Czech news in brief for February 28: Wednesday's top headlines

Vote on same-sex marriage slated for today, food prices cheaper, but analysts advise caution, and a third of Czech journalists consider quitting. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 28.02.2024 09:00:00 (updated on 28.02.2024) Reading time: 5 minutes

MARRIAGE FOR ALL Opposition obstructs gay-marriage vote

The opposition Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party this afternoon obstructed the vote on the "marriage for all" amendment for same-sex couples in the Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday, with deputy member Jan Síla giving a long speech against gay couples and their ability to raise children. 

The debate on same-sex marriage had been interrupted for an extraordinary meeting on the EU’s migration pact and was resumed at 4:30 p.m. The marriage equality debate is expected to continue until this evening or even later.

ECONOMY Czechia has medium-strength economy in EU

According to the 2024 Index of Prosperity and Financial Health, the Czech Republic has the 14th-strongest economy in the EU, but has dropped by two positions since 2023. This is attributed to low added value and high inflation, despite having a diverse and complex industry. The index was jointly created by Česká spořitelna and the Europe in Data portal. 

The Nordic countries, led by Sweden and Denmark, remain at the top of the EU rankings, with Germany in third place. On the other end of the spectrum is Greece. Inflation remains a major issue for the Czech Republic, with the country having had the second-highest harmonized index of consumer prices in the EU last year, at 12 percent.

ANIMALS Over 10,000 hens euthanized due to bird flu

This morning, workers euthanized 13,000 hens from a breed infected with bird flu in a Vysočina town. The neighboring hall had 11,500 hens slaughtered in mid-February. Despite initially being spared, the State Veterinary Administration confirmed bird flu in the farm during tests. 

Local authorities say the infection may have come from a nearby farm in the village of Valdíkov, where bird flu was found in duck breeding. In the Czech Republic this year, five large farms have been hit by highly pathogenic avian influenza of the H5N1 subtype, with three located in the Třebíč region. 

ARMS Czechia signs military contract with Israel firm

The Czech army has signed a contract with Israeli manufacturer Elta Systems for the service and logistics support of Mobile Air Defence Radar (MADR) systems. The support, including the supply of spare parts, will cost CZK 4.3 billion until the radars' service life ends in September 2044. 

The Czech army last purchased eight MADR mobile radars in 2019, with the last one arriving in December 2020. The system is expected to be fully operational by the second half of 2024. The Israeli radars will replace the obsolete Russian-made radar equipment in the arsenal. The army has long pointed out that the radars used so far have long exceeded their lifespan.

ISRAEL-HAMAS CONFLICT NGO asks state to give more money to Gaza

The Let's Talk About It non-governmental organization, featuring former Czech ombudsman Anna Šabatová, has appealed to the government to join international aid efforts in Gaza and push for a ceasefire. The group, which includes human rights activists and political scientists, states that it is not enough to only express intentions, action must be taken immediately to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. 

The appeal comes following a letter from over 80 personalities criticizing the Czech government's support for the current Israeli government. The Let's Talk About It platform appreciates some of the government's steps and their humanitarian aid of CZK 5 million.

LGBTQ+ Pavel gives support to same-sex marriage

Czech President Petr Pavel stated today on social media that he sees no reason to restrict rights based on sexual orientation. This comes as the Chamber of Deputies prepares to vote on an amendment legalizing same-sex marriage. In a video address to a Senate conference in June, Pavel expressed his belief in the principle of freedom and equality for all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation. 

He does not view the marriage-for-all law as a revolution, but rather as a rational, fair legal framework. The lower house is divided on the draft amendment, with supporters arguing it will straighten out people's rights and opponents insisting on the traditional concept of marriage as between a man and a woman.

POLITICS Opposition leader slams EU migration pact

ANO chairman Andrej Babiš has this morning in parliament criticized the EU Migration Pact, calling it a "monstrous agreement hiding refugee quotas for EU countries." He accused Prime Minister Petr Fiala's government of preparing for – but not supporting – the pact due to public opinion. Babiš stated that the pact would allow the redistribution of migrants from Asia and Africa with a different culture and mentalities. 

He also accused Fiala of fulfilling “pro-migration and eco-fanatic tasks” in Brussels. On Feb. 8, the European Parliament and EU member states agreed on a compromise form of the pact, with Czech representatives abstaining from voting.

Legislation Vote on same-sex marriage slated for today

The House of Representatives faces a crucial vote on the possibility of same-sex marriage today, with proponents emphasizing equal rights and opponents advocating for traditional marriage. The Constitutional and Legal Committee’s lack of support for amendments adds uncertainty.

Additionally, an extraordinary meeting, prompted by the opposition movement YES, addresses the EU migration pact, where the coalition government’s changed stance is questioned by ANO MPs, accusing it of encouraging migration. The meeting’s fate is uncertain as the majority refuses to support its draft program.

Politics V4 leaders debate agriculture, migration, energy

Visegrad Four (V4) Prime Ministers, including Petr Fiala of the Czech Republic, convened in Prague Tuesday to address agricultural, energy, and migration issues. The group jointly opposed altering EU founding treaties and advocated streamlining the standard agrarian policy.

Discussions highlighted the necessity of amending the Green Deal and adjusting the free trade agreement with Ukraine. Cooperation on nuclear energy, combating illegal migration, and preserving the EU structure were also key points of consensus among V4 leaders. The V4 countries have different positions in the form of support for Ukraine.

Economy Food prices cheaper, but analysts advise caution

According to the Czech Statistical Office, food prices in the country, including butter, milk, and sugar, have generally decreased in February compared to last year and January this year. Control purchases totaled 862 crowns, down from 884 crowns in January.

However, analysts note discounts drive apparent reductions, with basic list prices remaining relatively high. Notably, beer prices have increased due to a VAT hike, affecting both shops and restaurants. Analysts expect no significant further price drops.

Jobs A third of Czech journalists consider quitting

A study reveals that nearly a third of Czech journalists are contemplating leaving the profession due to financial struggles in the media industry. Over 25 percent are considering exiting journalism altogether, citing low remuneration, work overload, and balancing work and family challenges.

Sexual harassment affects 75 percent of female journalists. The survey, involving 470 participants, identifies the media’s poor economic state as the most significant issue, with 83 percent highlighting low financial compensation as a concern. Work overload and achieving work-life balance also contribute to journalists’ dissatisfaction.

Culture Czech director's film gets French critics' award

Czech director Vaclav Marhoul’s 2019 film The Painted Bird secured the French Film Critics’ Circle Award, Prix Curiosite. The nearly three-hour black-and-white adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s novel has earned recognition at 72 international festivals, winning 37 major prizes.

It premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in 2019, receiving critical acclaim and the Cinema for UNICEF award. The film has been distributed in over 20 countries, with over 100,000 viewers in Czech cinemas.

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