Czech daily news roundup: Monday, December 13, 2021

Outgoing government to propose energy reforms, ice warning still in place on Czech roads, ski season begins amid calls for responsibility.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 13.12.2021 09:14:00 (updated on 13.12.2021) Reading time: 6 minutes

16:30 Police made mistakes in Teplice Roma death, says ombudsman

Deputy Ombudsman Monika Šimůnková has found that Czech police erred three times when arresting a Roma man who subsequently died in Teplice, north Bohemia. Police intervened in a fight between two men, before taking physical action against one of the men involved in the brawl, who later died in an ambulance. In an independent report with no bearing on the official reports into the affair, Šimůnková claimed police called the ambulance to the scene too late, acted with undue force towards the man, and did not take off his handcuffs after he collapsed in order to start immediate resuscitation. Šimůnková also said local police headquarters did not pay sufficient testimony to ambulance personnel when evaluating the correctness of the police response. The death of Stanislav Tomáš led to nationwide protests and international attention for what some called a “Czech George Floyd” incident.

15:45 Czech troops won't head to the Polish-Belarusian border

Defense Minister Lubomír Metnar has announced that Czech soldiers will not yet head to the Polish-Belarusian border because the situation there has stabilized. Metnar was informed that the Czech troops are not currently need by his Polish counterpart Mariusz Blaszczak. The Czech government agreed the deployment of troops in Poland last week, with the matter set to head to parliament. But if Poland does not require the assistance, the procedure will be halted. It was expected that 150 soldiers would be sent to Poland for the mission by Christmas, to help alleviate the pressure caused by a wave of migration from Belarus, which Poland claims has been masterminded by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

14:00 City of Prague to ensure greater protection for whistleblowers

City of Prague authorities will, in accordance with a directive from the EU concerning the protection of whistleblowers, implement measures to make sure those who report on violations receive adequate protection. A whistleblower is a member of an organization who reports a crime or misdemeanor as well as any other violations of laws in place; the EU directive concerns violations of EU laws on environmental protection, financial matters, health work and other activities. A member of Prague city council criticized incumbent Prime Minister Andrej Babiš for failing to implement the EU’s directive on a national basis, leaving the city to bring in its own measures.

10:30 Czech mortality rates rise following year of Covid

The overall number of deaths in the Czech Republic increased significantly in the first three-quarters of 2021 compared to the previous year. 102,932 people died from January to September, an increase of a fifth on 2020. The country’s population dropped from over 10.7 million inhabitants at the start of the year, to 10.68 million. Data released by the Czech Statistical Office suggests the health impact of the Covid pandemic has led to an overall increase in mortality; over 34,500 people have so far died with Covid in the Czech Republic. The highest death rate in 2021 was in the first quarter of the year, when the pandemic was at its worst; the first three months of the year saw the highest number of deaths of any year since the establishment of the independent Czech Republic. Migration was mentioned as another contributing factor to the population decline, as more people have left the country than have arrived.

10:05 Constitutional Court judge joins European Court of Human Rights

Kateřina Šimáčková has today moved from her post as a judge on the Czech Constitutional Court to a new position at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The Secretary General of the Constitutional Court described the move as “a loss for us but a gain for Europe.” The Constitutional Court is now one judge short, so President Miloš Zeman will have to nominate a judge to occupy the vacant position on the 15-member panel. Zeman’s candidate will need to be approved by the Czech Senate. Zeman has previously stated that he will only appoint Šimáčková’s replacement after Pavel Blažek, the incoming Justice Minister, takes office. Šimáčková said it is important for her that a woman replaces her on the Constitutional Court, as only one of the remaining judges is female.

Energy crisis Outgoing government to propose energy reforms

Outgoing Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Minister of Industry and Trade Karel Havlíček will today present proposals to tackle high energy prices and ways to restructure the current EU system for fossil fuel energies to reduce prices for consumers.

Babiš and Havlíček argue that the EU’s current emissions trading scheme is in part responsible for recent price hikes. They believe there is too much competition for too few allowances, so they propose returning about 400 million emissions allowances to the market; resources for member states which the European Commission earlier withdrew. They argue such a move would ensure more reasonable prices in the medium term. Neighboring Poland is meanwhile going one step further, arguing the emissions trading scheme should be suspended altogether.

Weather Ice warning remains in place this morning

The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute has warned about ice on the roads this morning, asking drivers and pedestrians to proceed with caution. A weather warning for ice has been in place in large parts of the country since yesterday evening.

It will be mostly cloudy on Monday, with light rain which could, in places, lead to more ice. Fog is also expected today in the afternoon and the evening. Temperatures are likely to stay low all day, with highs of -1 to +3 degrees Celsius, although in western Bohemia temperatures could rise slightly above freezing. Cloud and fog are expected to persist throughout the week.

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Winter wonderland Czech ski season begins amid calls to act responsibly

The Czech ski season has started, with last weekend one of the first proper ski holidays of the year for many. As skiers return to the slopes and cross-country trails, they are being asked to act responsibly and to support the maintenance of trails. Some trails are showing signs of damage as car drivers venture into forest roads.

Ski operators are hoping a successful winter will help mitigate some of the losses they sustained during the pandemic so far. New problems are, however, being posed by inflation and rising costs for energy, labor and other necessities, meaning skiers can expect their holidays to be more expensive this year.

Retail Weekend sees huge sales increase as Christmas rush begins

With the Christmas season getting into full swing, this weekend saw large increases in sales for most traders in the Czech Republic. Alza.cz noted that sales tend to rise on the first Advent weekend, then dip slightly, and then rise significantly on the third weekend as Christmas draws near.

Mall.cz reported a threefold increase in custom compared to the previous weekend as shoppers rushed to order gifts in time. And not just gifts: shops are also reporting a huge spike in the purchase of necessities for making traditional Christmas foods. Exactly how much Czechs will be willing to spend this festive season remains unclear; while many shops report healthy sales, others claim inflation is leading to a reduction in the value of the gifts being bought.

Politics Fiala to meet Zeman amid constitutional impasse

Incoming Prime Minister Petr Fiala will hold crunch discussions on the formation of a new government with President Miloš Zeman today. Zeman has refused to accept Fiala’s proposed candidate for the position of Foreign Minister, arguing there is no constitutional necessity for him to accept every candidate put forward.

Fiala has mentioned the possibility of the matter going to the Constitutional Court, while Pirate Party leader Ivan Bartoš said Zeman’s complaints, concerning Jan Lipavský’s supposed lack of education and poor relations with allies, are made up. Fiala will present the next steps in the government-forming process together with the other four coalition party leaders after meeting Zeman in Lány.

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