Czech news in brief for February 13: Tuesday's top headlines

Inflation fell significantly in January, working definition of 'antigypsy' hate speech approved, and FBI Director Wray headed to Czechia. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 13.02.2024 08:37:00 (updated on 13.02.2024) Reading time: 5 minutes

Visegrád Group V4 state heads to meet in Prague

According to the Chamber of Deputies, the heads of parliament from the Visegrád Group (V4) of countries (Czechia, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary) will convene in Prague at the end of February, with Ukrainian counterparts also expected to attend. 

This meeting follows the last gathering in February 2023 in Slovakia during its V4 presidency. The Czech Republic, the current V4 president, aims to strengthen cooperation based on principles of human rights and democracy while offering unwavering support for Ukraine's independence and sovereignty.

POLITICS Czech PM, president discuss global affairs

Prime Minister Petr Fiala and President Petr Pavel met for lunch today, discussing the Czech Republic's economic outlook and global security, particularly in the Middle East and Ukraine. Their discussions emphasized the importance of upholding NATO commitments and investing in national security.

The Presidential Office described the meeting as regular and planned. This lunch follows their January meeting and prior discussions in October concerning the Middle East, the government's consolidation package, the state budget, and energy security. Fiala highlighted their focus on 2024 economic projections and global security concerns during the meeting.

AGRICULTURE Feb. 19 mass farmer protest to go ahead

In a letter sent to the government today, Czech farmers say they plan to block some of Prague’s highways on Monday, Feb. 19, to highlight national agricultural challenges. They aim to present a letter to Minister of Agriculture Mark Výborny, urging the government to withdraw from the European Green Deal. 

Bohumír Dufek, chairman of the Trade Union of Agriculture and Food Workers, and Zdeněk Jandejsek, former president of the Agrarian Chamber of the Czech Republic, have been mobilizing farmers to join the protest. Around 600 to 1,000 tractors and equipment may participate. Notably, major industry organizations like the Agrarian Chamber will not participate.

DRUGS Liberec court begins global drug smuggling case

The Liberec Regional Court today commenced the trial for a large-scale international cocaine and hashish smuggling case today, much of which took place in Czechia. Eleven individuals and one company are on trial amidst heightened security measures. Vilem Kovac, the main defendant in the Liberec group of smugglers, remains a fugitive and is listed among international security agency Europol's most-wanted. 

In 2022, police arrested the organized group from Liberec in an international raid spanning nine European countries and the U.S., resulting in 44 arrests. The Czech group faces charges of organized drug crime, tax evasion, and money laundering. Notably, two defendants are cooperating with investigators and the judiciary. 

LAW Czech man jailed for sexual acts on stepdaughter

The Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem has sentenced a man from Teplice to 12 years in prison for sexually abusing his stepdaughter, attempting to rape her, and possessing and distributing child pornography. The court has ordered the man, who partially confessed, to undergo mental health treatment in an institution. 

According to the court, the man had been abusing the girl for almost five years, starting when she was just five years old. He groped, caressed, and forced her to perform sexual acts, filmed the abuse, and shared it on the darknet. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered the case and passed it on to Czech authorities.

TECHNOLOGY Coverage of 5G in Czechia at over 95pc

According to the Europe in Data portal, the Czech Republic has a 96 percent coverage of 5G networks and is working on expanding optical coverage with the help of operators. The country ranks above average in 5G coverage in rural areas and is expected to have 96.1 percent coverage by January 2024. 

As of this year, Cyprus, Malta, and the Netherlands have achieved 100 percent coverage of 5G networks, while Sweden, Romania, Belgium, Latvia, and Estonia have lower coverage. Optical networks are crucial for modernizing the internet and provide speeds up to 1 gigabit per second. However, only 37 percent of the Czech population has access to these networks, while the EU average is 20 percentage points higher.

Trial Former Czech deputy MP appeals rape verdict

Former Czech deputy Dominik Feri and victims’ representative Adéla Hořejší have both appealed against the District Court for Prague 3’s verdict on rape charges. While Feri disputes the entire indictment, the victims seek higher financial compensation. Last November, Feri received an extrajudicial three-year prison sentence for two counts of rape and attempted rape.

The victims are requesting higher compensation as they disagree with the amount of CZK 510,000 awarded to them. Hořejší, on behalf of the clients, confirmed that they accepted the essence of the verdict but contested the compensation amount. Feri, who denies any responsibility, submitted a lengthy appeal claiming factual inaccuracies and misapplication of the law. The Municipal Court in Prague will now decide on further proceedings.

Working definition of 'anti-gypsy' speech approved

Prague's Government Council for Roma Minority Affairs has approved a working definition of antigypsyism, a form of racism against Roma, instructing the government commissioner to seek approval. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance established the definition in 2020, urging the Czech Republic to adopt it. Though not legally binding, the council believes it can combat anti-Roma speech.

The definition encompasses discriminatory actions, expressions, or attitudes leading to exclusion and violence, including denial of persecution, forced sterilization, and offensive stereotypes. The council aims for approval by April 8, International Roma Day, highlighting the move's symbolic importance and potential impact on awareness and discrimination reduction.

International FBI Director Wray is heading to Prague

FBI Director Christopher Wray is set to visit the Czech Republic next Thursday, according to Czech server The visit follows a reciprocal meeting last year in Washington between Wray and Czech Minister of the Interior Vít Rakušan. The U.S. Embassy did not comment on FBI Director Wray's trip to Prague.

The Czech-U.S. collaboration has been active in security matters, including the investigation of the Vrbětice ammunition warehouse explosion linked to Russian secret services. Wray's visit may involve discussions on extradition cases, like that of Polad Omarov, accused of plotting to assassinate an Iranian-American journalist.

Economy Iconic Czech piano maker to cut costs in Indonesia

Czech piano manufacturer Petrof, based in Králové Hradec, plans to shift part of its production to Indonesia due to high labor costs, expensive energy, and rising material prices in the Czech Republic. The move aims to cut costs, with Indonesian production starting in the second half of this year.

Petrof will share complete documentation with an undisclosed Indonesian company with over two decades of experience producing pianos for renowned brands. While cheaper models will be entirely manufactured in Indonesia, more expensive ones will be completed in the Czech Republic. Petrof intends to gradually increase Indonesian production to two thousand pianos annually.

Economy Inflation fell significantly in January

Year-on-year inflation fell significantly in January, with analysts predicting a rate below three percent, down from December’s 6.9 percent. Analysts attribute this decline to cheaper food prices and the diminishing impact of the 2022 energy-saving tariff. Official forecasts anticipate a significant slowdown in average inflation this year.

Komerční Banka estimates a 2.7 percent rise in consumer prices, emphasizing the fading austerity tariff effect. Česká spořitelna suggests 2.9 percent inflation, citing uncertainties due to January price adjustments. Trinity Bank's Lukáš Kovanda anticipates mild inflation due to reduced energy prices and lower food costs. Raiffeisenbank, however, expects a higher inflation of 3.8 percent.

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