According to Defence Minister Martin Stropnický, the Czech Army is low in personnel. Speaking in a Czech TV political debate programme, Mr. Stropnický said the Army needs at least 30,000 professional soldiers in the future, with additional 5,000 in reserves. The current target of 27,000 professional soldiers is not sufficient, he said, adding that the Army plans to recruit some 2,000 soldiers this year. The Defence Ministry registered some 22,000 professional soldiers, 6,400 civilian employees and 1,100 civil servants who are subject to the civil service law at the beginning of this year.
Dozens of families in the Czech Republic had lunch with the families of immigrants on Sunday as part of a nationwide project called Family Next Door, organised by a Czech NGO Slovo 21. The project, which was being held for the thirtheenth time, aims to help immigrants with integration. This year it brought together more than 400 people of different cultures and languages. Over 1200 Czech and migrant families had lunch together since the project was launched in 2004. Organizers say more than half of the people who have taken part in the past are still in touch.
Non-governmental organisation People in Need has been banned from providing humanitarian aid in the Donetsk region in Eastern Ukraine. The organisation was forced to close down its warehouse and offices after local authorities had revoked official accreditation allowing them to operate in the region. People in Need together with International Red Cross were the only two international organizations on the ground providing humanitarian aid in non-government controlled areas of Ukraine. According to People in Need`s director Šimon Pánek, they will try next week to negotiate with local authorities the possibility to complete their mission in the region.
The number of counterfeit banknotes and coins of all currencies seized in the Czech Republic in the first three quarters of 2016 dropped by 43 percent compared to the same period last year to a total of 2,078, the Czech National Bank informed on its website on Sunday. The highest number of seized counterfit banknotes and coins were in Czech crowns, however, their number dropped to 1,096 from last year`s 1,426. On the other hand, the number of forged euro banknotes and coins has increased to 743, compared to 474 in 2015.
A painting by abstract artist František Kupka called Series C I (Plans Miniscules) from 1935 sold for 62 million crowns (around 2.29 million euros) on Sunday, setting a new Czech art auction record. Until now, the record price paid at the domestic art auction was 55.57 million, for which another Kupka`s painting, The Shape of Blue, was sold four years ago. International auction record for Kupka is even higher. Earlier this year, his painting L'Envolée was sold in Sweden for nearly 70 million crowns.
The Český slavík (Czech Nightingale) poll of musician of the year has been won for the 41st time by veteran pop star Karel Gott. Mr Gott, who underwent cancer treatment last year, could not attend the ceremony at Prague`s State Opera due to health complications. Singer Tomáš Ortel and his highly controversial band, whose hateful lyrics primarily target religious and ethnic minorities, finished in the second place. Best female singer was won by Lucie Bílá, who took the award for the 19th time and the best band were hard rock group Kabát.
President Zeman plans to make a number of foreign trips, including South and Central America, South Korea and Vietnam, the head of the president’s foreign affairs office, Hynek Kmoníček, told the Czech News Agency on Sunday. The Czech head of state also wants to attend the launch of Expo Astana in Kazakhstan and the general assembly of the UN. The programme of president Zeman`s visits will depend on his decision about whether to stand for a second term as head of state in 2018.
Thousands of people gathered on Prague`s Old Town Square on Saturday evening to watch the lighting of the traditional Christmas tree. The 22-metre spruce was felled in the region of Hradec Králové and will adorn the historic square until January 6. The tree-lighting ceremony also launched the city`s annual Christmas markets.
In reaction to the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said he believed in the strengthening of civil liberties in Cuba. He also said that Castro embodied people`s hopes as a revolutionary leader before turning in a dictator. Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said could never forget that the former Cuban leader supported the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. The head of the Communist Party, Vojtěch Filip, expressed his sympathy to his family and his nation, adding that he regarded Castro as a fighter for freedom of Cuban people.
One of the rarest Czechoslovak stamps was sold at an auction in Prague on Saturday for more than 1.7 million crowns (some 63,000 euro). The starting price was at one million crowns. The 50-heller was issued in 1927 and by mistake, overprinted “50/50” DOPLATIT as a postage due. It was used by the post office before the error was discovered. Between 20 to 30 used copies are believed to be in the possession of collectors.