Czech daily news roundup: Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Fiala underlines unity with Kyiv visit, price chaos resulting from Ukraine war goes on, Zeman approves 2022 state budget. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 16.03.2022 09:53:00 (updated on 16.03.2022) Reading time: 5 minutes

12:27 European Commission approves Czech energy compensation

The European Commission has approved a partial compensation scheme for Czech energy-intensive companies suffering from higher electricity prices, totaling around CZK 34.6 billion. The Commission decided that the scheme is in line with EU state aid rules. The compensation is for higher electricity prices incurred by companies as a result of emissions costs imposed by the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Compensation will be provided to eligible companies, with the maximum amount of support to total 75 percent of the indirect costs incurred by participation in the EU's ETS scheme.

11:59 Czech police acquitted of Roma killing

Czech police did not commit any criminal act during an incident which led to the death of a Roma man in Teplice, North Bohemia last June. The lack of any guilt on the part of the attending police officers was confirmed by a police inspection today. The inspectors said it could not be proven that police actions played any part in the man's death, while according to an expert report, the man's death was caused by methamphetamine intoxication. Police intervened to restrain the violent man by kneeling on his neck for several minutes. The man was later pronounced dead after being rushed to hospital. The case subsequently became known as a "Czech George Floyd" incident.

10:30 US military convoy to cross Czechia tomorrow

A U.S. military convoy which undertook exercises in Slovakia will return to Germany via the Czech Republic in the coming days. The convoy will cross the country at night and in the early morning from Thursday to Tuesday. U.S. troops will again spend a night at the tent camp in Rančířov, South Moravia, as a stop-off point on their trip back to Germany. The convoy will traverse the country in four parts, entering at the Břeclav border crossing and proceeding along the D2 and D1 motorways.

Ukraine Fiala underlines unity with Kyiv visit

Czech Prime Minister Petr FIala said that Europe stands side-by-side with Ukraine after his talk yesterday evening with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv. Fiala visited the war-stricken Ukrainian capital by train together with the Prime Ministers of Poland and Slovenia.

The group were the first foreign leaders to visit Kyiv since the outbreak of war in Ukraine on Feb. 24. Zelensky said on social media that the visit sends a strong message of support. “Your visit to Kyiv at this time, such a hard one for Ukraine, is strong proof of support. We appreciate it very much,” he said. Polish leader Mateusz Morawiecki meanwhile told Zelensky that Europe “will never abandon” Ukraine.

Economy Price chaos resulting from Ukraine war continues

Prices of raw materials are fluctuating wildly in the Czech Republic as a result of global uncertainty about the future of the war in Ukraine. Fuel prices, which last week soared to their highest ever levels, are dropping again as fears ease about Russian supplies drying up as a result of the war. It’s thought the first positive signs in negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have also driven down prices.

On the other hand, electricity and gas suppliers in Czechia have not ruled out further price increases as a result of the war. Purchase prices for energy are already three times higher than this time last year, and this is already affecting end-consumers: in April, Pražská energetika will raise monthly payments for electricity by 25 percent and for gas by 30 percent. The European Union’s commitment to reducing dependency on Russian gas is also expected to influence price developments over the coming years.

Budget President Zeman approves state budget for 2022

Czech President Miloš Zeman yesterday signed Czechia's state budget for 2022, with a CZK 280 billion deficit. The budget is expected to change, though, as the situation surrounding the war in Ukraine evolves. Allowances will likely need to be made for extra expenditures due to price increases as well as the measures to tackle the Ukrainian refugee crisis.

This is the first budget drawn up by the new coalition government led by Petr Fiala. It includes a significant reduction on the deficit proposed in the previous budget by the ANO-led government. Zeman expressed reservations about cuts in state payments to public health insurers as well as investment cuts, but has now approved the spending plan.

NATO Slovakia approves Czech troop deployment

Soldiers from six NATO countries including the Czech Republic will bolster the alliance’s eastern flank in Slovakia, according to a proposal approved by the Slovak parliament. The proposal will allow up to 2,100 foreign troops to be deployed in Slovakia, including up to 600 members of the Czech armed forces.

Other countries who may station soldiers in Slovakia will be Germany, the U.S.A., Poland, Slovenia and the Netherlands. They will bring Patriot long-range air defense systems to the country, and possibly also Sentinel missile defense radar. The move comes after Russia’s difficulties in invading Ukraine demonstrated the ability of modern defense technologies to hold back an invading force. Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Naď called the proposal “a radical strengthening of the defense of the Slovak Republic.” The Czech Senate will decide on sending troops to Slovakia tomorrow.

Jewish community Nicky and Vera story protagonist dies aged 93

Vera Gissing, one of the Czechoslovak Jewish children saved by Nicholas Winton from the Nazis in 1939, and whose story was later portrayed in the book Nicky & Vera by Czech artist Petr Sís, has died aged 93. Sís announced the news on Facebook today.

"Mrs. Vera Gissing, the heroine of my book "Nicky & Vera", made her last journey yesterday at the age of 93. I believe she will meet her rescuer, Sir Nicholas Winton. Thank you for the inspiration," Sís wrote. Winton saved 669 children on the eve of WWII by organizing trains to take them from Prague to London. Gissing was born Vera Diamant in Čelákovice, near Prague, in 1928. Her parents both died in Nazi concentration camps, but she escaped to Britain along with her sister Eva.

Protests Demonstrators in Prague call for stronger Ukraine support

Several hundred people demonstrated in Prague’s Old Town Square yesterday evening to express support for Ukraine and call for stronger military and technical aid to the country. Demonstrators called for the declaration of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which would put NATO in conflict with the Russian air force.

The demonstration, called Wings for Ukraine, featured a mixture of Ukrainian and NATO flags, and its main theme was the need to “close the sky” over Ukraine. Senator Marek Hilšer (STAN), who spoke at the event, called imposing a no-fly zone “our moral duty.” Another speaker argued that a military operation should be launched even if there is a risk of other countries becoming involved in the conflict, demanding that the West should “stop being afraid of Putin.”

Financial sector Banks report big profits for 2021

Czech banks increased total net profits by CZK 23.1 billion year-on-year in 2021, taking total gains to CZK 70.58 billion. The huge increase in profits is, according to experts, driven by lower operating costs for banks.

Profit from financial activities increased by CZK 3.9 billion, while interest income declined by CZK 1.4 billion. Income from fees and commissions rose CZK 5.5 billion. Analysts says successful areas for the banking sector last year included the provision of loans such as mortgages. The largest profit increase among the country’s biggest banks was a 56 percent increase reported by Komerční banka.

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