Czech daily news roundup: Wednesday, December 8, 2021

World's longest suspension bridge being built in Moravia, Ukrainians hold protest in Prague, Slavia Prague could see a change of owners. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 08.12.2021 09:47:00 (updated on 08.12.2021) Reading time: 5 minutes

16:00 Fiala expects no change in strong Czech-German relations

Incoming Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala believes the Czech Republic’s good relations with Germany will continue after the appointment of Olaf Scholz as German Chancellor today. On the other hand, members of Czech parliamentary foreign committees admitted that the outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s close relations with the Czech Republic were a particular advantage. “It is in the interest of both the Czech Republic and Germany that bilateral relations between our countries are preserved and further developed. I believe this will be the case with the new government,” said Fiala. On the other hand, Freedom and Direct Democracy party leader Tomio Okamura warned that the incoming German government is “openly promoting a transformation of the EU into a single federal state.”

15:35 Government approves troops for Polish border mission

The Czech government has approved sending 150 troops to Poland’s border with Belarus for up to 180 days due to the ongoing migration crisis at the Polish-Belarusian border. The move still has to be approved by both houses of the Czech parliament, but politicians from the incoming coalition government have expressed their support for the plan instigated by outgoing Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and President Miloš Zeman. Poland has accused Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko of creating a migrant crisis by encouraging perceptions of the country as a gateway to the Schengen Zone. There are currently around 15,000 Polish soldiers at the border, along with 155 British and 150 Estonian troops sent as support.

12:25 New era for Germany as Scholz officially becomes Chancellor

A new era in Czech relations with Germany is beginning, as Social Democrat Olaf Scholtz officially becomes the German Chancellor today, marking the end of Angela Merkel’s 16-year reign. A number of procedural steps today led to the appointment of Scholz, including a vote on his assumption of the role of Chancellor in the German parliament. How Scholz’s arrival as leader will affect relations with the Czech Republic remains unclear, although he is widely expected to pursue a course of even greater collaboration with the EU while taking a stronger stance towards eastern powers such as Russia and China.

12:00 Czech Republic has improved in fighting money laundering

According to the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering committee MONEYVAL, the Czech Republic’s position in implementing measures against money laundering and the financing of terrorism has significantly improved. Compared to the previous report published last year, the Czech Republic showed improvement in six areas, although shortcomings still exist in targeting financial sanctions and in new technologies. The Czech Republic currently fully meets six out of the 40 recommendations set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The country’s stance against money laundering has, according to the committee improved in the non-profit sector and in reporting suspicious business transactions.

11:30 Czech unemployment fell again in November

Unemployment levels in the Czech Republic fell again in November, down to 3.3%. This was a decrease of 0.1% from October. There were 245,549 jobseekers in November, about 6,100 less than in the previous month and almost 29,000 less than a year ago. The supply of jobs also decreased compared to October, although there were still more available positions than candidates on the job market. 345,000 jobs were advertised in November, meaning an average of 0.7 applicants per position, according to the Czech Labor Office. Analysts expected the decline in unemployment, but the remaining disparity between the number of jobs on offer and the available workforce is a cause for concern for the Czech economy.

World record Moravia to boast the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge

The world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge is being built in the mountain resort of Dolní Morava. The record-breaking bridge will span a valley between two mountains at a height of 95 meters. Measuring nearly three-quarters of a kilometer, the bridge will be named Sky Bridge 721.

Scheduled to open to the public in spring 2022, the bridge will hang at an altitude of 1,125 meters above sea level. Construction of the bridge will see builders use over a thousand cubic meters of concrete, with the total structure to weigh over 400 tons. The massive bridge will easily break the current record for the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge, held by a bridge near the Portuguese town of Arouca.

International community Ukrainians protest against TV closures in Prague

Ukrainians living in Prague gathered at the Ukrainian Embassy in Prague to protest against the closure of Ukraine TV stations by the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky. Around 150 people are said to have taken part in the demonstration, opposing restrictions on freedom of speech in their home country.

The organizers claimed the current Ukrainian government is acting like a dictatorship which “illegally, without any grounds, closes channels which tell the truth.” TV stations closed by the authorities include 112 Ukraine, ZIK, NewsOne and Pershiy Nezalezhniy.

Football Slavia Prague’s ownership could be changing

Claims are circulating that the Chinese company CITIC Group is looking to sell its 50% share in the Czech football club Slavia Prague. It is speculated that a serious bidder has already emerged for the takeover: a Spanish buyer with financial backing from Qatar. It is claimed the new owner would like to take over three of the five places on the club’s board after buying half the shares.

It is thought Slavia’s management have been negotiating the possible entry of new investors for the last few weeks. The CITIC Group invested in Slavia at the end of 2015, a time when the club was in the doldrums, regularly finishing in the bottom half of the top division and suffering a bad financial situation. The Chinese owners paid off debts, avoiding insolvency proceedings. Since their arrival, Slavia has returned to the Czech football elite, winning the league in four of the last five seasons.

Consumer prices EU VAT reform could see prices fall in the Czech Republic

The EU has agreed a VAT reduction on many products to allow greater affordability in the wake of the Covid pandemic, for goods including foods, medicines, hygiene products, internet provision and climate-friendly products. Czech Finance Minister Alena Schillerová said the lowest VAT rate of 5% could apply to basic foodstuffs, diapers, sanitary products water distribution and other key services.

On the other hand, the new rules could stop the Czech plan to waive VAT entirely for energy, although Schillerová said the government still hopes to achieve a temporary exemption to mitigate the impact of the current Europe-wide energy crisis.

Travel Czech Republic sees Europe’s sharpest decline in air arrivals

The pandemic has had a serious impact on global freedom of movement, but new data suggests the Czech Republic has been hit even harder than most. While some European countries recorded strong rebounds in travel after reopening to vaccinated and Covid-free travelers, the Czech Republic continued to languish at the bottom of the travel league tables, with air arrivals still down 94% compared to 2019 after re-opening to foreign travelers.

The relatively slow return to pre-pandemic levels, coupled with a worsening pandemic situation throughout Europe this winter, has led the European Travel Commission to predict that pre-pandemic levels will not be surpassed until 2024. End-of-year figures for 2021 are expected to show international tourist travel down 60% on 2019 levels across the whole of Europe.

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