The Czech Transport Ministry is discussing measures which would make rail crossings in the Czech Republic safer. In the wake of last week’s tragic Pendolino crash into a lorry which left three dead and a dozen injured, Transport Minister Dan Ťok said the ministry would commission an expert analysis on improved safety measures, including how many level crossings can be turned into grade-separated junctions and the possible installation of electronic chips which would alert a train to a large obstacle on the track. The minister is also in favour of introducing steep fines for those who break the rules on rail crossings.
The Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Dominik Duka has forbidden the parish of St. Salvatore to host two events within August’s Prague Pride LGBT festival. The parish, headed by priest and professor Tomáš Halík, had planned to host a discussion with a nun about harassment within the Church and screen a film about a gay priest. The involvement of the Czech Catholic Church in Prague Pride events caused controversy and Cardinal Duka used his right to ban them. The cardinal said that while he was not against an open debate on these matters he did not consider it appropriate for this to take place within the LGBT festival. Tomáš Halík said he fully respected the Cardinal’s decision. The events will be held elsewhere.
Half of Czech firms would not employ a Romany, according to the outcome of a poll conducted by the bank CSOB among several hundred companies. According to the outcome of the survey 48 percent of small and medium-sized businesses would not employ a Romany person. Fifteen percent of these companies said they would not employ a Romany under any circumstances, even if they were qualified for the job, while 33percent said they would “most likely” turn a Roma candidate away. Nine out of ten firms would turn away a former convict on principle. 68 percent of companies said they would be prepared to employ a foreigner from a former Eastern bloc state. The survey commissioned by Pravo was to test the measure of discrimination on the Czech labour market.
The police quelled a fresh revolt at the asylum facility in Běla, north Bohemia, on Friday after angry migrants started demolishing furniture and smashing windows in protest at beingáheld captive on the premises. The illegal immigrants housed there are due to be returned to Hungary and Austria and are under close supervision. On Thursday a group of them attempted to escape from the asylum centre damaging two security gates in the process, but they failed to break through the iron fence surrounding the facility. Interior Minister Milan Chovanec who met with the migrants on Friday rejected their demand to have their money and mobile phones returned and be allowed to travel to Germany. The minister ordered heightened security around the institution. The violence broke out shortly after his departure.
Defense Minister Martin Stropnický says he wants to the expand army’s ranks by 6,000 new recruits over the next five years. Speaking at the Brno University of Defense on Friday, Mr. Stropnický said the Czech Armed Forces would be boosted by close to 2,000 new recruits this year and as many more in 2016. The minster has asked for an additional two billion crowns for the Defense Ministry budget next year to meet this goal. The Finance Ministry has so far promised an extra billion. Mr. Stropnický argues that the military was underfunded for several years and needs more money to meet its commitments within NATO. The army has 21,000 soldiers at present and the minister wants to expand their ranks to 27,000 in the next five years.
Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said on Friday that the purpose of his upcoming trip to Lebanon would be to exchange information with the local authorities on the five Czechs who went missing in the country earlier this month. Following a meeting of the crisis team set up to deal with the case, Mr. Zaorálek said that the Czech side was prepared to release the information it had on the case to the Lebanese authorities and hoped to glean new information from them. The minister dismissed speculation that he would hold negotiations other than with local politicians and investigators. The date of his trip has not yet been set, but according to previous unofficial information it should be sometime next week. The five Czechs disappeared in the Bekaa Valley, near the border with Syria, on July 18th and the Lebanese interior minister said last week that the case had a criminal background and was allegedly linked to drug and arms smuggling.
Career diplomat Libor Sečka is to be the new Czech ambassador to Great Britain, the ctk news agency reported on Friday. He will replace the outgoing ambassador to London, Michael Žantovský, who is due to return to Prague in September and will head the Vaclav Havel library in the Czech capital. Mr. Sečka has previously served as ambassador in Spain, Mexico, Italy and Malta. He is currently winding up an ambassadorial term in China.
The police have detained a Hungarian lorry carrying 76 illegal migrants, 23 of them children, the ctk news agency reports citing police sources. The lorry was detained on the D5 highway in the Tachov region during a routine check on Friday morning. A police spokeswoman said the migrants had no IDs and were now being questioned via an interpreter. She said the driver of the lorry had been detained and would be charged with people-smuggling.
Banks in the Czech Republic provided almost 50,000 mortgage loans for 88 billion crowns to individuals in the first half of this year, compared with over 41,000 mortgage loans for 67.9 billion granted a year earlier, Hypoteční banka told the Czech news agency, citing Regional Development Ministry statistics. The bank’s CEO Jan Sadil said that if there were no unexpected changes, 2015 would be a record year in terms of mortgage loans. The CEO outlined a combination of factors as having influenced growth, namely record-low interest rates, stable economic conditions with a positive outlook, increased activity by developers selling and building new housing projects mainly in large towns, and growing real estate prices.
Figure skating legend Ája Vrzáňová-Steindler, who won back-to-back world championships in 1949 and 1950 in Paris and London, has died at the age of 84. After travelling to London, Vrzáňová defected, opting not to return to Stalinist Czechoslovakia which had pressured her to end her career. Her family was later repeatedly harassed and threatened by the Communist regime. Vrzáňová settled in the US, marrying restaurant owner Pavel Steindler in 1969. The former champion was inducted into the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2009.