Czech news in brief for February 9: Friday's top headlines

Average mortgage rate nationwide drops to 5.6 percent, ex-ombudsman questions Czechia's Israel-Palestine stance, and more top headlines. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 09.02.2024 09:04:00 (updated on 09.02.2024) Reading time: 6 minutes

TRAFFIC Police issue more highway fines in 2024

In January, the police issued four thousand fines to drivers for lacking a highway stamp, marking a 10-percent increase compared to the previous year, as revealed by chief police commissioner Hana Rubášová. Total fine collections surged by one-quarter, totaling CZK 4.6 million. 

On average, drivers paid CZK 1,100 per offense – CZK 100 more than last January. Meanwhile, the price of highway stamps will rise in March. Rubášová emphasized that the beginning months of any year witness a surge in fines for lacking valid highway stamps due to forgetfulness. The penalty for driving without one can amount to a fine of CZK 5,000 on the spot or up to CZK 20,000 in administrative proceedings.

religion Pope Francis appoints archbishop of Olomouc

Pope Francis has officially appointed Bishop Josef Nuzík as the new Archbishop of Olomouc. Nuzík, currently the administrator of the Archdiocese, will be inaugurated on April 13, filling the vacancy left by Jan Graubner's departure in mid-2022. 

The selection process, conducted in secrecy, involved consultations among the apostolic nuncio (a papal ambassador to a foreign court or government) and collaborators, with the results relayed to the Vatican. Bishop Nuzík expressed gratitude for the trust placed in him and thanked Pope Francis and the Apostolic Nuncio. Parish spiritual directors were instructed to ring bells in Olomouc and display diocesan banners in celebration. 

MILITARY Almost 200 Czech soldiers given awards

This afternoon the Czech Minister of Defense honored 195 Czech soldiers – recognized for their service in recent military missions in Lithuania, Latvia, Kosovo, Mali, the Central African Republic, and the Golan Heights – with medals during a ceremony at the National Memorial on Vítkov Hill.

Zdeněk Koreczki, former commander of military police in Kosovo, received the Cross of Merit of the Minister of Defense, while three soldiers were awarded badges of honor. The Kosovo mission significantly benefited the military police, enhancing skills like crowd management and demonstration expertise. Deputy Defense Minister Daniel Blažkovec commended the soldiers for exemplifying the Czech army's professionalism abroad, and Deputy Chief of General Staff Miroslav Hlaváč expressed gratitude for their service to Czechia.

FINANCE Labor Minister announces disability-care rise

Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Marian Jurečka has announced that care allowances for the disabled and elderly will increase from July. The total amount of allowances will vary depending on the level of dependence. The increase will range from 11 to 40 percent, with those in the fourth stage receiving the highest increase of 40 percent.

Levels of disability in Czechia are assessed in stages. Those in social institutions (fourth stage) will see an increase of CZK 3,800 monthly, while those in the third stage will receive an additional CZK 2,000, and those in the second stage will get CZK 500 more. The first stage allowance will remain at CZK 880.

WEATHER River levels to fluctuate over weekend

According to the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (ČHMÚ), the recent floods in the Czech Republic caused by rain and melting snow in the mountains are expected to decrease on Saturday. However, there is a possibility of rising water levels again on Sunday due to predicted rainfall. A total of 14 places have already reported flooding, with the upper Elbe basin and Jizera basin at risk of reaching flood levels. 

ČHMÚ spokesperson František Šopko stated that water levels in the upper Vltava basin have returned to normal, but the Ohře River below the Skalka water reservoir will have a flood alert throughout the weekend. The Jizera basin is now included in the warning, while the Moravian Sázava basin is expected to have fluctuating water levels.

crime Police solve 20-year case of murdered baby

The Czech police have successfully solved a 20-year-old murder case in Krupka, thanks to advancements in genetic research. Martin Charvát of the regional police announced that the father and mother of the newborn victim were traced, with the mother confessing to the crime.

The woman says was deemed unable to comprehend the consequences of her actions at the time. The baby was found in a plastic container by a homeless man in 2004, and the case was dropped as the perpetrator could not be located. However, in collaboration with the police command and the Criminal Investigation Institute, the case was reopened, and the perpetrator was identified through DNA testing. 

housing Average mortgage rate dips to 5.6 percent

According to newly released Swiss Life Hypoindex data, the average mortgage rate in early February dropped to 5.6 percent, the lowest since June 2022. Swiss Life Select's mortgage analyst, Jiří Sýkora, noted a continual decline in rates, with all fixations now below 6 percent. 

For a 25-year loan of CZK 3.5 million at 80 percent property value, the monthly installment decreased by CZK 761, to CZK 21,710. Over 12 months, repayments decreased by CZK 1,630 on average. Ten-year fixations saw the most significant drop, down 0.6 percentage points, to 5.4 percent. One-year fixations fell to 5.85 percent, while mortgages for young adults dropped to 5.33 percent.

MIDDLE EAST Ex-ombudsman criticizes Czechia's Israel stance

Anna Šabatová a former ombudsman in Czechia, expressed concern over the Czech Republic's staunch support of Israel in the Middle East conflict, which sets it apart from other democratic countries. She and other prominent figures called for a change in the government's position, citing a violation of international law. 

In an open letter to the government, president, and foreign affairs committees, they stated that the Czech government's stance is unacceptable, especially in light of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The letter was signed by notable individuals, including priests Tomáš Halík and Bishop Václav Malý.

CRIME One-the-run convict returned to Czechia

On Thursday, Czech police escorted Josef Šindelka, a wanted Czech fraudster, from Argentina to the Czech Republic after years of evading a prison sentence. The Czech Aviation Police, along with international police organization Interpol, worked together to secure his extradition. After hiding on multiple continents, Šindelka is now in a Prague prison and will face further proceedings. 

The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs began negotiations for his extradition in November of last year, and the Ministry of Justice submitted an extradition request in 2023. Šindelka's return was made possible through cooperation with Argentina and an assurance of reciprocity, as there is no extradition treaty between the two countries.

PRAGUE SHOOTING Charles Uni Arts Faculty to reopen fully Feb. 19

Vice-dean of the Faculty of Arts at Charles University Michaela Slussareff informed Czech Television Thursday that Charles University’s Faculty of Arts will resume normal teaching operations from Feb. 19. Following the recent shooting, most subjects, including those in the main building, will be conducted as usual. 

While the fourth floor will remain closed, teaching activities will proceed with minimal disruptions, albeit with less emphasis on performance – academically and economically’ wellbeing will be prioritized. The Faculty of Arts at Charles University plans a pre-opening event on Feb. 16, fostering an informal gathering for students and staff before the semester starts.

MUSIC World-famous conductor appointed at Czech Philharmonic

Sir Simon Rattle, a renowned British conductor, has signed a five-year contract as the chief guest conductor of the Czech Philharmonic. He will work alongside chief conductor Semjon Byčkov and Jakub Hrůša, forming a triumvirate that will shape the orchestra. Rattle's title, "in honor of Rafael Kubelík", was given to him at his request and with the consent of Kubelík's family. He was greatly influenced by Kubelík in his artistic direction and first saw him conduct at the age of fifteen.

According to the director of the Czech Philharmonic, Rattle's addition will bring a significant boost to the orchestra, expanding their repertoire and developing their artistic potential. Rattle's first performance with the Czech Philharmonic was in 2019, and he will present a variety of works in the upcoming season, including Dvořák's Slavic Dances, Janáček's Glagolitic Mass, and Kurt Weill's Seven Deadly Sins.

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