Czech news in brief for February 23: Friday's top headlines

FBI to assist in university shooting investigation, Czech president to meet Ukrainian refugees today, and Prague book fair announces Kafka-themed lineup.

Expats.cz Staff ČTK

Written by Expats.cz StaffČTK Published on 23.02.2024 09:05:00 (updated on 23.02.2024) Reading time: 5 minutes

PRAGUE District mayor fined for anti-Palestine remarks

A Prague court has imposed a fine on Prague-Řeporyje Mayor Pavel Novotný for his statement on a social network that Palestinians are monkeys and should be bombed. Novotný intends to appeal the decision and has not disclosed the amount of the fine, though hinted it was not more than CZK 100,000. 

The court found him guilty of defamation and incitement to hatred, which carries a prison sentence of up to three years. He made the statement in response to a terrorist attack by the Palestinian group Hamas in December 2023. The ruling Civic Democratic Party, of which  Novotný is a part, has distanced itself from the politician’s remarks. He has since apologized and deleted the post.

REFUGEES Ukrainian refugees have generated CZK 35bn

According to data released by the Labor Ministry for the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine, Czechia has seen an increase in revenue from refugees' insurance fees and taxes, surpassing the costs of their emergency accommodation and benefits. This trend began in the third quarter of 2023 and has continued to show an increase in funds collected from those with temporary protection status, while aid paid out has decreased. 

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Since the start of the war, the Czech Republic has spent CZK 47.5 billion on refugees, but has already received 35.5 billion crowns back in income and excise taxes and VAT. The ministry notes that refugees' participation in the labor market has contributed to this positive shift in balance.

UKRAINE-RUSSIA WAR Most Czechs support quick end to war

Results from a poll by the STEM research agency released today have found that 69 percent of Czechs believe their country should support a quick end to the war in Ukraine, even if it means Russia gaining some Ukrainian territory. The remaining respondents would support Ukraine in trying to regain occupied territories, with a majority of young people also favoring a quick end to the war. 

Most Czechs see Russia as the main instigator of the conflict and support Ukrainian refugees staying in the Czech Republic. Last year, polls showed that the majority of Czechs want their country to remain neutral between the West and East, with only 4 percent wanting to align with the East and two-fifths preferring to align with the West.

TECHNOLOGY Czech Avast firm ordered to pay millions in fines

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that Czech software company Avast must pay USD 16.5 million (CZK 386 million) and ordered it to stop selling user data for advertising purposes in the U.S. The FTC found that Avast's UK-based subsidiary, Jumpshot, engaged in illegal activities by collecting and selling user data without appropriate notification or consent. 

Avast has stated that this agreement only affects their now-closed subsidiary and will not significantly impact their current or future operations. The FTC alleges that Avast misrepresented how it used user data collected through its browser extension and antivirus software.

ECONOMY Confidence in Czech economy falls

According to the Czech Statistical Office, confidence in the Czech economy decreased by 1.9 points in February to 90.6 (100 points represents a neutral score, anything below is pessimistic) – the lowest it has been since September of last year. This decrease was driven by a decline in entrepreneurs' confidence, while consumer confidence increased. 

This follows a decrease in confidence in January, which had previously risen for three consecutive months. Analysts believe this decrease reflects a slow economic recovery. Entrepreneur confidence specifically fell by 2.8 points to 89.9 points, with decreases reported in most major categories except for construction, which saw a slight increase.

UKRAINE EU ambassadors present anti-drone weapon

Nineteen EU ambassadors in Prague presented a portable anti-drone weapon to Ukraine's embassy today, one day before the second anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The EDM4S SkyWiper device was purchased with personal funds by 17 ambassadors from different EU countries and was made in Lithuania. 

According to Lithuanian ambassador Laimonas Talat-Kelpsa, the diplomats wanted to remind people that every contribution is crucial in supporting Ukraine until victory is achieved. German ambassador to Czechia Andreas Künne said the gift was a message of solidarity sent to Ukraine, adding that verbal support was not enough.

Crime FBI to assist in university shooting investigation

The investigation into the Charles University shooting will see collaboration with the FBI, as confirmed by Director Christopher Wray. In an interview with Lidovky.cz, Wray commended Czech police for aiding in thwarting a planned U.S. school shooting. The FBI, expressing condolences for the college shooting that claimed 14 lives in December, revealed ongoing support for the Czech police.

Wray highlighted the timely exchange of information, originating from an anonymous tip in the Czech Republic, preventing a potential tragedy in Alabama. Details on FBI's involvement and the ongoing investigation were not disclosed.

Invasion Czech president to meet Ukrainian refugees today

President Petr Pavel is set to meet Ukrainian war refugees at Prague Castle today, acknowledging their contributions to the Czech Republic. This gathering, organized by the presidential office, highlights Ukrainians who have established businesses or aid fellow compatriots. The meeting coincides with the second anniversary of the Russian invasion.

Prime Minister Petr Fiala stated that the Czech Republic has provided shelter to 384,000 Ukrainian refugees and granted temporary protection to 590,000 during the war. Fiala emphasized that employment is a primary income source for refugees, with 117,200 Ukrainians working in the Czech Republic as of January.

Economy Czechia calls for protection of gas market

The Czech Republic, along with Poland, Slovakia, Austria, and Hungary, is urging enhanced protection of the gas market in response to concerns about potential new fees and trade barriers for gas transportation through individual countries. The move aims to prevent higher energy prices for consumers.

Minister of Industry and Trade Jozef Síkela emphasized the collective effort to reduce dependence on Russian gas and warned against disrupting this achievement. The countries argue that introducing fees could lead to market fragmentation and unequal conditions, favoring Russian gas. They called on the Belgian presidency to discuss the issue at a March 4 energy ministers' meeting.

Culture Prague book fair announces Kafka-themed lineup

The 29th World of Books Prague International Book Fair and literary festival, from May 23 to 26, will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Franz Kafka’s death. Unlike previous editions, there won’t be a specific guest country; instead, the focus will be on the Das Buch project, highlighting German-language literature.

The program includes presentations of fiction, comics, children’s literature, and philosophical texts. Special attention will be given to Kafka’s legacy, exploring his work and its influence on various cultural aspects. The festival will feature sections like Literature as a Voice of Freedom and honor Czech literary figures. Last year's attendance reached 60,000 visitors.

EU Court of reduces Czechia's fine for subsidy errors

The Court of Justice of the European Union reduced the Czech Ministry of Agriculture's fine for subsidy errors during a 2017 inspection from over one billion crowns to approximately 470 million. The European Commission initially fined the Czech Republic CZK 7.5 billion for insufficient verification of direct payment subsidies to farmers.

Unsatisfied with the reduced penalty, the ministry plans to appeal, claiming the EU inspectors didn’t fully address Czech arguments. The Ministry contends that the European Commission exceeds legal regulations and enforces controls not stipulated in legislation. The government representative will be consulted on the matter.

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