Czech news in brief for February 16: Friday's top headlines

Macron heads to Prague in March, agriculture minister expresses solidarity with farmers ahead of protest, Czech volunteer killed in Ukraine, and more. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 16.02.2024 08:43:00 (updated on 16.02.2024) Reading time: 5 minutes

education Ministry plans to test foreign schoolchildren

Education Minister Mikuláš Bek announced plans for a comprehensive Czech language test for Ukrainian and other foreign schoolchildren after a meeting with education ministers from the Visegrad Four (V4) countries, the Baltic states, and Ukraine. The test results will guide the Ministry in implementing measures to improve the education of non-native Czech speakers. 

The V4 group, consisting of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary, identified similar challenges in refugee education, including language barriers and teacher shortages. Bek stressed the importance of the test in assessing the current state of language education for foreigners, citing a lack of preparedness compared to countries like Germany and Austria. The testing will begin in two months and will inform future language education initiatives.

cybersphere Czechia involved in Russia cyber tracking

The government declared today that the Czech Republic has joined the international operation Dying Ember to combat the activities of Russian intelligence services. Led by the U.S., the Czech Military Intelligence stated that the project was an intervention in cyberspace. 

Fiala emphasized the importance of defending cyberspace and responding to global threats with allies and partners. Defence Minister Jana Černochová also acknowledged that Russia has been engaging in cyber warfare for a long time and expressed pride in its ability to defend itself with the help of allies.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Czechia speaks out against Navalny's death

Following the news of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny's death in a prison camp this afternoon, Czech Foreign Minister Lipavský has described Russia as a violent state that kills those who aspire for a better future, Other Czech politicians are also speaking out on social media, portraying Navalny as a victim of Putin's regime or a hero of conscience. 

Navalny, who was considered Putin's main opponent, had accused the Russian president of ordering his poisoning. He was imprisoned immediately after returning to Russia from Germany, where he had been treated for the poisoning.

animals Liberec Zoo adopts rare African vultures

Liberec Zoo has today announced it has acquired a rare pair of African vultures, making them the only zoo in the Czech Republic to house this endangered species. According to zoo spokesperson Barbara Tesařová, the population of African vultures has drastically decreased in recent years, with an 81-percent decline in the past three generations. 

This is due to targeted human poisoning, as poachers use poisoned carcasses to prevent vultures from giving away their illegal activities. Despite the efforts of 36 zoos worldwide, only three have successfully bred this species in the past year.

PRaGUE SHOOTING Charles Uni Arts Faculty reopens today

The Faculty of Arts at Charles University in Prague, which was the site of a tragic shooting before Christmas, partially opened to students and staff today. This "pre-opening" allows them to enter the building without obligations or lectures.

The spring semester is set to begin on Feb. 19, with classes being held at the faculty headquarters, except for the fourth floor which will remain closed until the next academic year. Faculty representatives have arranged for psychological help to be available for staff and students who may find it challenging to return to the building after the tragedy.

BANKING CNB will consider crown for interest rate changes

The Banking Council of the Czech National Bank (CNB) has said today that it will consider the Czech crown's exchange rate when deciding on further interest rate reductions, according to the record of their last meeting. The crown's weakening could potentially slow down or halt the interest rate cuts.

The CNB has recently accelerated the pace of easing monetary policy, with the first rate cut in December and a further cut in February. The depreciation of the crown was response to the rate cut and lower-than-expected January inflation has also been taken into account. Further rate reductions will be influenced by the movement of the crown exchange rate, with a forecasted average rate of about EUR 1: CZK 24.6 for the year. 

Diplomacy Macron to visit Prague in March

French President Emmanuel Macron is set to visit the Czech Republic on March 5, as reported by Czech Television. While the Office of President Petr Pavel’s communication department has not officially confirmed the information, Czech Ambassador to Paris Michel Fleischmann has verified the visit.

Macron’s last visit to Prague was in October 2022 for the European Political Community summit during the Czech EU presidency. President Pavel met Macron in Paris, emphasizing the strong Czech-French relations on Ukraine, the Middle East, energy, and EU enlargement. Macron’s upcoming visit underscores the ongoing diplomatic cooperation between the two nations.

Education 50,000 Ukrainain children in Czech schools

According to Education Minister Mikulas Bek, approximately 50,000 Ukrainian children have successfully integrated into Czech schools. During a two-day conference on inclusive education and the integration of Ukrainian refugees, Bek highlighted challenges faced by host countries, such as insufficient school capacity and language training.

The Czech Ministry of Education plans to strengthen Czech language teaching for refugees and promote mental health. As of Sunday, the Czech Republic hosted around 383,000 Ukrainian refugees, with 98,000 being children under 18. To assess their proficiency, the ministry intends to conduct widespread testing of foreigners' Czech language skills in schools.

Society Young Czechs' support for EU and NATO growing

According to a Median agency survey for the One World in Schools program of People in Need, young people in the Czech Republic increasingly support EU and NATO membership. The study shows growing positivity toward EU membership, with almost 80 percent of secondary school students expressing support.

Support for NATO is even higher at 84 percent, reaching its highest level, possibly influenced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, students have a deepening skepticism about influencing solutions to local or national problems. The survey, conducted at the end of 2023 with 1,200 respondents from 33 secondary schools, highlights evolving perspectives on historical and current issues.

Invasion Czech volunteer killed in Ukraine

A Czech volunteer fighting alongside Ukrainian forces against Russia died near Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine, confirmed by Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman Daniel Drake. The announcement was made by the account Vozim drony on the X network. Avdiivka, under constant Russian fire since mid-October, has seen ongoing conflict, with the Ukrainian army reporting clashes with Russian troops in its streets.

This marks the fourth Czech citizen killed in the fighting in Ukraine attacked by Russia. The Foreign Ministry previously recorded deaths in June 2022 and March 2023, and a Czech medic's death in May 2023 after being injured in Donbass.

Protest Agro minister expresses solidarity with farmers

Czech Agriculture Minister Marek Výborný is advocating for targeted support to medium-sized enterprises in the agricultural sector, emphasizing a focus on rural employment rather than tax subsidies. He aims to finalize an amendment to the strategic plan by the end of February. After meeting with agricultural representatives and Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Výborný highlighted the Czech Republic’s stance on de-bureaucratizing the sector at the upcoming European Council meeting on Feb. 26.

Výborný and Fiala expressed solidarity with farmers' protests, viewing them as support for the Czech position in negotiations in Brussels, addressing concerns about bureaucratic burdens and subsidy policies.

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