Czechia's tourism industry suffered more heavy losses in 2021

Plus: Czech Foreign Minister completes Ukraine visit, Ledecká medal ceremony marred by flag mishaps, ČEZ joins companies providing LGBT couple benefits. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 09.02.2022 09:31:00 (updated on 09.02.2022) Reading time: 5 minutes

16:33 Czech hockey team loses to Denmark in first Olympic match

The Czech ice hockey team started their participation in the Beijing Winter Olympics with a 2:1 defeat to Denmark. The Danes took a two-goal lead in the first period of the match. Captain Roman Červenka scored the Czech team's only goal in the 24th minute. The Czechs, managed by Filip Pešán, will face Switzerland in their second tie, taking place on Friday.

16:00 Koudelka re-appointed head of Czech counterintelligence

The Czech government has re-appointed Michal Koudelka as head of the nation's counter-intelligence service (BIS), with his official term to start on Feb. 15. Koudelka's previous term as BIS director expired last year, and his final months in the job were marred by controversy generated by criticism from President Miloš Zeman. Andrej Babiš's government tried to avoid conflict by deferring the appointment of a new fully-fledged BIS head, naming Koudelka as acting head before elections won by the opposition.

15:00 Chinese banker admits to taking bribes from Zeman adviser

A Chinese banker has admitted in a documentary series broadcast in China to accepting bribes from an adviser to Czech President Miloš Zeman in exchange for providing a large loan to a Chinese energy and financial services firm which invested in the Czech Republic. In the program, entitled "Zero Tolerance," the banker claimed to have taken bribes from the company's former Chairman, Jie Jinging, who is known in the Czech Republic as an adviser to President Zeman.

13:52 Government approves budget with CZK 280 billion deficit

The Czech government has unanimously approved its draft state budget for 2022, with a deficit of CZK 280 billion. Revenues are forecast at CZK 1,613 billion, while expenditures are planned at CZK 1,893 billion. The budget will now go to the Chamber of Deputies for approval, with a first reading set for Feb. 18. The budget includes some controversial budget cuts including in healthcare and transportation. The new government is trying to bring back restraint to finances, reducing the deficit significantly from the previous proposal for 2022 from the ANO-led administration.

10:43 Prague's tourism industry suffered more heavy losses in 2021

The Czech Statistical Office has released tourism statistics for the Czech Republic in 2021. The data shows that visitor numbers to Prague were down 70 percent last year compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019. However, there was an eight percent increase compared to tourism numbers in 2020. A total of 2.4 million visitors arrived in Prague, 40 percent of whom were domestic tourists. Almost a million of the total number of visitors to the Czech capital last year came in the final quarter of the year, although this was still a 52 percent drop compared to 2019.


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Ukraine-Russia Czech Foreign Minister completes Ukraine visit

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský has completed a visit to Ukraine with his Austrian and Slovak counterparts, to express solidarity with the country in the face of a Russian military build-up at the Ukrainian borders.

The ministers visited eastern Ukraine to familiarize themselves with the security situation there. Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kubela thanked Lipavský “for your timely visit which affirms that Ukraine has true friends standing by its side at this tense time.”

Olympics Ledecká medal ceremony marred by flag mishaps

Ester Ledecká enhanced her standing as one of the Czech Republic’s greatest athletes by winning the snowboard parallel giant slalom yesterday. However, in a medal ceremony held after her victory, confusion arose as the organizers placed the Haitian flag beside her name on a placard, instead of the Czech flag.

Later, as the Czech national anthem played to salute Ledecká’s victory, the ceremony descended into farce. The organizers had the correct flag for a flagpole behind the podium; but the flag caught on the face of the soldier responsible for hoisting it up. The soldier responsible for the silver-placed Austrian flag had a similar issue. Ledecká may be seen on the podium again this tournament, as she will defend her Olympic gold in alpine skiing in the coming days. 

LGBT+ rights ČEZ joins companies providing LGBT+ couple benefits

Registered partnerships, or unions of two people of the same sex in the Czech Republic, don’t bring the same employee benefits and entitlements as traditional heterosexual marriages. Married couples are entitled to paid leave for their wedding, for attending childbirth, for going on paternity leave, or for accompanying their spouse to the doctor for emergencies.

Yet a trend is emerging of Czech employers voluntarily giving LGBT+ couples similar benefits in attempts to promote greater equality. Energy company ČEZ has now announced that a new diversity and inclusion policy will allow LGBT+ couples to take paid or unpaid leave in the same cases as married couples. The energy giant follows other major employers including Vodafone and Accenture in taking independent steps to allow the same benefits for couples of all kinds.

Politics Draft budget criticized by opposition

The Czech government’s draft budget for 2022 has been criticized by opposition parties. Former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said budget cuts will be felt by the general population, as well as having wider economic ramifications. Tomio Okamura, head of the eurosceptic Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party, said he would look to for alternative ways of saving money than cutting healthcare budgets and removing travel discounts for students and the elderly.

Babiš also criticized the planed cuts in the health department, which led to a strike by medical unions yesterday. “If they are really planning cuts for healthcare and public health offices after two years of Covid-19, I find it unprecedented and incomprehensible,” said Babiš.

Business CEE region’s first blank-check firm launches in Prague

Czech investment banking group WOOD & Company plans to raise up to CZK 1 billion to establish what would be Central Europe’s first blank check firm, or Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC). Wood & Co. said yesterday that it as received regulatory approval for the project and subscriptions for the SPAC will run from Feb. 10 to April 1.

The SPAC will seek out capital for the acquisition of target firms in the technology, e-commerce and machinery sectors, all of which are booming in the Czech Republic. SPACs are a popular way for bringing growing companies to the stock market. 

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