Czech morning news in brief: Top headlines for September 30, 2021

Prime Minister Babiš fined over conflicts of interest, progress in Turów mine talks, Hungarian leader Orbán holds debate with Babiš during Czech visit. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 30.09.2021 09:57:00 (updated on 30.09.2021) Reading time: 4 minutes

Andrej Babiš fined over conflict of interest

Černošice Town Hall has fined Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš CZK 250,000 over conflicts of interest arising from his media ownership. Babiš’s lawyer said an appeal against the fine would be lodged. Černošice town hall described Babiš’s media ownership as an “ongoing minor offence”. The local authority is dealing with the case because Babiš’s place of residence, Průhonice, falls within its jurisdiction.

Proceedings against Babiš were launched after a complaint was filed by the Czech office of the Transparency International (TI) organization over the Prime Minister’s ownership of the MAFRA and LONDA media groups. Babiš argues he is no longer in any conflict of interest because he transferred the Agrofert holding, which contains MAFRA and LONDA, into trust funds in February 2017.

Significant shift in Turów mine talks

There has been a major shift in talks over the Turów coal mine, Czech Environment Minister Richard Brabec (ANO) has announced. There was agreement on more issues and Brabec said he believes a long-term consensus will be reached, although he did not want to estimate how long this would take. Talks will continue today.

Czechs living nearby say Turów mine endangers drinking water supplies in the border zone, while Poland refuses to suspend the mine’s operations despite having a daily fine imposed on it by the European Court of Justice. The Polish government says stopping mining would negatively affect energy supply and the Polish economy. Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller said Poland has tabled an offer of €40-50 million in aid to the Czech region affected by the mine.

Babiš and Orbán stage debate for ANO supporters

The Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic and Hungary, Andrej Babiš and Viktor Orbán, held a debate in the Ústi nad Labem opera house in the presence of ANO supporters as part of the election campaign for Babiš’s ANO party. Orbán and Babiš discussed topics including family policy, immigration and social welfare, and both received warm applause from the audience. Outside the theatre, though, a group of demonstrated against Orbán’s presence.

Reporters from some foreign newspapers, as well as from some government-critical Czech papers, were not allowed in to a press conference held by the two leaders, with a government spokesperson claiming they were excluded because there was no room for them. Later in the day, Orbán was received by Czech President Zeman at his residence in Lány.

Old 3G networks being closed in the Czech Republic

At the beginning of October T-Mobile will start switching of 3G transmitters, and 3G networks will be completely removed from the company’s Czech operations by the end of November. Owners of smartphones which support 4G or 5G networks will not be affected by the change. Transmitters in Moravia will be the first to be switched off. T-Mobile said removing 3G networks is an important step for the further development of the state-of-the-art 5G network now being implemented.

People whose mobile devices only support 3G connectivity may want to switch to a newer model as they will lose access to mobile data, although they will still be able to make calls and send SMS messages using the older 2G network, which will still be available.

First fine imposed for Airbnb apartment over new accommodation rules

Prague authorities imposed a fine of CZK 20,000 on the owner of an apartment for violating regulations while providing short-term accommodation via the Airbnb platform, after the building regulations department of Prague decided that flats used as accommodation facilities must comply with the same regulations as hotels. The fine is being described as an important precedent confirming the new legal status of Airbnb properties.

A Prague councilor meanwhile said an obligation will also be enforced for buildings which include flats provided through platforms such as Airbnb to be visibly marked on the outside so that the authorities know which apartments are being used for short-term accommodation. It is thought there are around 13,600 flats being provided for short-term rents via Airbnb in Prague.

Over CZK 735,000 raised for those affected by deadly Koryčany blast

Over CZK 735,000 has been raised by a public fundraising campaign to help those affected by the recent explosion of a family home in Koryčany, according to the Charity Kroměříž group which launched the initiative. The blast in mid-September killed two volunteer firefighters and injured four others. Several hundred people have since contributed to the fundraising appeal, and a commission will be set up to decide on the division of the money between the family of the victims and others whose properties were damaged by the explosion.

Police are now investigating the blast on suspicion of endangering the public due to neglect, a crime which can carry a sentence of up to eight years in jail. A previous reconstruction of the house is thought to have damaged a gas pipeline, which led to the explosion. The Zlín Region plans to contributed a further CZK 3 million to the appeal.

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