Czech news in brief for January 22: Monday's top headlines

Memorial to shooting victims created at Jan Palach Square, two-thirds of Czechs against euro adoption, and more headlines. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 22.01.2024 08:30:00 (updated on 22.01.2024) Reading time: 5 minutes

Czech police detain 4,742 illegal migrants in 2023

Czech police detained 4,742 individuals for illegal transit migration in 2023, marking a significant decrease from 2022's 21,852 arrests but an increase from 2021's 1,330 detentions, according to Czech police chief Martin Vondrášek. The decline is attributed to border controls implemented in coordination with Poland in October. Most refugees, primarily Syrians, aimed for Saxony.

Border checks, extended until Feb. 2, curbed transit migration through Czechia. Prosecutions against people traffickers rose to 388, with most from Ukraine. Smugglers, notably Ukrainians, Czechs, Syrians, Uzbeks, Georgians, and Germans, transported refugees in cars and vans, becoming more aggressive in 2023.

Travel German train strike to impact Czech connections

German railway company Deutsche Bahn (DB) passenger train drivers will strike from Wednesday to Monday, while freight transport will be impacted from Tuesday evening, announced the GDL trade union. The protest seeks higher wages and better working conditions, affecting millions of passengers and disrupting industry.

Despite DB's recent offer, the union insists on a reduction to 35 hours per week with full pay, a monthly wage increase of EUR 555 euros, and a one-time EUR 3,000 euros compensation. DB rejects these demands, proposing up to a 13 percent wage increase and a EUR 2,850 bonus. The strike will impact connections with the Czech Republic.

EU Conference marks 20 years of Czechia in EU

Czech EU Commissioner Věra Jourová emphasized the Czech Republic's evolving role in shaping the European Union's future during a conference marking the 20th anniversary of Czech EU membership. Jourova highlighted the country's influence in EU affairs, its attractiveness to investors, and the benefits of EU participation during the pandemic.

She stressed the importance of the upcoming European elections in determining the EU's direction. Jourova and other Czech EU commissioners expressed the need for institutional reforms linked to EU enlargement. Discussions on veto power and key existential problems were also raised, with calls for a reevaluation of Czech national interests.

politics Fiala faces fine for undeclared credit-union stake

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, also the Civic Democratic Party chairman, faces a CZK 50,000 fine for failing to declare ownership of a stake in the Podnikatelská družstevní záložna credit union. Seznam Zprávy revealed the omission during an investigation into suspicious financial transactions at the institution.

Fiala claimed ignorance, considering the credit union account a regular bank account. He plans to rectify the situation and investigate the oversight. The credit union, currently under scrutiny for missing funds, requires members to own a share. Fiala, facing potential misdemeanor proceedings, may pay the fine for incomplete asset declarations.

weaterh Freezing rain, ice to complicate Monday transport

Severe freezing rain and ice formation are forecasted for the eastern half of the Czech Republic on Monday, with the Pardubice region facing a potential ice thickness of up to ten millimeters. Meteorologists issue the highest level of danger warning, cautioning about transport and energy complications, and a possible catastrophic situation in areas with intense ice formation.

A cold front moving from the northwest is expected to bring freezing rain, with ice up to five millimeters thick in most regions. Additionally, a strong wind with gusts of around 70 kilometers per hour is predicted in specific areas, exacerbating the hazardous conditions.

Money Survey: Two-thirds of Czechs against euro adoption

More than two-thirds of Czech citizens believe that adopting the euro in the country won't be beneficial for them, according to a survey conducted by Median for Radiožurnál. Conversely, about one-fifth of the population sees the advantages of adopting the common European currency.

The survey reveals that 60 percent of respondents would prefer to decide on euro adoption through a referendum. Students (45 percent) and entrepreneurs (40 percent) are more likely to view the euro as beneficial. The debate on euro adoption intensified after President Petr Pavel's New Year's speech, advocating concrete steps towards euro introduction, while opinions within the government coalition remain divided.

Culture Shooting-victims memorial created at Palach Square

Students from Charles University created an installation titled Common Landscape on Sunday at Jan Palach Square, using paraffin from candles left at two memorial sites dedicated to the victims of last year's shooting at the Faculty of Arts. Participants melted and poured paraffin onto pre-arranged sheets in a symbolic act representing shared grief and healing.

Organized by students from the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, the event coincided with the partial reopening of the Academy of Arts. The artwork, along with the memorial fire, will remain until the end of January, stored for potential use in future commemorative events.

Legal Czech court likely to decide voting abroad issue

The proposed introduction of correspondence elections for Czechs living abroad is likely to head to the Constitutional Court after a resolution was not found among MPs, according to a discussion by Radim Fiala, head of the opposition SPD parliamentary club, and Jakub Michálek, head of the government Pirates, on Nova TV.

Michálek suggested leaving the decision to the Constitutional Court, to which Fiala agreed. The opposition parties argue that the proposal is unconstitutional, while the government maintains it would facilitate voting for Czechs abroad. The matter is expected to unfold further in parliamentary discussions.

Health Severely ill Czech boy to get treatment in France

A Czech boy suffering from a severe form of AADC syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, flew from Brno to France for specialized treatment following a fundraiser that earned over CZK 150 million crowns in donations. The two-year-old's condition affects neurotransmitter metabolism in the brain, causing severe symptoms. While conventional treatments provided partial relief, the hope lies in gene therapy.

While local health insurance refused to cover treatment costs of approximately CZK 100 million for gene therapy, people rallied to support the cause. The family expressed gratitude, emphasizing the impact of collective generosity on the child's chances for a better life.

Military Defense Minister addresses 'unsettling' statements

Czech Minister of Defense Jana Černochová addressed concerns regarding Chief of the General Staff Karel Řehka's recent statements, emphasizing the need to dispel the "illusion of eternal peace" amid global uncertainties. While Černochová stressed realistic preparation for potential threats, former Defense Minister Lubomír Metnar criticized Řehka's rhetoric, deeming it unsettling.

Černochová also confirmed a contract to purchased 24 F-35 aircrafts from the United States by the end of March, with the total cost reaching CZK 150 billion. Metnar expressed ANO's desire to revisit the purchase decision, citing budget concerns and the less-than-ideal transition from Gripens to F-35s.

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