Czech news in brief for February 5: Monday's top headlines

ANO party continues to dominate opinion polls, She Came at Night tops 2024 Czech Film Critics' Awards, and more headlines. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 05.02.2024 08:30:00 (updated on 05.02.2024) Reading time: 5 minutes

drugs Government may regulate HHC within days

The Czech Ministry of Health is actively working towards finding a solution “within days” to ban the sale of sweets containing hexahydrocannabinol (HHC), a semi-synthetic cannabinoid that has recently caused poisoning in young people. The ministry is considering issuing a precaution or adding HHC to the list of addictive substances.

Expressing concern about the unregulated use of HHC, the national anti-drug coordinator highlighted the need for action. In July, the Ministry of Health had previously proposed a ban on HHC, but the government did not approve this. Instead, an amendment to the law on addictive substances is being drafted to regulate its use, including prohibiting its sale to children. The bill is currently in the lower house of parliament for the second reading.

CRIME Threats against politicians increase in Czechia

According to Deputy Prime Minister Marian Jurečka, there has been a significant increase in threats and verbal attacks against government members and judges in recent months. Jurečka has referred these cases to the police and strongly condemns the attacks on constitutional judges following their decision on pension indexation. 

He emphasized the importance of respecting the independence of institutions and stated that threats and attacks have also been directed towards himself and his family. According to the spokesperson of the Constitutional Court, Kamila Abbasi, judges have received dozens of letters with rude or offensive content in connection with the court's recent decisions.

EURO ADOPTION Survey: Czech small businesses favor euro

According to a survey conducted by the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises and Tradesmen of the Czech Republic, a slight majority of smaller businesses and entrepreneurs are in favor of adopting the euro as a common currency. The survey, which included almost 600 respondents, showed a shift in the views of the business community. 

While previous studies had shown rejection towards the adoption of the euro, this survey revealed that 39 percent of respondents were in favor of adopting it as soon as the Czech Republic meets the Maastricht criteria, and 12 percent were in favor but with reservations. However, approximately four in 10 were against the adoption, and 10 percent did not consider it important.

health Czechia reports big jump in respiratory illnesses

The Ministry of Health's Hygienic Service in the Czech Republic has reported a 50-percent increase in flu cases and an 11-percent rise in respiratory illnesses compared to the previous week. According to the State Health Institute's evaluation, the national epidemic threshold has been surpassed since last week.

The most affected groups of people suffering from the flu are infants and children aged between six and 15 years. Covid-19 positive tests have also been declining, with 1,919 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the previous week. There has been a week-on-week decline of about 25 percent in total Covid-19 cases.

Economy Czech investment group acquires UK power plants

Czech group Sev.en Global Investments, part of Pavel Tykač's Sev.en group, has acquired four gas power plants in the UK, with a total capacity of 2,800 megawatts, from Czech investment group Creditas. The plants, part of the InterGen energy group, supply over a million households and represent a strategic move for Sev.en to expand and grow in the UK energy market.

Sev.en Global Investments had previously co-owned these plants with Creditas, and the recent acquisition gives Sev.en full ownership. The financial details of the transaction were not disclosed. The move aligns with Sev.en's focus on diverse sectors beyond traditional energy.

Economy Czech Labor Ministry to streamline social benefits

The Czech Labour and Social Affairs Ministry intends to streamline and enhance welfare support by merging four benefits into one application. Housing and supplementary allowances, subsistence, and child benefits will combine to simplify the process and better target assistance. Under the proposed changes, closer scrutiny of applicants’ assets and income will be implemented, with the condition of employment or job-seeking for welfare eligibility.

The reform aims to replace at least 16 pages of paperwork with a more efficient system. The newly created state social assistance benefit is set to consider living needs, housing, child support, and a work bonus based on income and work activity. The changes are expected to take effect next year.

Politics ANO party continues to dominate opinion polls

In the latest STEM poll, the opposition ANO party dominates Czech parliamentary election preferences with 33.4 percent, far ahead of the Civic Democrats (ODS) at 13.2 percent and the Pirates at 11.3 percent, both members of the ruling government coalition. The Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party is fourth with 10 percent.

The Mayors and Independents (STAN) and TOP 09 parties, who are part of the ruling SPOLU (Together) coalition with ODS, hold seven and five percent of the vote, according to the STEM Poll. The Czech Communist Party would fall just short of the 5 percent threshold, with 4.8 percent.

Film Dark comedy tops 2024 Czech Film Critics' Awards

The dark comedy She Came at Night (Príšla v noci), directed by Tomáš Pavlíček and Jan Vejnar, claimed top honors at the 2024 Czech Film Critics' Awards, earning Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actress for Simona Peková. Best Screenplay went to Alice Nellis for The Exhale, while Karel Roden received Best Actor for Dance, Matylda.

Tony, Shelly, And The Magic Light won two awards, including Discovery of the Year. Ivan Ostrochovský and Pavol Pekarčík's Photophobia was named Best Documentary, and Daria Kashcheeva's Electra won Short Film of the Year. The Czech Lion competition will award more top Czech films from 2023 on March 9. She Came at Night holds eight nominations.

Economy Analysts expect CNB to lower interest rate

Analysts anticipate a further reduction in the Czech National Bank interest rate, with most expecting a half-percentage-point drop to 6.25 percent. The central bank initiated rate cuts in December, marking the first change since June 2022. Factors such as declining inflation and subdued domestic and foreign demand contribute to the likelihood of a bolder approach.

However, opinions within the bank's board vary, with some favoring caution and others advocating a quicker easing of monetary policy. The decision, to be announced on Thursday, hinges on January inflation data, potentially influencing a thorough debate between a 0.25 and 0.5 percentage-point cut.

International Czech citizen detained in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani authorities have apprehended a Czech citizen for illegally crossing the border from Armenia, as reported by the Azerbaijani state agency APA. The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the detention, citing the reason as an alleged illegal border crossing. The embassy in Baku is working to secure a consular visit for the Czech citizen.

Azerbaijani media suggests he was captured at a checkpoint in a zone near the Armenian border. Azerbaijan and Armenia, historically in conflict over border disputes, experienced renewed hostilities in 2020. The situation remains tense, with ongoing border clashes and an unresolved demarcation process.

Economy Damages caused by natural disasters down in 2023

Insured damages from natural disasters in the Czech Republic decreased by 7 percent to CZK 3.35 billion last year, with the number of incidents dropping by 29 percent to 66,200, reports the Czech Association of Insurance Companies. Fires and storms caused the most damage, while damages resulting from heavy snowfall increased year-on-year.

Generali Česká pojišťovna highlighted strong winds as the most common cause of damages in 2023, followed by hail and rain. Uniqa noted a more localized and less intense occurrence of storms, while Česká podnikatelská pojišťovna reported an almost two-fold increase in damages from the weight of snow.

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more