Czech news in brief for February 26: Monday's top headlines

Czech MPs to vote on same-sex marriage this week, Prague Stock Exchange on the cusp of 16-year-high, and more headlines. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 26.02.2024 08:30:00 (updated on 26.02.2024) Reading time: 4 minutes

Politics V4 to discuss Fico's Ukraine stance in Prague

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala anticipates Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico’s stance on Ukraine will influence discussions at Tuesday’s Prague's Visegrad Group (V4) summit. Fiala, departing for a meeting in Paris on aid to Ukraine, invited the leaders of Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary. Despite differences between Fico and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Fiala emphasized the importance of dialogue.

Fico’s recent remarks, questioning the need for aid to Ukraine and criticizing the West’s strategy, raised concerns. The V4 summit will address EU enlargement, Ukraine’s situation, regional cooperation, defense, energy, and migration. Fiala stressed the necessity of unity on crucial EU issues.

LEGISLATION HHC to be banned in Czechia from next week

The European Commission has upheld the Czech government’s decision to ban psychoactive substances HHC, HHC-O, and THCP, effective from next week. The substances will be added to the list of prohibited addictive substances due to increased intoxication of children and adolescents reported by hospitals.

The ban, set to expire on Jan. 1, 2025, will be followed by an amendment regulating the sale of these substances as psychoactive. Possession will become a misdemeanor with fines of up to CZK 15,000 and possible jail time for larger quantities. The Health Ministry recommends disposing of products containing these substances as hazardous waste.

Politics Czech president arrives to event via parachute

Czech President Petr Pavel surprised attendees at the Aviation Athlete of the Year gala by jumping a parachute before the event. In a broadcast by Czech Television, Pavel, a former paratrooper, has mentioned starting his parachuting experience before age 15. Despite security concerns, the Presidential Protection Unit ensured his safety during the jump.

The president, favoring the Antonov An-2 aircraft for its speed and safety, later attended a gala dinner in Usti nad Labem. Pavel, 62, is known for his love of motorcycle riding, having faced criticism previously for riding without a helmet. Transport Minister Martin Kupka also participated in the parachute jump.

weather Warm February speeds up spring in Moravia

The unusually warm February has accelerated the arrival of spring in South Moravia, with snowdrops blooming for over two weeks. Almond trees near Hustopečí in the Břeclav region are already blossoming, three weeks earlier than usual. Climatologists noted that the current temperatures, surpassing five degrees Celsius, typically seen in late March, mark an extreme year.

Meteorologists predict February to be the warmest in Czech history, with temperatures around ten degrees throughout the month. Despite concerns of early blossoms leading to frost damage, the mild winter has positively impacted soil saturation and groundwater reserves, the best since 2015.

Legal Czech MPs to vote on same-sex marriage this week

Members of the Czech Chamber of Deputies will vote on a parliamentary amendment to legalize marriage for same-sex couples this week. No other bill is currently up for final approval. The amendment to the Civil Code is contentious, dividing MPs on whether to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples or maintain the traditional definition of marriage.

Additionally, an extraordinary meeting will discuss the Czech Republic's stance on the EU migration pact. Other legislative matters include amendments to commercial company transformation, consumer dispute resolution, and the Water Act. Elections for the Council of Czech Radio will also take place.

ECONOMY Prague Stock Exchange on the cusp of 16-year-high

Shares of Czech stocks on the Prague Stock Exchange are on the cusp of a 16-year high, propelled by robust performances in bank stocks amidst a favorable global market. Analysts remain optimistic about the market's trajectory in the coming weeks, with particular attention on the forthcoming financial results from key players like Erste.

The Prague Stock Exchange is inching closer to the significant milestone of 1,500 points, a level not seen since June 2008. This resurgence underscores a potential resurgence in investor confidence and bodes well for the Czech stock market's continued growth.

POLITICS Pavel opts out of Ukraine talks in Paris

President Petr Pavel has opted out of the Paris summit on Ukraine and designated PM Petr Fiala to lead Czech talks, confirms spokesperson Eva Hromádková. The delegation, including national security adviser Tomáš Pojar, aims to bolster cooperation in supporting Ukraine amidst Russia's aggression.

French President Emmanuel Macron and UK PM Rishi Sunak have pledged further assistance on the invasion's second anniversary, while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz calls for European defense bolstering. The EU has expanded sanctions against Russia, with the US preparing additional measures on the second anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine.

CRIME Man arrested in Pilsen with grenade launcher

Police in Pilsen apprehended a man who made threats to kill others online over the weekend. Upon searching his residence, officers discovered a hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher and ammunition. The individual faces charges of threats of violence and illegal possession of weapons.

The suspect was arrested in cooperation with the police intervention unit. A similar incident occurred in Prague this week, where a man threatened violence online and was found with an illegally held submachine gun during a subsequent search. Both individuals are in custody, facing serious charges.

ECONOMY Czechia has received CZK 2 trillion since joining EU

Since joining the EU in May 2004, the Czech Republic has received a substantial CZK 2 trillion from European sources, while contributing CZK 876.6 billion to the EU budget by the end of 2023. The largest share of income, 44 percent, stemmed from structural funds aimed at bolstering economically weaker regions, with a quarter allocated to agriculture and a fifth to the cohesion fund for supporting economically vulnerable EU states.

Notably, the NextGeneration EU (NGEU) project has been a significant revenue source in recent years, with CZK 39.5 billion received last year alone. Despite obligations to transfer funds to the EU budget, the Czech Republic's membership has proven financially beneficial, with EU revenues consistently exceeding expenses.

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