Czech daily news roundup: Thursday, December 9, 2021

Czech Republic faces "snow disaster," U.S. President to discuss Ukraine with Czech Republic, Škoda chief to become head of VW brand. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 09.12.2021 09:18:00 (updated on 10.12.2021) Reading time: 7 minutes

22:52 U.S. ready to defend allies, Biden tells NATO eastern flank

U.S. President Joe Biden assured members of the eastern flank of NATO that the United States is ready to defend its allies within Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty on collective defense, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO), who took part in the video conference this evening, told ČTK. Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhánek (Social Democrats, CSSD) also in the talk organized by Biden during the two-day Summit for Democracy. NATO says Russia is gathering tens of thousands of soldiers at the Ukrainian border and is preparing for an invasion. The Russian government denies it. Biden told journalists on Wednesday that in the case of Russian aggression, the U.S. would not send its troops to eastern Europe, but that it would impose unprecedented sanctions on the regime of Vladimir Putin.

18:10 Long-term work on democracy is needed, says Babiš

Outgoing Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš spoke at the two-day virtual "Summit for Democracy" to which U.S. President Joe Biden invited representatives of more than 100 countries. Babiš said Czechs know there is a need to permanently work for democracy and to fight for it, in response to many hardly noticeable but sometimes clear steps leading to the undermining of democratic institutions. Babiš named corruption and disinformation campaigns as two major threats to democracy, saying the role of leaders is to find a way to assure citizens of the importance of their participation in the democratic system. Babiš also said freedom of speech and of the media are crucial elements of democracy.

14:45 Slovakia to pay elderly for getting vaccinated

Slovakia will give €200 to every senior who gets vaccinated against Covid, while those getting the booster jab will receive €300. Around 1.29 million people in the country will be eligible for the bonus as agreed today by the nation’s parliament. The basic bonus of €200 corresponds to two-fifths of the average old-age pension, and will be available to the approximately 400,000 people aged 60 and above who have not yet been vaccinated against Covid. This bonus will also go automatically to all seniors already vaccinated. The higher amount is open to those who opt for a third dose of the jab. In the country of 5.5 million people, the death toll from Covid has now reached over 15,100.

13:30 People In Need resumes charity work in Afghanistan

The People In Need (Člověk v tísni) humanitarian charity has resumed its activities in Afghanistan and several foreign workers, including Czechs, have been working on the mission since November, the organization said. The mission is now located in Mazar-e Sharif, the administrative capital of the northern province of Balkh. More Czechs will head for the country to intensify activities at the organization’s two functioning offices at the start of next year. The NGO’s actions in Afghanistan was temporarily halted when the Taliban took control of the country in August following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country following a 20-year war. People In Need says the humanitarian situation in the country has steadily worsened since then, with almost two-thirds of the population facing difficulties in accessing basic food supplies before winter.

12:05 Fiala meets Zeman to discuss government formation

Amid controversy over President Miloš Zeman’s request that Jan Lipavský withdraw his candidacy for the post of Foreign Minister in the new Czech government, incoming Prime Minister Petr Fiala held an informal meeting with the President at Lány where they discussed next steps. Fiala revealed that the discussion took place after issuing a warning that if Zeman refuses to appoint his cabinet in its entirety, the matter will be taken to the Constitutional Courts. Fiala has not revealed what exactly was discussed in his latest meeting with Zeman. Zeman previously suggested he would veto one ministerial candidate, presumed to be Lipavský, but the constitution does not mention the possibility of the President unilaterally blocking government appointments.


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10:00 Czech-German fund to support 74 joint projects

The Czech-German “Fund for the Future” will support 74 projects with a total of more than CZK 21 million, the fund has announced. About one third of the projects will focus on the revival of heritage sites, including the restoration of a church, repairs of gravestones at a Jewish cemetery, and the restoration of a German cemetery in the Czech Republic. Cultural and educational projects will also be supported by the fund. Other activities will include expert seminars on biodynamic agriculture for farmers and agriculture students, an educational seminar on Nazism for Czech and German students, and a project to raise awareness of the living conditions faced by Roma people in border areas.

Weather warning “Snow disaster” to complicate traffic across the country

A snow warning has been issued for Thursday and Friday by the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, with the most significant snowfall in the South Moravia and Zlín Regions but heavy snow also expected in eastern Bohemia today. During the day, 10 to 20 centimeters of snow could fall in eastern Bohemia, with snow expected in the western part of the territory too. Snowfall will continue overnight and in some places into Friday morning.

Meteorologists have warned of a “snow disaster and traffic complications,” especially in the South Moravia and Zlín regions. They recommend limiting car travel in these areas, as well as in the Hradec Králové, Olomouc, Moravian-Silesian and Vysočina regions. Snowfall is expected to become more sporadic throughout the country at the weekend. Snow transports restrictions and delays for Prague can be seen on the PID website.

International tensions U.S. President to discuss Ukraine with Czech Republic

U.S. President Joe Biden will hold talks today with representatives of the so-called Bucharest Nine, a group of central and eastern European states including the Czech Republic. The conference call will see NATO members discussing the results of Biden’s video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday, which focused on the tense situation in Ukraine as thousands of Russian troops mass at the county’s eastern border.

The Kremlin denies any plans to launch an invasion of Ukraine. In his call with central and eastern European states, Biden wants to “listen to their views on the current security situation and emphasize the United States’ involvement in transatlantic security,” the White House said. Biden will also hold separate talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is trying to secure U.S. support to deter Russia. Biden has said that in the event of Russian aggression, the U.S. will not send troops to Eastern Europe but will impose unprecedented sanctions on the Putin regime.

Business Škoda Chairman to become head of VW

Thomas Schäfer, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Škoda Auto, is set to become the head of the VW Group’s overall brand. The personnel change was first reported by German newspaper Der Spiegel today. Schäfer took over at Škoda Auto last August. There is currently no news as to who could replace Schäfer at Škoda.

Schäfer is expected to take over control of the VW brand as current boss Ralf Brandstätter shifts to focus on Volkswagen’s activities in China. Škoda, which is part of the VW Group, has three production plants in the Czech Republic but also produces vehicles in China, Russia, Slovakia and India, operating in a total of over 100 markets.

Lifestyle Czechs’ eating habits changed due to the pandemic

New data from the Czech Statistical Office suggests the pandemic has changed Czechs’ eating habits, with many switching to a healthier diet. Perhaps surprisingly, alcohol consumption was at its lowest level since 1996 last year, while people ate more rice and legumes than at any other point since records began.

Experts note that people stocked up on foods with a longer shelf life and high nutritional value, while looking to boost their immunity by eating for fruit and vegetables. It is also possible that the closure of many eat-in and takeaway food services during lockdown forced many to pivot to home cooking to a greater extent than before the pandemic.

Climate change Czech Republic to receive first hydrogen buses

Ústi nad Labem public transport authorities have signed an agreement with Solaris Bus & Coach company for the delivery of up to 20 hydrogen-powered buses, the first such order in the history of the Czech Republic.

The contract concerns zero-emission Urbino 12 hydrogen buses, to be delivered over a period of eight years. Up to 20 buses may be ordered within the contract, and as soon as orders are confirmed they are to be delivered with 420 days. Solaris representatives described the deal as a “ground-breaking” moment for the Czech Republic. The Urbino 12 is the manufacturer’s most technologically advanced vehicle, equipped with two 125 kW electric motors, 70 kW fuel cells and five composite tanks for hydrogen storage with a total capacity of 1560 liters, providing a range of at least 350 kilometers on a single refill.

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