswoman Michaela Lagronová gave the details Wednesday after a meeting of the crisis committee dealing with the case, the CTK news agency reported. Foreign ministry and intelligence experts are still assessing the latest details of the Czechs who went missing more than a week ago near the Syrian border, she said. Two Czech intelligence staff are already in Lebanon tracking the efforts of their local counterparts. The foreign minister admitted last week that no approaches from possible kidnappers had been received.
Firemen evacuated 87 people, mostly Kuwaiti guests, from the Plaza Hotel in Teplice, North Bohemia, after a fire broke out on Tuesday night. The guests were treated for smoke inhalation but were later allowed back on the premises. The fire was apparently caused by electrical equipment with the damage estimated at around 100,000 crowns. Another fire in the same district broke out two weeks ago when excavation work in the street damaged wires and sparked a fire. The worker was treated for burns in hospital.
ANO are considering having their electoral candidates undergo psychological tests in order to prevent members winning election and then rebelling, the news website iHned.cz reported. The party’s number two Jaroslav Faltýnek said he envisaged the first 10 people on ANO’s candidate list in regional elections next year taking the four-hour test. Mr. Faltýnek presented the idea at a meeting after ANO’s representatives on two local councils went against the policies of the relatively new and small party. Chairman Andrej Babiš refused to comment on the idea, iHned.cz said.
The Czech title-holders Viktoria Plzeň beat Maccabi TelAviv 2:1 away on Tuesday night in the first leg of their Champions League third qualifying round tie. The result leaves Plzeň in a good position ahead of next Wednesday’s second leg to decide a place in the final qualifying round of the prestigious competition. Sparta Prague were also in Champions League qualifying action and also scored two valuable away goals in their clash with CSKA Moscow in the Russian capital, which ended 2:2.