There is strong political will in the EU to deepen defense cooperation, Czech Defense Minister Martin Stropnický said on Monday following a meeting of foreign and defense ministers from the 28 member bloc. The meeting approved plans to establish a joint command center for the bloc's military missions. The move is part of a broader effort to increase security and defense cooperation within the European Union. The Military Planning and Conduct Capability Centre would command the bloc's non-executive military missions, such as the three currently underway in Mali, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. Minister Stropnický welcomed the move saying the Czech military was open to closer cooperation and would willingly send experts to the centre.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has confirmed that the two Czechs detained in Turkey on charges of terrorism will go on trial in May. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Irena Valentova told the news site aktualne.cz that the ministry was devoting special attention to the case and hoped for a positive outcome. Miroslav Farkas and Marketa Všelichová were arrested in November 2016 trying to cross the Turkish-Syrian border and charged with aiding terrorist activities within the People's Protection Units YPG which Turkey considers a terrorist organization.The Chief Prosecutor's Office in Ankara is seeking a prison term of between seven and a half years and 15 years. Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek, who visited Turkey in January to try to negotiate their release, said he hoped the two might be expelled from the country.
Czech Airlines, the national air carrier, has reported a profit for the second year in a row, following years of financial losses and austerity measures, the news site idnes reports, noting that private capital clearly benefitted the airline. The airline reports progress in all areas – a higher number of passengers, 11 new air-links and an increase in the number of flights by 9 percent as compared to the previous year. Its 2016 profit of 241 million crowns is an eight percent increase year-on-year. Korean Air acquired a 44 percent stake in Czech Airlines in 2013.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka wants to speed up the planned expansion of the country’s nuclear power plants, Temelin and Dukovany. Following talks with the government’s commissioner for nuclear energy Jan Stuller, Mr. Sobotka said proposed changes to the construction law, currently being debated in Parliament, could speed up the planned construction of a new reactor at the Dukovany nuclear power plant by three years. Construction of the new reactor could begin in 2025 and end approximately ten years later. The government’s long-term energy strategy envisages continued reliance on nuclear energy, with plans for the expansion of Dukovany by one reactor and the Temelín plant in southern Bohemia by two. The government has yet to decide on the question of financing. One reactor is estimated to cost at around one hundred billion crowns.
The government’s council for human rights has criticized the lack of a support network for socially challenged families, citing this as the main reason why the Czech Republic has proved unable to reduce the high number of children who are institutionalized each year. In 2016 the country had 6,500 children in institutional care. Half of them had behavioural problems, learning disabilities or speech defects that indicated long-term neglect. Many of them improved significantly after being put in foster families. The council says many children could be spared of the trauma of being taken away from their parents if their parents received timely and professional help in dealing with their problems.
In its annual human rights report for 2016 the US State Department says the Czech Republic needs to tackle discrimination against Romanies, stigmatization of HIV sufferers and corruption. It also points to the problem of overcrowded prisons and the long period of detention of migrants and asylum seekers. The report criticizes the lack of Romany representation in Parliament and public life, but concedes that elections in the Czech Republic are free and fair.
Central Europe could lose its representative at the head of the European Council as a result of Poland’s unwillingness to support Donald Tusk's bid for a second term as President of the European Council, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek told journalists in Brussels on Monday. Mr. Zaorálek said this would be a great pity since Donald Tusk has a good understanding of the problems and interests of the region. A vote on whether he should continue in office is due to take place on Thursday. The governing Law and Justice party in Poland has officially said the country will not support Donald Tusk for a second term, accusing him of acting against Polish interests, as well as supporting the Polish opposition. Tusk’s 30-month term as the President of the European Council is due to end on May 31.
Many Czech ski hills are reporting continuing good conditions despite recent milder weather, although the season at some resorts in slowly winding down. A number of sites in Moravia, for example, reported a drop in visitors at the weekend and conditions worsened on some cross-country trails. But Skiareál Špindlerův Mlýn in the Krkonoše Mountains, for example, said it had a strong showing of some 6,000 visitors at the weekend. The ski hill said there was a metre of snow. The Czech News Agency reported that Tanvaldský špičák in the Jizera Mountains was also doing well, saying that the ski hill had seen some 1,800 visitors over the weekend. This season is expected to surpass previous ones which had been considerably milder and seen less snowfall.
A rescue team was able to free a speleologist trapped in the Nová Drátenická cave in Moravský kras (Moravian Karst) on Sunday. The man’s legs were pinned in an apparent cave-in; a spokesman for the fire brigade confirmed his rescue as complex, as the man was located several hundred metres away from the cave opening. Once freed, the person was taken by helicopter to Brno’s Teaching Hospital. The injuries to his legs were described as serious.