Czech daily news roundup: Thursday, April 7, 2022

Two 'significant days' passed by Senate, government launches huge military purchase package, Zeman stands by controversial pardon. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 07.04.2022 09:25:00 (updated on 07.04.2022) Reading time: 4 minutes

14:20 Babiš lays out economic proposals

The ANO shadow government is calling on the ruling coalition for a CZK 6,000 one-off bonus for the elderly, higher parent benefits, a zero VAT rate for basic foodstuffs, as well as capped food prices. The measures are presented as a response to inflation, which is expected to increase further due to the war in Ukraine. The ruling coalition is skeptical about capping consumer prices, as it believes doing so only stores up problems for the future.

11:32 Czech fighter for separatists in Ukraine sentenced to 20 years

A Czech man who fought for pro-Russian separatists against the Ukrainian army in 2016 has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. Alojz Polák is being prosecuted as a fugitive; according to the prosecution, he killed four Ukrainian soldiers while fighting with separatists between 2016 and 2020. The indictment claims he was a sniper for separatists, though today's verdict ruled it could not be proven that he had killed anyone. The verdict is not yet final; an appeal will go to the High Court in Prague.

Finance Senate approves Czech withdrawal from post-Soviet banks

The Czech Republic may leave post-Soviet international banks, namely the International Investment Bank (MIB) and the International Bank for Economic Cooperation (MBHS). The Czech Senate almost unanimously approved withdrawal from these financial institutions today. The move is also supported by the lower house of the Czech parliament and Czech President Miloš Zeman. Two-thirds of the member countries of the MBHS have so far pulled out due to the war in Ukraine.

Politics Castle accused of shredding classified documents on Russia

Prague Castle authorities face suspicion of prematurely shredding classified documents about the activities of Russian armed forces at the Ukrainian border, and information from NATO on the security situation in Iraq. Rules stated that the documents should have been destroyed in 2023 at the earliest. The Office of the President of the Republic offered no explanation for the apparent discrepancy.

History Two ‘significant days’ passed by Czech Senate

The Czech Senate, the upper house of parliament, has approved a bill instituting two new “significant days” in the Czech calendar. These are the Day of National Resistance on May 27, and the Day of Occupation Troops’ Departure on June 25. The first date commemorates the killing of Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich in Prague by Czechoslovak paratroopers in 1942. The second is the anniversary of the signing of the protocol on the departure of the last Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia in 1991.

President Miloš Zeman will now sign the bill into law. Impetus to make both dates “significant days” has grown in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the author of the bill, Christian Democrat senator Lumír Kantor.

Military Government launches huge military purchase package

The Czech government has approved accelerated military purchase programs for the period 2022 to 2024, worth a total of CZK 48 billion. Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Defense Minister Jana Černochová informed journalists about the military program yesterday.

The government also approved a plan of legislative changes with a view to enhancing and reinforcing the response capability of the Czech armed forces to crises. A better system of long-term financing for defense is also being planned, with the goal of reaching 2 percent of GDP spent on defense as required by NATO. The sudden focus on defense procedures comes as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and heightened security concerns throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

Politics Zeman stands by controversial pardon

Czech President Miloš Zeman has doubled down on his pardon for Miloš Balák, the head of the Lány Forest Administration. Balák was convicted of influencing a public tender for the management of the forests around the presidential residency at Lány.

In an interview with Mladá fronta DNES, Zeman said that Balák did not get rich from the case and that no “national economic damage” occurred. Zeman also claimed that the nature of the corrupt act committed by Balák, which involved showing one firm around the forest, was not the reason for his conviction, but the place where he worked. Zeman described Balák as “an innocent man whose work I am very satisfied with.”

Economy Czech industrial production declined in February

New data from the Czech Statistical Office shows a decline in Czech industrial production in February. Production fell 0.3 percent year-on-year, which was a significant surprise after 1.2 percent growth in January. Economists had predicted a 1.5 percent increase. Still, the news wasn’t all bad: manufacturing output rose 0.4 percent and mining output rose 7.1 percent.

Separate figures showed that the Czech Republic’s trade balance swung into deficit, as imports increased more than exports. A deficit of CZK 4.4 billion was recorded for February, compared to a surplus of CZK 21.3 billion in February 2021.

Consumer Prices Fuel prices fall significantly

Fuel prices in the Czech Republic fell by dozens of pennies last week. Petrol is now sold for an average of CZK 43.88 per liter, a reduction of CZK 0.46 week-on-week, while diesel is sold for CZK 46.62 per liter, a fall of CZK 0.33. Despite the fall in prices, fuels remain significantly more expensive than they were a year ago.

A year ago, petrol was as much as CZK 12.58 cheaper, while diesel cost CZK 17.06 less. Both fuels rose to record prices at the start of March due to uncertainty caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the weakening of the Czech crown. Recent stabilization has brought about a reduction in prices.

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