Czech daily news roundup: Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Czech woman could face retrial in Pakistan, Foreign Minister vetoes UN resolution in support of Israel, President to deliver Christmas message this year. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 07.12.2021 09:25:00 (updated on 07.12.2021) Reading time: 6 minutes

16:20 Czech President asks Foreign Minister candidate to stand aside

Frekvence 1 radio station is reporting that Czech President Miloš Zeman asked Jan Lipavský, the Czech Pirate Party’s nominee to be Foreign Minister in the new coalition government, to withdraw his candidacy during their talk in Lány today. Zeman’s spokesperson refused to comment on the reports, as did a spokesperson for incoming Prime Minister Petr Fiala. Zeman suggested in mid-November that he would veto the nomination of one proposed minister in the new regime, and this was widely assumed to be a reference to Lipavský. Incoming Deputy Prime Minister Marian Jurečka previously told Czech Television that if the President does not accept the new government as a whole, a complaint will be filed with the Czech Constitutional Court.

15:30 Public prosecutor requests Babiš’s release for prosecution

The Public Prosecutor’s Office in Prague has passed on its file relating to the Stork’s Nest affair of alleged EU subsidy fraud, implicating outgoing Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, to the Chamber of Deputies today. The Public Prosecutor is asking for Babiš’s release from parliamentary immunity for prosecution. It is alleged that Babiš and his former adviser committed EU subsidy fraud worth CZK 50 million for the construction of the Stork’s Nest (Čapí hnízdo) farm and conference center. After being re-elected as an MP in October, Babiš has regained parliamentary immunity from prosecution. Babiš has always denied all allegations made against him, claiming they are politically motivated.

15:22 Czech govt. wants to send up to 150 soldiers to Polish-Belarus border

The Czech government wants a mandate for up to 150 soldiers for 180 days to be deployed to help protect the border between Poland and Belarus, PM Andrej Babiš said today. Czech soldiers will help Polish troops protect the border but will not fulfill actions directly connected with migrants, Babiš said, comparing the mandate to the way the British and Estonians have already contributed there. After the government's approval, the mandate must be discussed in the Chamber of Deputies defense committee and in the Senate foreign affairs and security committee, and then in both houses of parliament. Poland has been facing migration pressure at its border with Belarus since the spring, but the crisis escalated this autumn.

14:26 French president to meet Czech, Slovak, Polish, Hungarian PMs

French President Emmanuel Macron will visit Budapest on Monday and meet Czech PM Andrej Babiš as well as the other three PMs of the Visegrad Four Group (V4; Czechia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia), the Hungarian news agency MTI wrote today, citing the Hungarian PM's spokesman Bertalan Havasi. Macron will lead bilateral negotiations with his Hungarian counterpart Janos Ander and PM Viktor Orban, Havasi said. Macron will join a meeting of the V4 PMs that will follow, meeting with Babiš, Orban, Slovak PM Eduard Heger, and Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki. A joint press conference is scheduled following the meeting.

13:20 Incoming Foreign Minister meets with Zeman

The candidate for Foreign Minister in the incoming Czech government, Pirate Party politician Jan Lipavský, discussed priorities in the Czech Republic’s foreign policy with President Miloš Zeman today. Prior to the meeting, there was speculation that Zeman is not happy with Lipavský’s expected appointment as foreign minister. Lipavský only said that he and Zeman differed in opinion on some matters but that the debate was professional. The prospective new Foreign Minister has previously mentioned the need to reset relations with Russia and China, which he believes are currently not beneficial for the Czech Republic. New Prime Minister Petr Fiala said he will not withdraw any of his proposed candidates based on the President’s ill favor.

12:25 More Czech anti-lockdown protests planned for this year

The Open Czechia group will stage a number of protests against the Czech government’s measures to combat the Covid pandemic before the end of the year, leaders of the group told journalists today. Most of the events will take place in Prague, where, among other things, activists will five away fish soup before Christmas, in a nod to the cancelation of Christmas markets as a result of the virus. The group has also launched a petition against planned compulsory Covid vaccination. The next stage in the group’s activities, though, will be the nationwide distribution of a flyer to include data on Covid infection, hospitalizations, and examples of alleged violations of the Czech constitution by the government.

11:25 Babiš would win an election held today, says poll

Outgoing Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and his ANO party would win a general election held now, gaining 29.5% of the vote, according to a poll conducted by the Median polling agency. The SPOLU coalition, which gained the largest vote share in the October election, would fall behind ANO on 26%. Support for the anti-EU Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party would also decrease marginally, down to 8.5%. The poll suggests that public support for ANO is now at its highest since August 2020, possibly driven by uncertainty about the arrival of the new government amid a worsening pandemic situation.

Crime Czech released from Pakistani jail could face retrial

Tereza Hlúšková, a young woman from the Czech Republic convicted of drug smuggling four years ago after nine kilograms of heroin were found on her person at Lahore Airport, could face new legal proceedings in Pakistan. After initially being sentenced to eight years in jail, she was released from prison a month ago after lawyers for her defense proved substantial mishandling of the case by local customs authorities.

Now, complications are arising as customs officers appeal to the court against Hlůšková’s release from prison. They want to present new evidence to refute criticisms about the handling of the confiscated drugs . Until the court rules on the new evidence presented by customs officials, Hlůšková will not be able to leave Pakistan.

Anti-semitism Czech Republic vetoed UN resolution in solidarity with Israel

Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhánek has explained his recent decision to veto a UN resolution on Jerusalem, claiming “a rising tide of antisemitism around the world” makes it necessary to underline alliance with the state of Israel. Last week, Kulhánek, along with his counterpart from Hungary, rejected a UN resolution which only referred to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount by its Muslim name of al-Haram al-Sharif.

In 2016, EU foreign ministers agreed to always use both names when referring to holy sites in Jerusalem, including the temple which is the most holy site in Judaism and the third holiest site in Islam. 10 other EU countries abstained on the text neglecting to use both Jewish and Muslim names for the site, but the Czechs and Hungarians took the strongest stance on the issue.

Christmas President to deliver Christmas message this year

Despite his recent health problems, Czech President Miloš Zeman will deliver a Christmas message as usual this year on December 26. The speech will be pre-recorded on the day at his Lány residence, the President’s spokesperson said. TV Nova will be responsible for the filming, while other broadcasters including Czech Television will also be showing the recording.

Zeman decided to move the customary presidential address to the nation from New Year’s Day, the date used by his predecessors, to the current slot on December 26. This year's address will be given despite Zeman's serious health issues, which saw him staying in intensive care for weeks on end in October and November. 

Emergency services Firefighters battle large blaze at Prague car repair shop

Firefighters in Prague last night fought a towering blaze at a large car repair shop in Prague 15. The entire single-story building went up in flames, with the extent of the damage and the cause of the fire still to be determined by investigators.

Flames engulfed the 15x15 meter building, destroying some vehicles parked inside as well as the roof of the buildings. Firefighters were able to quickly get the blaze under control, though, with several professional and volunteer crews on the scene to tackle the blaze in Hornoměcholupská street.

Weather Freezing temperatures continue but next week will be warmer

The Czech Republic will continue to see winter weather this week, but temperatures should pick up next week. According to the latest prediction by the Czech Hydrometerorological Institute, maximum temperatures this week will be around zero, meaning a high chance of snow and ice, especially during the night and in the morning.

Snowfall is expected today in the east of the Czech Republic and in the mountains. More snow is expected in most parts of the country on Thursday and Friday, before temperatures start to rise at the weekend. Next week could see highs of as much as seven degrees Celsius during the day. 

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