Smartwings makes history with first ever Boeing 737 MAX landing in Antarctica

Plus: Czech Republic braces for Ukrainian refugee influx, Slovak flying car gets stamp of approval, Czech punished for posing topless at Venice memorial.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 26.01.2022 09:03:00 (updated on 27.01.2022) Reading time: 6 minutes

15:15 Smartwings makes first ever Boeing 737 MAX landing in Antarctica

Czech airline Smartwings has made the first-ever landing of a Boeing 737 MAX plane in Antarctica. The landing came after a 15,680-kilometer flight from Oslo to Antarctica via Chad and Cape Town. The flight was chartered to transport members of the Norwegian Polar Institute to their base in Antarctica. Another similar flight is planned for the end of February. The plane landed on a runway built on a glacier at an altitude of 1,232 meters; an ice-covered track that necessitated special modifications allowing the plane to land and take off safely.

15:10 Czech dies in boat crash in the Caribbean

A motorboat with a two-person Czech crew crashed off the Caribbean island of Anguilla, it has emerged today. One crew member died and the other was seriously injured after the boat hit a cliff. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed the Czech citizenship of the pair. The boat crashed off the coast of the British overseas territory on January 18, it is reported. A French website has claimed the incident occurred due to the use of excessive speed. One man died of severe injuries in an intensive care unit at a nearby hospital. The other is still in hospital, according to the Foreign Ministry. The Czech Embassy in London is in contact with the Czechs' families as well as local authorities.

14:55 President names new university chiefs at Prague Castle

President Miloš Zeman has performed his first official function at Prague Castle since being hospitalized in October, appointing 11 new university rectors most of whom will take up their posts from the start of February. Among them was Milena Králíčková, the first ever female leader of Charles University in Prague. One of the new rectors, Vojtěch Adam from Mendel University in Brno was not present due to illness. Adam is set to replace Danuše Nerudová as rector of Mendel University; Nerudová is a favorite to run for Czech President in elections to replace Zeman next spring.

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13:21 Lynx sightings down in the Czech Republic

Sightings of lynxes in the Czech Republic have decreased significantly and in the Krkonoše Mountains they are not permanently established, according to zoologists. Over the past three years sightings have been almost non-existent, even though the Krkonoše mountains are a landscape to which lynxes should be well-suited. Zoologists say a decrease in sightings from a peak of 54 documented appearances between 2011 and 2013 may be down to hunting; an illegal practice known to have taken place in the Šumava Mountains.

12:17 Fee for filming in public spaces to increase in Prague

From next year, Prague City Hall will increase the rents charged for filmmakers to film in public spaces. Rents for the Old Town, Wenceslas Square and Charles Bridge will double. In other locations, prices will go up for rentals of space over 300 square meters; in protected historic areas by CZK 10 to CZK 15 per square meter per day, and in the rest of the city from CZK 5 to CZK 7.50. Film industry representatives expressed relief that the city authorities decided against earlier proposals to double prices across the board and that filmmakers have been given sufficient warning of the change to come in 2023.

11:11 Czech Republic lags behind EU average on renewable energy

The share of energy coming from renewable sources in the EU's total electricity consumption rose to 37 percent in 2020 from 34 percent in 2019, according to the latest data from Eurostat. The Czech Republic is among the five countries with the lowest share of electricity from renewables. Renewables account for only 15 percent of Czech electricity consumption; only Luxembourg, Hungary, Cyprus, and Malta have a lower share. The share of renewables is highest in Austria, at 78 percent. Sweden came in second place as the only other EU country to have more than 70 percent of electricity generated from renewables.

10:50 Noose set up outside parliament in anti-Covid protests

Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protestors in Prague set up a mock gallows outside the Czech Parliament yesterday during protests against the proposed amendment to the Pandemic Law allowing emergency measures to be introduced well into the future. A debate on the extension of the law was blocked by the Freedom and Direct Democracy, necessitating an emergency parliamentary session on the topic next week. The gallows bore an inscription warning that "all traitors and their minions will end up on the gallows," presumably a reference to MPs who vote for the Pandemic Law amendment.

Russia-Ukraine Czech Republic braces for Ukrainian refugee influx

The Czech Republic, along with other central and eastern European countries, may be faced with a significant influx of refugees in the event of a war in Ukraine. Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Naď noted the possibility of tens of thousands arriving from Ukraine even in the event of a limited conflict with Russia. Czech Defense Minister Jana Černochová earlier suggested the Czech Republic would have a moral duty to take in refugees in the event of conflict.

The Slovak government has already prepared a migration plan for a possible conflict. The Czech government’s preparedness for a new migrant crisis is not yet known. But ministers from the two countries are calling for cooperation in any response to the potential Russian invasion of Ukraine. On February 7, Czech Foreign Minister will visit east Ukraine with his Slovak and Austrian counterparts.

Technology Slovak flying car wins certificate of airworthiness

A flying car developed in Slovakia has been issued a certificate of airworthiness by the Slovak Transport Authority. The hybrid car-aircraft called AirCar can hit speeds of over 160 kph and can fly at altitudes of over 2,500 meters. It runs on the same petrol used by normal cars.

AirCar can be transformed from car to aircraft into two minutes and 15 seconds. Its certification by the Slovak authorities followed 70 hours of testing, including more than 200 take-offs and landings. AirCar has undertaken a successful 35-minute flight between Slovak airports in Nita and Bratislava. Speaking to the BBC, the company said it plans to operate a flight from London to Paris in the near future. You need a pilot’s license to fly AirCar; but its certification suggests flying cars could become part of life in the not-too-distant future.

Czechs abroad Czech tourist punished for posing topless at Venice memorial

A tourist from the Czech Republic was banned from the city of Venice for 48 hours and fined €450 for posing topless at a memorial to war heroines. The 30-year-old woman was reported to police by a passer-by who saw her bathe near the memorial before posing half-naked by a bronze statue of a dead resistance fighter.

A man and a woman were reported to be enthusiastically taking pictures of the topless woman, to the outrage of locals. A local told CNN that the tourists could not understand what the problem was, calling it “unbelievable” that “they didn’t think they were doing anything wrong at all.”

Politics SPD will block postal voting for Czechs abroad

The Freedom and Direct Democracy party, led by Tomio Okamura, will do everything in its power to block a motion allowing postal voting for Czechs living abroad. The SPD has blocked a debate on this motion in the past.

Introducing postal voting for Czechs abroad was an election promise from the SPOLU coalition and the Pirates+STAN group. The SPD strongly opposes the idea, though, considering postal votes an “attack on democracy, opening the door to the manipulation of ballot papers and fraud in their counting.” Only five EU countries have not yet brought in postal voting. The change would open up voting rights for up to 600,000 Czechs living permanently in another country, or staying there temporarily for work or studies.

Debt forgiveness Debt relief summer could be repeated

The Czech Republic’s debt forgiveness period, which ends in two days’ time on January 28, could be repeated later in the year between early September and late November, according to ministers. The current debt forgiveness period started on October 28 last year. Throughout the period, those owing money to public bodies can pay their debt without interest, penalty fees and other additional payments.

Data is not yet available for the number of people who made use of the debt forgiveness period, though it’s thought over 700,000 people had outstanding debts last October. The scheme was a chance to wipe the slate clean and get on a more even financial footing. The official debt relief period concerned public institutions, but some banks and credit-givers joined in with their own private schemes. Another, second round of debt forgiveness in the autumn would be the last, according to ministers.

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