Czech daily news roundup: Monday, March 21, 2022

Refugees no longer need work permit and can apply for benefit, government to request extended state of emergency, Finance Minister downplays trade embargo. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 21.03.2022 09:17:00 (updated on 21.03.2022) Reading time: 6 minutes

14:30 Prague looks to approve large-scale property exchanges

The City of Prague wants to approve large-scale property exchanges worth a total of CZK 2.2 billion. The exchanges will see the city gain the Na Bulovce hospital complex, including a building in Karlín, the Bohdalec complex, and a building in Hybernská. Later, the municipality will exchange its plots at Na Homolce hospital and Faustův dům on Karlovo náměstí for Veleslavín Castle and other locations.

14:07 Prague Mayor supports renaming street outside Russian embassy

Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib has expressed support for a proposal to rename the street outside the Russian embassy in Prague from Korunovační to Ukrajinských Hrdinů, or "Ukrainian Heroes". Hřib said that "the incredible courage of the Ukrainian fighters, who have been defending their homeland against the unprecedented aggression of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin for almost a month, is worth appreciating." The proposal has already been passed to the necessary authorities for evaluation before being voted on by Prague Council. If Korunovační street was renamed, the Russian embassy would only be able to choose its address from two options: Ukrainian Heroes street, or Boris Nemtsov street, named after the murdered Russian opposition politician.

13:48 Václav Havel Airport to celebrate Czech aviation achievement

An event entitled "Landing At 1000 Airports" will take place at Prague's Václav Havel Airport tomorrow from 13:00 to 16:00. The event will commemorate Jiří Pruša's record of landing at 1000 airports around the world, recorded by the Dobrý den Agency, which manages the registration of Czech records. The event will also feature a presentation of the Czechoslovak Shark aircraft used by Pruša. The event is being organized by Pruša in collaboration with Václav Havel Airport, Flying Revue, F AIR flight school and Shark aircraft distributor Shark AERO.CZ.

11:25 Record electricity generated from wind power plants in Czechia

Czech wind power plants produced a record amount of electricity in the first two months of this year. Wind accounted for 87,639 megawatt-hours of power in January, and 106,050 megawatt-hours in February. The energy was generated from a total of 340 wind power plants, and is the equivalent to the energy used to power households throughout the Pardubice and Hradec Králové regions, according to the Chamber of Renewable Energy Sources and the Czech Wind Energy Society. The positive result is mitigated by the fact that for two years in a row, no new wind turbine has been built in the Czech Republic.

Sport Sparta Prague ownership structure revealed

Speculation about the ownership structure of Sparta Prague, one of the Czech Republic's most famous football clubs, has been put to bed with a press release detailing the shareholders of the club. Billionaire Daniel Křetinský owns 56 percent of the club through EP Sport Holdings within the 1890s Holdings company. The remaining stake of the club owned by 1890s Holdings is held by J&T Capital Partners. 1890s Holdings also owns 27 percent of English football club West Ham United.

Crisis Government to request extension to state of emergency

The Czech government will ask the lower house of parliament to approve an extension of the current state of emergency to help deal with the continuing influx of refugees from Ukraine. Interior Minister Vít Rakušan announced the decision to extend the emergency state in a television interview yesterday.

It is thought there are now around 270,000 refugees in the Czech Republic and four-fifths of the adults who have fled the war are women. Half of the refugees are children. The Czech Interior Ministry has so far granted 200,000 special visas to people displaced by the war. The state of emergency provides a legislative framework which helps the state act faster and more flexibly to deal with the crisis, but it will expire in early April and an extension must be approved by parliament.

Ukraine Refugees no longer need work permit, can apply for benefit

As of today, Ukrainian refugees can work in the Czech Republic without obtaining a work permit, as a result of a change in the law on their employment and social security. They can also apply for a humanitarian benefit of CZK 5,000 per person; this benefit can be issued repeatedly each month for up to six months for those who cannot provide for their basic needs.

Only Ukrainians who have already obtained the special visa for refugees being issued by the Czech government can apply for the humanitarian benefit, using an online application which the Ministry of Labor will launch today. The new law on work visas means Ukrainian refugees automatically have the same employment rights as foreigners with permanent residence in Czechia, and can thus apply for all vacancies on the job market.

Sanctions Finance Minister: trade embargo on Russia is unrealistic

Czech Finance Minister Zbyněk Stanjura called a Polish proposal to bring in a total embargo on trade with Russia within the EU “unrealistic” yesterday, and said the measure has little chance of winning approval. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the total cessation of all trade with Russia would “additionally force Russia to consider whether it would be better to stop this cruel war.”

But Stanjura said yesterday that sanctions against Russia already brought in by the EU are proving effective, while more measures are also in the pipeline; suggesting a total trade embargo is unnecessary. The Czech government will meet to discuss the Polish proposal early this week, as well as another proposal from Warsaw to send an international peacekeeping mission into Ukraine.

Prague Petřín cable car out of service until April 8

Regular spring maintenance work will see the cable car to the top of Prague's Petřín Hill out of service from today until April 8. A spokesperson for Prague Public Transport announced the maintenance work today, during which staff will inspect the tracks, the engine room and the cars, and carry out any minor repairs needed.

The maintenance of the popular cable car route to the top of Petřín is carried out twice a year in spring and fall, with the last check held in October. Last year, representatives of the city presented plans for a complete renovation of the cable car, scheduled to take place in the next five years and costing around CZK 210 million.

Crime Olomouc Court opens major tax evasion case

Sixteen people and representatives from two companies will appear on trial before the Olomouc Regional Court today over alleged tax evasion worth a quarter of a billion crowns. The case alleges that the defendants created an artificial chain of companies in 2013 to avoid paying VAT on the trade of fuel.

The companies involved traded in mineral oils, and the defendant ended up in bankruptcy as a result of government action. It subsequently succeeded in several lawsuits, though, and suspicions arose that a conflict of interest was present in the case due to ties between the defendant and a company from the Agrofert holding led by former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.

Finances Ukrainians face problems exchanging money in Czechia

Problems are being reported for Ukrainians trying to exchange their hryvnia currency for Czech crowns. Czech banks often refuse to buy the currency, while exchange offices are reluctant. As such, refugees face being unable to access their savings or losing them altogether at disadvantageous rates.

In the first weeks after the outbreak of war, options for exchanging Ukrainian money were virtually non-existent. In recent weeks, some possibilities have appeared; but even exchange offices which do accept the Ukrainian currency usually do so at poor rates meaning customers lose a fifth of their money. A lack of information about exchanging money is also reported at official refugee centers and on the internet. A spokesperson for Prague City Hall meanwhile said the city authorities have no means for influencing the activities of exchange offices to provide help to Ukrainians.

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