Czech news in brief for January 10: Wednesday's top headlines

Czech lawmakers debate gun reform, today's German train strikes will cancel some Czech routes, and a rescue app gets an important update.

Expats.cz Staff ČTK

Written by Expats.cz StaffČTK Published on 10.01.2024 07:39:00 (updated on 10.01.2024) Reading time: 5 minutes

HEALTH Czech ministers confirm support for anti-drug campaign

In a government meeting today, Czech cabinet members supported a campaign to raise awareness about the harmful effects of drugs and the misuse of medicines. Interior Minister Vít Rakušan stated that the campaign, which also aims to reduce driving under the influence of addictive substances, received CZK 11 million from the police and has a total cost of CZK 107 million. 

The campaign, which includes The Addicts TV series, is targeted towards young people and aims to educate them about the risks of drug abuse and driving under the influence. Rakušan believes that the police's investment in the campaign will be effective.

LAW Court confirms 21-year jail term for Czech fighting for Russians

This afternoon, the Czech Court of Appeal upheld the 21-year prison sentence of Alojz Polák, a 52-year-old man from Brno who fought in the ranks of Russian separatists in Ukraine and killed at least four members of Ukrainian government units as a sniper between 2016 and 2020. He first worked as a sniper, later as a platoon leader. 

Chairman of the appeals panel Jan Kadlec stated that it was indisputable that Polák participated in the fighting and there is no doubt about his involvement in the killings. Public prosecutor Marek Bodlák pushed for a 25-year sentence, but the court deemed 21 years to be appropriate.

crime Headquarters of Czech Television gets defaced

Unknown individuals vandalized the Czech Television (ČT) headquarters in Prague with red paint, defacing the building’s façade to criticize ČT’s Israel-Hamas conflict coverage. The damage, estimated at around CZK 20,000, prompted police extremism and terrorism investigators to review CCTV footage. 

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ČT director Jan Souček confirmed that the vandalism happened at about 4 a.m by a “group” of people. Neither ČT nor the Czech police have divulged the exact words that the graffiti spells out.

DIPLOMACY Czech PM encourages closer co-operation with India during visit

During a meeting in India today, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed strengthening cooperation between their countries in the development of nuclear energy and small modular reactors. They also agreed on a strategic partnership in the field of innovations, covering areas such as medicine, artificial intelligence, and cybernetics. 

Interestingly, Fiala also requested support from Modi for acquiring more Indian lions for the Prague Zoo. The Czech prime minister emphasized the importance of finding reliable democratic partners in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war, and stated that India will play a key role in this regard. The two countries will also sign a strategic partnership in innovations, focusing on advanced industry and applied research in areas such as energy and infrastructure.

ECONOMY Survey: CEOs in Czechia expect only small decline in inflation

According to a survey by consulting firm PwC, 43 percent of Czech company CEOs still expect inflation to be between 6 and 10 percent this year, while more than half anticipate price increases for their products and services. The Czech National Bank predicts a decrease in inflation and reduced rates at their last meeting. 

However, nine out of 10 CEOs believe inflation will still be between 3 and 10 percent, with only one percent expecting it to meet the central bank's 2 percent target. This shows a decrease in concerns about inflation compared to last year. Inflation averaged over 12 percent in full-year 2023.

HEALTH Czechia spent over CZK 1 million on Covid-19 antivirals in 2023

Health Minister Vlastimil Válek announced today that the Czech Republic spent over CZK 1 billion on Covid-19 antivirals last year, advocating for cost-effective vaccination over costly drugs. Czechia's public health officer Pavla Svrčinová assured the situation remains stable without major epidemic measures planned. 

Válek warned about the highly contagious JN.1 sub-variants spread, originating from BA.2.86 Pirola. The State Health Institute's report notes JN.1 accounts for 16 percent of cases. Válek highlighted antiviral costs at CZK 20,000 per patient, contrasting the lower expense of vaccination. He also mentioned adequate supplies of Lagevrio, citing a 30-percent reduction in Paxlovid production.

Policy Czech lawmakers to debate gun legislation

Prague lawmakers will discuss potential gun law reforms following a December shooting at Charles University's Faculty of Arts, where a student killed 14 people. Proposed changes include mandatory psychological tests for gun license applicants and requirements for dealers to report suspicious transactions. The STAN movement, led by Interior Minister Vít Rakušan, supports psychological testing, while critics, including the ANO movement, deem them impractical.

The government's draft aims to reduce the regular medical review period for gun owners and grant police authority to order inspections. The law also enables doctors to check patients' gun licenses and mandates reporting health issues to police. The proposed rules may take effect in 2026 after centralizing the weapons register.

Travel Czech trains canceled due to German strike

Train drivers in Germany, protesting at Deutsche Bahn (DB), have initiated a strike affecting both domestic and international routes, including connections to the Czech Republic. The DB company anticipates canceling approximately 80% of usual long-distance services, with regional connections also facing significant reductions.

Despite DB's legal attempts to halt the strike, the regional labor court in Frankfurt am Main rejected their efforts. The strike, scheduled to conclude on Friday at 18:00, coincides with nationwide farmer protests in Germany, raising concerns about additional disruptions, including demonstrations and highway blockades. The extent of transportation issues may persist even after the strike's conclusion.

Tech Czech rescue app makes important update

The Czech Rescue application introduced a revamped system for emergency calls, eliminating the need to hold the button for three seconds. Users can now simply press the button and choose between "Cancel activation" or "Call for help." Opting for the latter initiates a five-second countdown to dial 155.

The change aims to streamline the emergency calling process, promoting a quicker and more efficient way to seek help while reducing the likelihood of inadvertent calls that may burden EMS dispatch centers, according to the application's statement.

energy Czechia and France to cooperate on nuclear energy

Czechia and France are set to collaborate on joint nuclear energy projects following an agreement between the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic and the French National Research Agency. Czech Minister of Industry and Trade Jozef Síkela and French Minister for Energy Transformation Agnés Pannierová-Runacherová announced the partnership, focusing on securing financing for nuclear energy development.

The ministers emphasized the role of nuclear energy in Europe's energy transition and decarbonization. Both countries, as members of the Nuclear Alliance, aim to ensure favorable conditions for nuclear energy development in the EU. The meeting also discussed the upcoming decisions on a new nuclear unit in Dukovany.

Sports Czech team rallies in Dakar race

In the ongoing Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia, Czech team Orion – Moto Racing Group faced challenges in the shorter fourth stage. Milan Engel expressed dissatisfaction, encountering issues with navigation on stones. Despite finishing fourteenth, Martin Michek climbed to ninth place overall. Dušan Drdaj secured an impressive 25th position, maintaining the best newcomer standing.

Engel, in 31st place, and Martin Prokeš, 47th, also navigated difficulties. Jaromír Romančík faced setbacks with his motorcycle but hopes for repairs before the fifth stage. The team experienced sleep-deprived conditions in a shared tent during the marathon bivouac. The rally continues with potential disruptions.

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