Czech news in brief for February 20: Tuesday's top headlines

Lufthansa strikes to impact flights to and from Prague, ANO edges out Pirates in election poll, Czechia to expand cooperation with FBI, and more. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 20.02.2024 09:03:00 (updated on 20.02.2024) Reading time: 5 minutes

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Czechia 'appreciates' Polish judiciary reform

Czech Minister for European Affairs Martin Dvořák today announced that Czechia and other EU countries have shown appreciation for Poland's plan to restore the rule of law after eight years of the Law and Justice party's rule. At a meeting with counterparts from other member states, Dvořák commended Poland's decisive actions in addressing issues with the Constitutional Court and justice system. 

However, concerns were raised about ensuring all principles of the rule of law are being upheld. Disputes in Poland, such as the position of public television broadcaster TVP, were also discussed. The current cabinet defends its actions, citing concerns about TVP's neutrality under the previous ruling party.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS Lipavský, Pavel discuss Russia in Prague

Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský and President Petr Pavel discussed Russian aggression and potential support for Ukraine, as well as the creation of a new Czech foreign policy, during a working lunch today. The meeting, which also featured Presidential Office foreign section head Jaroslav Zajíček, focused on the need for a long-term ambassador in Moscow. 

In the past, the president took a more reserved stance on a new ambassador to Russia than the foreign minister. Lipavský wants soon to have a new foreign policy plan for Czechia. The current official foreign affairs strategy is from 2015.

EDUCATION Online applications for schools extended by a day

Education Minister Mikuláš Bek announced today that the deadline for secondary school applications in the Czech Republic has been extended by one day, from Feb. 21 to Feb. 22. This decision was made due to delays in the launch of the online application system, as well as glitches and efforts to ease the stress of parents. 

Applicants can apply online using a legal guardian's verified identity or in a hybrid form with a printed application. The system faced delays and cyber-attacks when it launched. Students can submit up to three applications in the first round.

ENVIRONMENT Rare, dangerous Asian hornet found in Czechia

Workers from a transport company in Pilsen have reported the discovery of an Asian hornet – a dangerous invasive species spreading rapidly in Europe. The Nature and Landscape Protection Agency confirmed the finding, which is the second occurrence in the Czech Republic in the past few months. 

Experts believe that only a few individual hornets escaped from a truck from France, rather than a whole nest. While the Asian hornet is dangerous, experts say it is often mistaken for a more dangerous species that is not found in Europe. According to Jiří Skuhrovec from the Plant Production Research Institute, the Asian hornet is not actively spreading in the country yet, with all findings related to transportation and logistics areas.

LGBTQ+ Czechia to open new gender-health support line

Jan Červenka, spokesperson for the National Institute of Mental Health, announced the establishment of a National Line for Sexual and Gender Health in the Czech Republic. This line, operating within the SexHelp service, provides confidential consultations and referrals to therapists or doctors. It is free and anonymous, and available to everybody seeking guidance on sexual health issues. 

The SexHelp line initially focused on sexual preferences and problematic behavior, but now also addresses sexual orientation and gender identity. Kateřina Klapilová. The line is staffed by trained crisis consultants and will provide intervention, information, and support, especially in the impact of sexuality settings on people's health.

Ukraine Three-fifths of Ukrainian refugees overqualified

According to government human rights commissioner Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková, about three-fifths of all Ukrainian refugees in the Czech Republic are working below their level of qualification. She suggests improving language education and facilitating the recognition of Ukrainian qualifications to help these refugees, who are fleeing the Russian military invasion. 

There are currently more than 380,000 Ukrainian refugees with temporary protection in the Czech Republic, and about 1,300 are arriving weekly. About 120,000 are economically active. Laurenčíková also emphasizes the need for part-time job opportunities, in addition to language education and qualification recognition.

Politics ANO would edge out Pirates in general election

According to the Median agency's election model, the ANO party would lead Czech general elections with 31.5 percent but experienced a three-point drop. The Pirates claim second place with 13 percent, narrowly ahead of the Civic Democrats (ODS) at 12 percent. Factors include the Pirates' appeal to first-time voters and a lower overall turnout, impacting the former Together alliance voters.

The Freedom and Direct Democracy party would secure fourth place with 10.5 percent. The governing coalition parties, Mayors and Independents (STAN) and TOP 09 follow, collectively holding 40.5 percent of potential votes, suggesting 94 seats in the 200-seat lower house. The model doesn't consider pre-election mergers.

Travel Lufthansa strike to impact Prague flights

Large German airports, including Frankfurt and Berlin, have experienced widespread flight cancellations due to a strike by Lufthansa's ground staff, affecting connections with the Czech Republic. Frankfurt Airport warned passengers to check flight statuses on the Lufthansa website, with 250 take-offs and landings expected to be canceled.

Major airports in Munich, Hamburg, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Cologne/Bonn, and Stuttgart also faced disruptions. Berlin Brandenburg Airport announced it would not handle any Lufthansa flights. Václav Havel Airport in Prague reported cancellations, and the strike, demanding a 12.5 percent wage increase, is expected to impact up to 100,000 passengers, ending Wednesday morning.

Security Czechia to discuss expanded cooperation with FBI

Czech Interior Minister Vít Rakušan is set to discuss expanded cooperation with US FBI Director Christopher Wray during Wray's visit to the Czech Republic. The talks, focusing on joint efforts against cybercrime and terrorism, will involve collaboration with elite services, police, internships, and experience exchange. Rakušan emphasizes the importance of international cooperation in addressing borderless threats, citing past successes in information exchange that safeguarded property and lives.

The FBI director's visit underscores the enduring significance of international partnerships in tackling global challenges, as highlighted by the U.S. Embassy. Specific details of past collaborations, including January's operation against Russian secret service activities, remain undisclosed.

Defense More ammunition deliveries planned for Ukraine

Czech Defense Minister Jana Černochováa and her Ukrainian counterpart, Rustem Umerov, held a videoconference to discuss planned ammunition deliveries to Ukraine, training Ukrainian soldiers in the Czech Republic, and the battlefield. Umerov emphasized the growing cooperation between Czech and Ukrainian defense industries. President Petr Pavel mentioned potential foreign sources for hundreds of thousands of artillery rounds, with Czech participation conditional on nondisclosure.

The ministers addressed practical aspects of potential ammunition supplies, aiming for a swift delivery to Ukraine. According to the Institute for the Study of War, the delay in Western countries' delivery of artillery ammunition has impacted Ukrainian efforts in Avdiivka.

Safety Prague firefighters freed car stuck on tram tracks

Firefighters in Prague worked to free a passenger car trapped on a tram line in Barrandov on Monday evening. The rescue operation involved collaboration between the city firefighters and the transport company.

The incident underscores the challenges posed by vehicles obstructing tram lanes, prompting coordinated efforts to ensure the safe removal of the car and restore normal tram operations.

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