Czech news in brief for February 12: Monday's top headlines

Andrej Babiš claims Trump was not serious about NATO remarks, Czech inflation estimated to be down to 3-4 percent, and more headlines. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 12.02.2024 08:30:00 (updated on 12.02.2024) Reading time: 5 minutes

public opinion Czechs content with life, frustrated by society

A newly released survey by the STEM research agency shows that while Czechs are generally satisfied with their personal lives, they are disappointed with the development of society. The gap between personal satisfaction and satisfaction with society has been increasing in recent years, and the pandemic and other crises have further widened this divide. 

In February 2020, about 87 percent of Czechs were satisfied with their lives, compared to 82 percent in January of this year. Additionally, only 15 percent of people believed that there was more justice in society last year. Over half of Czechs associate the year 2023 with feelings of disappointment and fatigue. 

WEATHER Early Feb was Czechia's warmest in 100 years

The Czech Republic experienced its warmest beginning of February in over 100 years, with an average temperature of 6.7 degrees Celsius, as reported by the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute. Many daily temperature records were set in the past week, with some places reaching temperatures above 15 degrees Celsius. 

The night of Feb. 10 also saw record-breaking warmth, with temperatures not dropping below zero in even the coldest locations. Above-average daily temperatures will continue this week, rising up to 12 degrees Celsius. Prague’s warmest day will be on Thursday this week, with temperatures peaking at 10 degrees Celsius. 

religion Czech church responds to sex-abuse allegations

The Catholic Church in Czechia is responding to allegations of sexual abuse by priests and demands for an independent commission to investigate. The Czech Bishops’ Conference spokeswoman, Monika Klimentová, stated that the church is taking the issue seriously and has a zero-tolerance policy for abuse. 

Victims have accused Prague Archbishop Jan Graubner of knowing about a priest's abuse in the 1990s but taking no action. However, Graubner has denied these allegations vehemently. "There is currently no reason to establish a commission to map these cases," said Klimentová.

LAW Top court rules on National Museum Ukraine flag

According to spokeswoman for the District Court for Prague 1 Eva Švíglerová, the Supreme Court (NS) has today rejected activist Jaroslav Popelka's appeal to remove the Ukrainian flag from the National Museum during an anti-government protest in 2023. The NS accepted the opinion of Prague courts that Popelka incited the crowd to riot by yelling slogans into a megaphone. 

He received a four-month suspended prison sentence and an 18-month ban from Prague. Popelka argued that displaying a foreign flag at the National Museum was inappropriate and denied promoting violence. The Municipal Court of Appeal confirmed the verdict, stating that while tearing down the flag itself is not a crime, Popelka's actions encouraged violence.

MENTAL HEALTH Study: Depression rates 12x higher in unemployed

According to a press release from the research-based Czech National SYRI Institute, the risk of moderate to severe depression is significantly higher in individuals with basic education and unemployment compared to those with higher education (such as university-level) and employment. The potential for depressive symptoms is up to five times higher in non-university-educated people and a whopping 12 times higher in unemployed people.

Out of the population sample, 86.4 had no signs of depression, while 10.5 percent had mild symptoms, and 3.1 percent had moderate to severe symptoms. The highest rates of depression were found in those with basic education, no job, and low income, with 7 percent experiencing severe symptoms.

EDUCATION Over half of all pupils apply for schools online

According to the Ministry of Education, more than half of this year's eligible school pupils have applied for secondary school through the DiPSy electronic system. The new portal received a record-breaking 9,940 applications on Sunday, and a total of 59,000 people have applied electronically so far. 

The system also allows for applications from ninth-graders, those interested in multi-year gymnasiums, secondary school students wanting to change majors, and adult applicants for distance or evening studies. Miroslav Krejčí, the director of the educational institute (Cermat) that co-launched the online system, stated that it now includes an overview of submitted applications and the option to withdraw and resubmit an application. 

Economy Minister: Czech inflation down to 3-4 percent

In an TV interview on Sunday, Czech Transport Minister Martin Kupka predicted that annual January inflation in the Czech Republic will have slowed to between three and four percent, fostering economic growth. The Czech Statistical Office will unveil official inflation data for last month on Feb. 15.

The Czech National Bank also expects inflation to sharply decrease, nearing the upper limit of its target band. December saw a 6.9 percent year-on-year rise in consumer prices, down from November's 7.3 percent.

Politics Babiš: Trump not serious about NATO remarks

ANO chair Andrej Babiš dismissed Donald Trump's statement suggesting the US wouldn't aid NATO countries if attacked by Russia over defense spending. Babiš labeled Trump's words as campaign rhetoric, noting his demeanor changes on stage versus in private. Babiš faced criticism for similar remarks on Czech military involvement abroad during his previous presidential campaign.

Others, like MEP Tomáš Zdechovský, took Trump's statement seriously, emphasizing Europe's responsibility for its security. MP Karla Maříková downplayed the remarks, viewing them as part of Trump's campaign rhetoric, while MEP Kateřina Konečná expressed skepticism about NATO's security guarantees.

Real Estate Czech housing market saw downturn in 2023

Last year marked a significant downturn in the Czech real estate market, with the lowest number of apartments and houses sold since 2015. Data from Valuo revealed a nine percent drop in apartment sales and a staggering 17 percent decline in house sales compared to 2022. The sale of cottages also plummeted by 19 percent.

While some regions like Prague and South Moravia maintained stability in apartment sales, house sales saw notable declines across the country, including a 27 percent drop in the capital. Despite the dip in sales, demand remained strong in Prague and Brno, resulting in a price increase of over four percent.

Money Banks adjust savings account interest rates

Banks are reacting to the Czech National Bank's interest rate cuts by adjusting rates and conditions on savings accounts, according to analysis by Portu provided to Czech News Agency. Trinity Bank currently offers the highest interest on savings accounts, with a rate of 6.3 percent on accounts with up to CZK 250,000 and 5.69 percent over this limit.

Max Banka offers a 6.01 percent interest rate on savings accounts without a limit. Air Bank provides 5 percent for savings accounts up to CZK 250,000 and 6 percent for portions above, with card usage conditions. UniCredit offers 5.75 percent, though for new clients only. Creditas, Fio Banka, and mBank offer 5.5 percent, with varying conditions.

Travel Valentine's Day sees surge in ticket sales

Valentine's Day prompts increased demand for long weekend getaways abroad or gift vouchers, according to information from travel agencies provided to Czech News Agency. Spanish cities like Malaga are particularly popular this year, with a notable surge in ticket sales observed.

Travel agencies note that couples often opt for additional services like private beach dinners and wellness treatments to enhance their romantic retreats. Destinations like London, Rome, and Tenerife are also among the favorites. Many travelers plan their trips a few days before Valentine's Day for a romantic celebration.

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