Czech news in brief for January 17: Wednesday's top headlines

Highway accident involving 30 cows stops D8 in both directions, Prague Airport issues travel alert, and Czech building stirs up controversy in NYC. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 17.01.2024 07:46:00 (updated on 17.01.2024) Reading time: 5 minutes

POLITICS Czech opposition head calls Austrians 'morons'

ANO party leader Andrej Babiš in a parliamentary debate this afternoon named Austrian citizens "morons," attributing this to the presence of the left-wing Greens party in the Austrian government. Babiš accused Austria of neglecting the D3 highway construction towards České Budějovice, blaming the pro-environment party for necessary hold-ups in construction.

He claimed Austria would complete the highway to the Czech border by 2031, five years after the Czech side is due to finish construction. Babiš urged Prime Minister Petr Fiala to address the issue in a bilateral meeting with the Austrian chancellor, upcoming in April. Coalition members of parliament widely condemned Babiš' comments.

weather Extreme weather warning alert for north Czechia

The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (ČHMÚ) has warned of serious weather-related danger from this evening till Friday morning in the northern Czech Republic, specifically the belt that connects the Jizera Mountains to the Jeseníky Mountains in the country’s north, due to widescale ice. Temperatures are set to dip to colder than minus 10 degrees Celsius in the mountainous regions.

Walking and driving in the region may become nearly impossible, according to the ČHMÚ. Meteorologists have declared an extreme-danger level, with precipitation between 2 to 5 millimeters expected to freeze upon impact, forming hazardous ice layers. Over half the country, including Prague, currently faces a high-level alert for widespread ice. Only parts of Zlín in the south-east of the country face no warnings.

VOTING Czech govt. debates postal voting

The Chamber of Deputies is currently engaged in heated debate on the contentious proposal for postal voting for Czech expats living outside the country. The session, prompted by government members of parliament, may be prolonged due to potential obstruction from opposing parties ANO and the Freedom and Direct Democracy party. 

Chamber President Markéta Pekarová Adamová backed the motion, asserting that postal voting would simplify the exercise of civil rights for Czechs living far from polling stations. Pirate Party leader Jakub Michálek advocated for what he termed voting modernization, citing successful implementations in Slovakia and the UK. Minister of the Interior Vít Rakušan also backed the idea, noting that it was not at all “revolutionary.” ANO leader Andrej Babiš insisted that expatriates should return to vote in person.

housing Real estate tax rise won't hike rents

Representatives from the Rental Housing Association (ANB) have today said that the increase in Czechia’s real estate tax, effective since the beginning of the year, is expected to have minimal impact on rent prices in apartments. In a 60-square-meter apartment, the annual increase is estimated to be between CZK 200 to CZK 800, translating to a 0.5 to 1 percent rise. 

The ANB says that landlords may not pass on a large-scale rent increase to tenants, as it would be taxed regardless. Additionally, many municipalities did not raise their real estate tax after Jan. 1. The country's property tax rate has increased by up to 80 percent since the new year. 

economy Eurostat: Czechia has EU's highest inflation

The inflation rate in the EU increased to 3.4 percent in December from 3.1 percent in November, according to Eurostat. The Czech Republic has the highest inflation at 7.6 percent, while Denmark has the lowest at 0.4 percent. 

During an interview at the World Economic Forum, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde stated that the ECB will likely lower interest rates in the summer. In the eurozone, inflation rose to 2.9 percent from 2.4 percent in November, while a year ago it was at 9.2 percent. Other countries with high inflation include Hungary (5.5 percent), Poland (6.2 percent), and Slovakia (6.6 percent).

diplomacy Pavel visits wounded Israeli soldiers

Czech President Petr Pavel today visited wounded soldiers, including actor Idan Amedi from Fauda, at a hospital in Tel Aviv during his two-day visit to Israel. He then traveled to Qatar and is scheduled to meet with the Emir and defense minister in Doha. 

Pavel wrote on social media that he was happy to fulfill the request to visit the soldiers and their families. He also plans to meet with expatriates at the Czech Embassy in Doha. According to Pavel, Qatar has a strong influence on the leadership of Hamas. He has previously pledged his full support to Israel.

traffic Cattle-truck collision closes D8 on both sides

A truck carrying cattle overturned on the D8 motorway near Veltrus in Mělnick, central Bohemia, has resulted in the closure of both sides of the highway between exits 8 and 19. No injuries were reported in the accident, but at least two cows died, with potential injuries to others during the transshipment.

The closure, expected to last until 1 p.m., diverts traffic through road 608. Police are investigating the cause of the incident, emphasizing the need for caution to prevent cows from escaping during the transfer, posing risks of further accidents. The veterinarian-ordered transshipment involves over 30 cows.

Travel Prague airport issues weather alert

Prague Airport issued a cautionary notice to passengers on social media network X, anticipating complications and delays on today due to adverse weather conditions. The airport advises travelers to exercise caution and allocate extra time for airport arrivals.

Passengers are encouraged to stay informed by checking their carrier's website for real-time updates. Lufthansa, for instance, announced that it anticipates heavy snowfall and freezing rain to impact flight operations through Thursday.

Anniversary Jan Palach anniversary remembered abroad

In Brussels, a gathering in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre commemorated the 55th anniversary of Jan Palach's self-immolation in Prague, protesting communist hardliners. Diplomats and Czech community members laid flowers at his bust. Czech Ambassador Jakub Skalnik highlighted global threats to freedom and democracy, citing Russian aggression in Ukraine. He emphasized Palach's enduring relevance.

Benoit Cerexhe, Brussels district mayor, attended the ceremony. Palach's marble bust, adorned with stylized metal flames, has adorned the square in front of the Franciscan monastery since 2001. The event underscored the ongoing significance of Palach's act in the context of contemporary challenges to freedom.

International Czech building in NYC at center of controversy

The Moms for Liberty movement is stirring controversy as it plans an event at the Czech National Building in Manhattan. Critics, including Mayor Mark Levine and State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, denounce the group for opposing LGBT rights, supporting book bans, and harassing teachers.

Despite calls to cancel the event, Czech diplomacy, led by Minister Jan Lipavský, cites contractual obligations. Lipavský, disapproving of the movement, plans changes to require consulate permission for future events. Meanwhile, opponents, including Congressman Jerry Nadler, plan a demonstration against hate and bigotry. The Moms for Liberty movement has faced criticism for book bans and alleged ties to extremist groups.

Politics Schillerová likens Pekarová Adamová to Medvedev

In a social media dispute, ANO's Alena Schillerová likened House leader Markéta Pekarová Adamová to Russia's Maria Zakharova. Pekarová Adamová urged Schillerová to apologize for the comparison. The disagreement arose from Schillerová defending her stance on prioritizing peace over war preparation.

The exchange escalated with Schillerová accusing Pekarová Adamová of resembling Dmitry Medvedev. Prime Minister Petr Fiala called for Schillerová's apology and post deletion. The Interior Minister criticized Schillerová's statement as "blunt." Pekarová Adamová responded that "The wretchedness of your reaction is like Russia. It doesn't know borders."

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