Czech news for March 9: Czechia bids farewell to Zeman, Czech Post faces insolvency

Top headlines for the Czech Republic for Thursday, March 9, 2023, updated daily to keep you up to speed. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 09.03.2023 08:30:00 (updated on 09.03.2023) Reading time: 5 minutes

INAUGURATION Senior Czech church figures meet, and pray for, Pavel

Representatives of the Catholic and Protestant churches in Czechia, as well as the country’s chief rabbi, Thursday evening blessed President Petr Pavel at St. Vitus Cathedral. Prague Archbishop Jan Graubner noted that the international situation is currently “complicated” and the tasks in Czech society are demanding. Pavel and his wife Eva also paid tribute to the patron saint of Czechia, St. Wenceslas, by bowing their heads to his skull at the cathedral.

POLITICS Pavel – I will soon release 100-day plan

President Petr Pavel announced this afternoon that he will soon release a plan of specific goals for his first 100 days in power. He also said he would continue to visit different regions across Czechia to “listen to those who felt unheard.” Pavel believes that lowering inflation and the state budget deficit is important, and he affirmed that he would support measures that enable this. He considers solidarity the sign of a developed society.

PRESIDENCY Presidential flag returns to Prague Castle

The presidential flag, which the Ztohoven guerilla artistic group removed from Prague Castle in 2015 and replaced with red boxer shorts, has been returned following the inauguration of Petr Pavel. The new president unfolded the flag during a speech he delivered from the balcony of the castle. Since 2015, the red boxer shorts have been a symbol of disapproval of the policies pursued by Pavel’s predecessor Miloš Zeman, of his pro-Russian and pro-Chinese stances.

president King Charles III congratulates new Czech president

Earlier today, British King Charles III in a letter congratulated Pavel on his inauguration. Charles III said the close partnership between the Czech Republic and Britain is rooted in a shared history and common determination to defend freedom and democracy.

"Our mutual relations remain very important to Britain. I very much look forward to their deepening during your presidency," Charles III wrote.

SPORT Czechs claim upset win over Iceland in handball qualifier

The Czech men’s handball team claimed a surprise victory over Iceland in a qualifying match for the European Handball Championship, winning 22:17. The team now is on top of the qualifying table, which also features Estonia and Israel. Iceland came 12th in the recent 2023 World Men's Handball Championship, with the Czechs not competing. The two teams will play each other once more on Sunday. Czechia is almost certain to qualify for the European tournament, which is due to take place in January 2024.

EVENT Revelers celebrate Zeman's exit from Castle

To mark former President Miloš Zeman’s final day as head of state Wednesday, several dozen people met outside Prague Castle in the evening and walked toward Charles Bridge, where they carried a straw effigy of Zeman. This mimicked a pagan custom done at the beginning of every spring, which symbolizes death and rebirth. When they reached the bridge, they burned it and threw it into the Vltava river.

Politics Zeman's 10-year run as president has ended

The lowering of the presidential standard and the closure of the Gate of Giants at Prague Castle symbolically ended President Miloš Zeman's 10-year tenure at midnight last night. During a ceremony that lasted several minutes, the Prague Castle Guard played the national anthem. Today Zeman's successor Petr Pavel will be sworn in. Some 100 people gathered at Hradčanské náměstí in the rain, some drinking champagne and chanting "At last" at midnight.

Zeman was the first directly elected Czech president. He was elected twice. The Czech Republic will be without a president until Pavel is inaugurated today at around 14:15. In the meantime the powers of the head of state will be performed by Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Chamber of Deputies chairwoman Marketa Pekarova Adamova, and Senate chairman Milos Vystrcil.

DEFENSE Czechia to revamp fleet of donated helicopters

Czech Air Force Commander Peter Cepelka announced today that Czechia aims to modernize helicopters donated by the U.S. before 2026. The contribution from the U.S. was in return for Czechia supplying its own material to war-affected Ukraine. The U.S. announced earlier this year that it would donate eight helicopters to Czechia collectively worth over CZK 4 billion. The choppers are due to arrive in the next two years. Their modernization is estimated to cost Czechia billions of crowns.

REAL ESTATE Just three in 10 Czechs thinking about property purchase

According to a survey made by pollster Ipsos, three in 10 Czechs are considering the purchase of a house or apartment in the next five years. Those who are aged under 34 years were the most likely to express a wish to do so. About 70 percent of all respondents said that hypothetically they would prefer a family home, with the remainder expressing an interest in a housing cooperative. The survey also showed that two-thirds of Czechs wanting to buy real estate feel that mortgages are now unaffordable for them.

JUDICIARY Supreme Court president asks Pavel for close cooperation

President of Czechia’s Supreme Court Petr Angyalossy said today that he would like Petr Pavel, who is later on inaugurated as president, to carefully communicate with and listen to the judiciary in the long term. Seven senior Supreme Court judges are retiring this year, and Pavel faces the challenge of overseeing their replacements. Angyalossy also expressed his view that Pavel should propose candidates with various professional experience, such as career judges, academics, lawyers, and even former politicians.

COMPANIES Česká pošta may enter insolvency soon, says interior minister

State postal operator Česká pošta could well become insolvent next year if it fails to take “transformational steps,” Interior Minister Vít Rakušan told journalists at a press conference earlier today. The Interior Ministry is currently planning a project that will see the company divided into a state-owned enterprise, which is due to get underway in the autumn. The company has been operating at a loss in recent years, posting a deficit of CZK 681 million in 2022.

ENIVRONMENT Ústí nad Labem road blocked due to boulders

Loose boulders have caused the closure of a road between the northern villages of Hřensko and Mezní Louka in the Ústí nad Labem area. The road is currently partially blocked by the boulders, the removal of which is set to cost about CZK 1.4 million. Logging is also currently ongoing in the area, which was badly affected by a widespread fire last summer. Local authorities also say they want to equip the area adequately in case of another forest fire in the years ahead.

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