Czech morning news in brief: Top headlines for August 19, 2021

Czech Republic will have to learn to communicate with the Taliban, CTU team wins prestigious Amazon prize, paternity leave extended by two weeks.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 19.08.2021 09:59:00 (updated on 19.08.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

Czech Republic must cooperate with states in contact with the Taliban

Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhánek (ČSSD) has said the Czech Republic will need to accept reality in Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul, including more active cooperation with countries that have contacts with the Taliban. The Minister said it would be premature to say what the new Afghan regime’s relations with the Czech Republic will be like. This depends on what happens in the country next, he said. Kulhánek noted that the task of diplomacy is to maintain fundamental communications channels even under the most trying of circumstances. “NATO and the EU, including the Czech Republic, will have to seek more active cooperation with regional players such as Pakistan, China and Qatar, which have contacts with the Taliban,” he said. A third evacuation flight from Kabul landed in Prague on Wednesday evening, carrying 62 people.

Czech Senate enables further rise in pensions and new child subsidies

Pensions are set to rise by CZK 300, while a CZK 500 subsidy per raised child will be added to pensions as of 2023, according to a bill that the Senate decided not to debate. The bill will now be submitted to President Miloš Zeman, to be signed into law. The bill also provides for the mandatory indexation of pensions, which should raise the monthly amount by an average of CZK 497, as of January. The additional increase of CZK 300 crowns means the average pension is set to rise by 5.2 percent or CZK 797. This would bring the average monthly pension up to CZK 16,275, according to estimates. The planned additional CZK 500 subsidy for each child raised will go to only one parent, usually to the mother.

Czech Technical University team wins international Amazon competition

The Alquist chatbot, created by a team from the Czech Technical University (CTU), won the fourth edition of the annual Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge organized by Amazon. The CTU team’s chatbot attempt had previously won bronze and silver prizes in the competition. The chatbot was developed and refined by a student team from the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics from the CTU, led by artificial intelligence expert Jan Šedivý. The competition judges said the conversations which they held with Alquist were the longest, best, most valuable and funniest of all the chatbots evaluated, even though Alquist was programmed by students whose first language is not English.

Paternity leave in Czech Republic to be extended to two weeks

A bill passed by the Czech Senate will extend parental leave from the current one week to two. The eligibility conditions for carer’s leave will meanwhile become looser. The amendment to the sickness insurance law will also change the carer’s benefit system, remedying current flaws. If signed into law by President Zeman, the bill will take effect as of next year. It would also extend the six-week period of time in which new fathers can take paternity leave by including the time spent by the newborn baby in a maternity clinic. During paternity leave, fathers receive 70 percent of their pay from the insurance system, the same as women on maternity leave. Requirements for carer’s leave will meanwhile make less demands on the period of time spent in hospital by the person to be cared for at home. The bill was pushed through parliament by a cross-party group of MPs.

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Prague concert commemorates the departure of Soviet troops

Czech rock band Pražský Výber celebrated the 30th anniversary of the departure of Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia with a special concert which included new symphonic renditions of its greatest hits, given at the Křižík Fountain at Prague’s Výstaviště last night. The concert featured the Czech National Symphonic Orchestra along with other famous guests. The last Soviet soldier left Czechoslovakia on June 27, 1991, following the 1989 collapse of the Communist regime. Michal Kocáb of Pražský Výber argued that the day should be celebrated as a national holiday throughout the Czech Republic and said it is a shame that it is not celebrated as much as other important dates in the nation’s history.

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