Czech morning news in brief: Top headlines for September 1, 2021

Czech government endorses helping Afghans in the region, Czech Railways loses court appeal against Škoda, Václav Havel prize finalists announced.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 01.09.2021 09:58 (updated on 01.09.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

EU wants to help Afghans in their own region, says Hamáček

EU countries want to help Afghans fleeing the Taliban find shelter in neighboring countries, but not in Europe. Jan Hamáček reported that this conclusion has been reached by a majority of EU ministers responsible for migration. The EU wants to earmark a high sum of aid money to help countries in the region deal with the crisis, although a specific figure has not yet been agreed. It has been reported that Brussels intends to allocate €600 million to Afghanistan’s neighboring countries. EU ministers held a meeting to coordinate efforts to prevent a repeat of the migrant crisis of 2015, when hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees traveled to Europe. The UN estimates that more than half a million people may flee Afghanistan after the allies’ departure from the country.

Court rules against Czech Railways in dispute with Škoda

Czech Railways will not get back CZK 1.2 billion which it previously paid to Škoda Transportation for the supply of locomotives. The High Court in Prague upheld a previous arbitration verdict relating to a case in which Czech Railways ordered 20 locomotives from Škoda for around CZK 2.5 billion, which were due to be delivered in 2009. Škoda did not start deliveries until 2013, though, justifying the late delivery due to changing regulations during the development of the machines. Czech Railways refused to pay an additional part of the purchase price, so Škoda turned to an arbitration tribunal to gain the withheld money. Czech Railways meanwhile demanded billions in fines for late delivery. The High Court’s decision is a final verdict, against which Czech Railways can only file an appeal.

Václav Havel Human Rights Prize finalists announced

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Belarusian opposition leader Maria Kalesnikava, French NGO Reporters Without Borders and Burundian human rights advocate Germain Rukuki have been shortlisted as the three finalists of this year’s Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, the Václav Havel Library revealed. The winner of the prize will be announced at the autumn session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on September 27. Kalesnikava is one of three women to become symbols of the Belarusian opposition movement, kidnapped in Minsk last September and detained by the Lukashenko regime since. Reporters Without Borders defends freedom of speech and information across the world. Rukuki campaigns against torture and the death penalty, and was sentenced to 32 years in prison for his activities in 2018. After an appeal, he was released earlier this year. The award’s first laureate was Belarusian dissident Ales Bialiatski.

Finance Ministry lowers 2022 budget deficit

The Czech state budget deficit for 2022 will be CZK 376.6 billion, 13.4 billion less than was proposed in June. This change was made in the budget draft sent by the Finance Ministry to the government. The Ministry also increased budget revenues by CZK 57.6 billion to CZK 1,543.3 billion and expenditures by CZK 44.2 billion to CZK 1,919.9 billion compared to the June draft. The Ministry said the new budget draft reflects changes to the country’s financial situation following the updating of tax revenues as well as social insurance payments, based on an August macroeconomic prognosis. The Ministry has also updated revenues from the EU budget.

Russian Embassy rejects Czech criticism over school closure

The Russian Embassy in Prague has denied that Russia itself is responsible for the closure of the high school which previously operated there. The Embassy has asked the Foreign Ministry to restore the school’s ability to operate normally, even claiming children had become “hostages of the destructive behavior of the Czech Ministry.” The Embassy school was closed because teachers who worked there were accredited Embassy staff. In expelling Russian Embassy staff following allegations of Russian involvement in the Vrbětice explosions of 2014, the Czech Foreign Ministry was accused of leaving the school with no available teachers. The Czech Ministry countered these claims by saying teachers and other school staff were given the opportunity to apply for Czech residency and a work permit, but the Embassy did not take up this offer.

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