Czech morning news in brief: top stories for Feb. 11, 2021

Babiš supports Serbia’s entry to the Schengen Zone, Czech blue poppies get EU protection, Agroftert deals investigated

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 11.02.2021 09:29:00 (updated on 11.02.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

POLITICS: Babiš supports Serbia’s accession to Schengen Area

Serbia should enter the Schengen Area as soon as possible and the Czech Republic also supports the accession of this Balkan country to the European Union (EU), Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said at a press conference after meeting his Serbian counterpart Ana Brnabić. He recalled that at EU summits he had repeatedly actively submitted the proposal that Serbia joins the Schengen Area within the tackling of illegal migration. In his opinion, this process might be faster than Serbia’s EU entry, he added. He also said it is interesting that the citizens of Serbia can choose which COVID vaccine they will receive. So far, Serbian authorities approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the Russian Sputnik V, and the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine. In Europe, Serbia ranks second when it comes to the number of administrated vaccines, following Britain that comes first, Babiš said.

ROMA: Bill to compensate sterilization victims debated

A bill that would compensate Roma women who were sterilized without their informed consent was debated in the lower house of Czech Parliament. If passed in its current form, each victim would get a one-time payment of CZK 300,000. Most sterilizations occurred under communism in the 1970s and 1980s, but activists say the practice continued even after the Velvet Revolution and there are hundreds of victims. The Czech government in 2009 expressed regret for the sterilizations but not compensation. Czech Finance Minister Alena Schillerová in October met with several victims and expressed support for compensation. Because of the statute of limitations, there is no point in bringing the cases to court. A new law is the only option. Read more about the issue here and here.

ECONOMY: Czech economy passes Spain’s in GDP per capita

The Czech economy has bypassed Spain in GDP per capita at purchasing power parity (PPP). Spain’s economy had been growing up until the crisis in 2008, but since then has lost momentum. While Spain’s per capita GDP has grown 50 percent in the last 30 years, other counties, especially in the CEE region, have seen higher growth, according to Spanish daily El Pais. Estonia, Lithuania, and Slovenia are catching up to Spain as well. The most recent figures from Eurostat show that the Czech Republic’s economy passed that of Spain between 2018 and 2019. The OECD says it happened in 2019, and the International Monetary Fund puts the date at 2020.  

CRIME: Deals between Čepro, Agrofert investigated

National Organized Crime (NCOZ) detectives are investigating the orders within which the Czech state-run fuel distributor Čepro since 2017 has sent about CZK 5 billion to Agrofert, news server reported. Agrofert is in trust funds that owner and current Prime Minister Andrej Babiš transferred it to in his capacity as finance minister in early 2017 to comply with the conflict of interest law. Čepro did not hold public tenders for the orders, but it denies the accusations, arguing that these were not covered by the public procurement law. No charges have been filed, the server said. NCOZ spokesman Jaroslav Ibehej declined to comment on the affair.

AGRICULTURE: EU gives Czech blue poppy PGI status

The European Union has registered the Czech blue poppy among items with Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). The recognition of the application took over five years. European authorities usually decide in about a year, but for the Czech blue poppy, it was necessary to prove it is a commonly consumed food and not a pharmaceutical raw material. Czech Ministry of Agriculture spokesman Vojtěch Bílý said the state has been trying to prevent poppy counterfeiting for more than 10 years. It will now not be possible to use the name Czech blue poppy (Český modrý mák) within the EU, unless it really originates in the Czech Republic.  

Pic of the day:

Do you have an amazing photo or something quirky from across the Czech Republic that you think could be our latest pic of the day? Let us know by tagging us and use #ExpatsPicoftheDay on Instagram or sending us a direct message!

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more