Daily news summary

Czechs celebrate 20 years of NATO membership

The Czech Republic is marking the 20th anniversary of its entry into NATO on March 12th, 1999. It joined the alliance together with Poland and Hungary in NATO’s first expansion eastwards after the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe. The celebrations, which include gatherings, debates and exhibitions, are culminating at Prague Castle where President Miloš Zeman is hosting heads of state, NATO representatives and foreign guests.

Foreign visitors, government officials and NATO representatives have been addressing a security conference held to mark the anniversary. In his speech, Prime Minister Andrej Babis highlighted the fact that NATO membership is in the Czech Republic’s vested interest since it provides a guarantee of security. He said the Czech Republic would meet its commitment to spend two percent of the country’s GDP on defence by 2024.

Speakers addressing the conference cited international terrorism, Russia’s expansionist ambitions and cyber warfare as the main threats facing NATO today.

Among the VIP guests attending the celebrations are the former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright who was a leading voice in advocating for expansion of the military alliance to central Europe. She is among 14 people who will receive the Medal of Merit Award for Diplomacy from Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček.

Senate committees divided over Gerloch’s nomination for constitutional court judge

Senate committees are divided on whether the upper chamber should support the nomination of Aleš Gerloch for the post of constitutional court judge.

The Senate’s Legal Matters committee recommended supporting the nomination, while the committee for Human Rights Issues voted against.

Senators opposing the idea cited Gerloch’s close relationship with President Zeman, who nominated him for the post. The Senate is to vote on the matter on March 20th.

Seven charged with illegal production and internet sales of marihuana

Police have charged seven people with illegal production and sale of marihuana over the internet.

The suspects allegedly produced large quantities of marihuana at eleven plantations in Moravia selling it to people in 75 countries.

The two main organizers, who were in charge of production and sales, may get a jail sentence of up to 12 years.

Czech Romany singer Věra Bílá dies at 64

The Czech Republic’s most famous Romany singer Věra Bílá has died at the age of 64, the news site Romea.cz reported. The singer reportedly died in hospital after suffering a heart attack.

Bílá gained international acclaim performing Romany folk songs with the group Kale. They released their first album in 1996 and in later years performed live at venues around Europe and the United States.

Věra and Kale split up in 2005 on account of Bílá’s problems with gambling. Only this week she was planning to make a big comeback with Jan Bendig and Milan Krok, one of the singers from Kale.

Emergency repair work continued for second night in wake of windstorm

Emergency work to restore power to thousands of homes continued for a second night in succession in the wake of damage caused by the windstorm Eberhard which swept through central Europe on Sunday night damaging roofs, felling trees and bringing down power lines.

In the initial phase of the storm hundreds of thousands of homes were left without power, on Monday night emergency crews restored power to some 35,000 homes in hard-to-reach destinations.

Clean-up work continues in the country’s forests where the storm felled around a million trees and people around the country have started reporting damages to insurance companies. The damages are expected to be in the tens of millions of crowns.

Avalanche alert declared in Krkonoše Mountains

A third degree avalanche alert has been declared in the Krkonoše Mountains following several days of heavy snow and strong winds.

The mountain rescue service says the situation is extremely dangerous since a combination of factors have created a highly unstable layer of snow on many slopes.

Skiers have been warned not to take risks or stray from marked trails.

Weather forecast

Wednesday should be overcast with rain showers and day temperatures between 6 and 10 degrees Celsius.