News

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United States to give Czech Republic six million dollars of military equipment

The United States is set to donate over 6 million USD worth of military equipment to the Czech Republic. Czech Deputy Defence Minister Martin Bartak made the announcement on Friday, following talks with Debra Cagan, an assistant to the US Secretary of Defence. The donation will consist of around 20 light armoured vehicles, electronic navigation equipment and weapons systems. It is being given under the auspices of the American 'Solidarity Fund', through which the United States donates to other allied armed forces. The first delivery is expected by the end of this year. The Defence Ministry plan to use the donated equipment in Afghanistan's Logar province in particular, where Czech forces are currently operating alongside their US allies.

Green deputies against leaving the coalition

At a meeting on Friday, Green Party deputies agreed that their party should not withdraw from the governing coalition. Some Greens had suggested pulling out of the coalition, in reaction to what they called the 'unfair' treatment of former Education Minister Dana Kuchtova and her subsequent resignation. Heads of the Czech Green Party said that the events leading up to Ms. Kuchtova's resignation 'were not to be repeated', but added that it would be irresponsible to leave the government coalition now, when there was 'no other defender of environment-focused policy and human rights'. The Green Party will be holding a conference for its members on Sunday in Brno, at which the issue will further be discussed.

Iva Ritschelova turns down education minister post

In related news, the rector of Usti nad Labem's Jan Evangelista Purkyne University, Iva Ritschelova, has turned down the post of Education Minister. In a statement to the press, Ms. Ritschelova said that she was delighted to have been asked, but due to prior commitments, could not accept the post. Ms. Ritschelova was asked to take over at the Ministry of Education following the resignation of Dana Kuchtova earlier this week. Ms. Kuchtova resigned from the post of Education Minister in connection with the Ministry's failure to secure around 60 billion CZK (3 billion USD) of EU funds, earmarked for the Czech Republic. Speculation now turns to the former head of Zlin University, Petr Saha, who has yet to comment.

Czech Republic gives two million crowns to victims of Burmese junta

The Czech Republic has donated 2 million CZK (100,000 USD) in financial aid to victims of the Burmese military junta. The funds have been donated to the Thailand Burma Border Consortium, which works with Burmese refugees. The Czech Foreign Ministry made the announcement on Friday, having previously spoken out against the Burmese government's use of force to break up pro-democracy demonstrations late last month.

Czechs encouraged to heat their homes in an environmentally-friendly way

On Friday, the Ministry for the Environment announced that it was planning to implement a system of fines for households which produced a larger-than-average amount of toxic emissions. By 2014, the Environment Minister Martin Bursik, is wanting all domestic coal fireplaces to be replaced by smaller stoves, or biomass boilers. He hopes this system of fines will encourage Czechs to switch to greener heating methods. According to Saturday's Mlada Fronta Dnes newspaper, over 10 billion CZK (0.5 billion USD) worth of EU funds will be available for households wanting to make the switch.

Minister Bursik's proposal comes on the back of a report commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment, which found that air pollution in the Czech Republic was at 'alarmingly' high levels. According to the study, 62% of Czechs are breathing air which contains an excess level of harmful dust.

Wages set to go up: Civil servants to receive the biggest pay-rise

According to the predictions of the Czech Finance Ministry, civil servants can expect a pay-rise of around 5% next year. This would bring their average wage up to around 27,000 CZK (13,500 USD) a month. In a draft of next year's budget, the government has allocated some 130 billion CZK to the payment of its public administrators. This figure is 4 billion CZK up on last year's amount. According to predictions, policemen, soldiers and customs officials can also look forward to a pay-rise. Their average salary looks set to go up by around 3%. And the Ministry of Finance predicts that those working in the private sector will not be left behind - their average wage is expected to rise to around 23,500 CZK a month.

Pravo: Czech detained in United Arab Emirates able to return home

A Czech businessman held in the United Arab Emirates on charges of illegally using the internet to make telephone calls is to be allowed to return home, reported Saturday's Pravo. Roman Mnicha was arrested in February, charged with making calls to his business partner, Michal Zamec, illegally over the internet. Subsequently, the communications firm providing the telephone link took Mr. Mnicha to court, seeking damages of 3.7 million CZK (185,000 USD) for the illegal use of its service. This week, the court ruling on the case threw out the telecommunications company Etisalat's complaint, and now that Mr. Mnicha is no longer on trial, he can return home.

Employer found guilty of racist discrimination

An employer who refused to offer Mr. Pavel Sarissky a job, on the grounds of his ethnicity, has been ordered to apologise and fined 50 thousand CZK (2,500 USD) by a Prague court. Ms. Nada Mihailova, the owner of IMAGE-n-west, was found guilty of racist discrimination against Mr. Sarissky, and ordered to pay damages. When Pavel Sarissky applied for a job in her firm in 2005, she rejected his application - telling the employment bureau that it was because he was unwilling to work nights. Mr. Sarissky refuted the allegations, producing a reference from his previous employer as evidence. Ms. Mihailova responded to this by telling Mr. Sarissky that she 'just didn't employ Romanies'. According to the European Monitoring Centre in Vienna, discrimination against the Roma minority in the Czech Republic is widespread, though this is only one of a couple of cases of discrimination in the workplace to have made it to Czech courts.

Decathlete Sebrle Europe's number two athlete

Czech decathlete Roman Sebrle has been voted the second best European athlete of the year. Mr. Sebrle comes second only to Finnish javelin-thrower Tero Pitkamaki in the poll conducted by the European Athletic Association. This is Roman Sebrle's highest ever ranking in this poll - he came third back in 2004, having taken the Olympic decathlon title earlier that year. The results for the women's competition were released on Thursday, and saw Czech javelinist Barbora Spotakova coming seventh.

Berdych crashes out of Japan Open in semi-final

Czech tennis' leading-light Tomas Berdych will not be progressing to the final of the Japan Open, after losing out to Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the semi-final. Third seed Gasquet beat number two seed Berdych 7-6 6-3, and will now meet David Ferrer, the favourite for the title, in the final.

Weather

The weekend is expected to be overcast, with occasional showers and temperatures of around 11 - 15 degrees centigrade.