Czech news in brief for May 31: Army Chief of Staff doubles down on NATO-Russia conflict claims

The top headlines for the Czech Republic on Wednesday, May 31, 2023, updated throughout the day to keep you up to speed. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 31.05.2023 08:00:00 (updated on 01.06.2023) Reading time: 7 minutes

education Over half of Czechs view school capacity as inadequate

A survey by the NMS Market Research company has found that half of the Czech public believes that secondary schools’ capacity nationwide is “insufficient.” Over half of people also saw the government’s response to tackling the lack of school spaces as being poor. 

Two-thirds of people believe that prospective pupils should be able to apply to more than two secondary schools. The poll also found that people in the capital and Central Bohemia encountered the most capacity problems. The government has committed to resolving the problem by increasing teaching capacity – partly by raising teachers’ salaries – and constructing new schools.

legislation Senate passes new defense-spending bill

The Czech Senate today passed a government bill that means Czechia’s annual defense spending will be at least 2 percent of GDP. The soon-to-be law is based on the Czech Republic's repeated pledges to NATO that it will increase its defense spending, which it hasn’t substantially done so for two decades.

The bill is to come into force in July and will apply to next year's state budget. The Defense Industry’s budget will increase by CZK 22 billion. Annual defense spending is set to reach around CZK 130 billion.

diplomacy Pavel takes surprise train journey to Austria

Petr Pavel this afternoon traveled to Austria by using a public train, rather than by plane or car, to the surprise of many regular passengers. 

Pavel will spend two days in Austria, where he will discuss security affairs with Austrian Minister of Defense Klaudia Tanner. The president of Austria, Alexander Van der Bellen, will also present his Czech counterpart with military honors. Pavel will additionally meet with the chairman of the Austrian National Council, Wolfgang Sobotka.

sport Czech tennis doubles pair unexpectedly crash out of French Open

Czech women’s doubles players Barbora Krejčíková and Kateřina Siniaková suffered a surprise upset in the first round of the French Roland Garros tennis tournament, falling to Norwegian-Japanese duo Ulrikke Eikeri and Eri Hozumi 6:3 2:6 2:6.

The Czech pair had won the Roland Garros title on two occasions, and have already won one Grand Slam (a major tennis tournament) in Australia earlier this year. Krejčíková also dropped out in the women’s singles draw after a Tuesday defeat.

environment Czech mock award for anti-environmentalists comes to an end

The Czech environmental “Oil Guzzler” mock award has ended after 30 years, the Children of the Earth non-governmental organization confirmed today. The award ostensibly met its purpose of “of sarcastically honoring persons who supported, promoted or even implemented a form of anti-environmental activity.” The last winner of the mock prize was then-environment minister Richard Brabec of the ANO movement.

However, the Green Pearl award – also organized by Children of the Earth – given to the most ludicrous, anti-ecological statement shall continue. Results will be announced on June 30.

industry Electric cars double in volume on Czech market

Around twice as many electric cars are on the Czech market compared with 2019, data from automotive firm Aures Holdings shows. Last year saw 3,153 electric cars for sale in Czechia, compared with just 1,476 in 2019. The number of hybrid cars on the market has also almost doubled – from 3,060 in 2019 and 6,600 last year.

Operations director of car-selling firm Petr Vaněček explained that rising energy and fuel costs have spurred interest in electric vehicles.

politics President praises nominees for Constitutional Court judiciary

In a speech to the Senate today, President Petr Pavel commended those who are nominated to be judges of the Constitutional Court – Josef Baxa, Jan Wintr, and Daniela Zemanová – emphasizing their excellent reputation. He urged the Senate to clearly state any objections or reservations if they choose to reject the candidates. 

Pavel highlighted the impressive backgrounds of Baxa, a former president of the Supreme Administrative Court, Wintr, a constitutional law professor, and Zemanova, the former head of the Czech Judges' Union. Recognizing the importance of preserving Czech constitutionalism, he emphasized the gradual selection of candidates to replace two-thirds of the 15 judges by the following June.

war Chief of Staff repeats comments on NATO-Russia conflict

Czech Chief of General Staff Karel Řehka has reasserted his claim that a conflict between NATO and Czechia cannot be ruled out. He had made the same claim earlier this week. 

Today he mentioned that he does not believe either side is planning a large-scale conflict.  He added that Russia is becoming more hostile and less predictable. Řehka emphasized that “nobody wants it, not even the Russians.” According to Řehka, the war in Ukraine shows that the benefits of Czech membership in NATO must be valued.

Politics Minister of Labor to negotiate with trade unions

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Marian Jurečka, expressed his willingness to negotiate with trade unions and sees no rational reasons for a general strike. He is open to discussing minor changes with the unions during the holidays when the consolidation package is scheduled for the second reading in the Chamber of Deputies. Jurečka's response came after the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions (ČMKOS) announced their readiness for a nationwide protest.

While Jurečka is willing to engage in negotiations, the decision to convene the tripartite meeting with employers, trade unions, and government representatives rests with the prime minister. The trade unions have established a national strike committee and are calling for an extraordinary tripartite meeting to discuss the government's proposals.

protests Anti-government demonstrators gather in Prague

Some 200 hundred people protested in Prague's Malostranské náměstí Tuesday, demanding the resignation of the government and calling for signatures to a petition against the treaty on defense cooperation with the U.S. Protestors waved paper doves and Russian and Czech flags, as well as Communist Party (KSČM) flags.

A similar protest took place in front of the U.S. Embassy a week ago upon signing of the Czech-U.S. Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) by the two states' defense ministers in Washington. Protestors demanded the resignation of the Petr Fiala's government and called on Defense Minister Jana Černochová to stay in the U.S. after she signed the treaty.

transport Faster train connecting Prague and Liberec in the works

The state has decided to build a faster railway connection between Prague and Liberec after completing eighteen studies, reports Zdopravy. The Central Commission of the Ministry of Transport approved the feasibility study for the Mladá Boleslav – Turnov – Liberec – state border line. The new railway will reduce travel time from over 140 minutes to 69 minutes.

The project, estimated to cost CZK 51 billion, includes double-tracking in some sections, electrification, and the cancellation of the existing track from Turnov to Liberec. The construction is expected to start in the next decade, although the approval is just the first step towards that goal.

Sports Climbing World Cup begins in Prague Friday

Renowned climber Adam Ondra succesfully completed training for the upcoming Climbing World Cup on boulders in Prague's Letná district Tuesday. Ondra showcased his skills to the media, effortlessly completing most of the routes with the exception of the final boulder, which took several attempts. He described the challenging nature of the climb, highlighting the need for coordination and strength.

Ondra said he sought out boulders in Prague that aligned with the modern racing style, as finding suitable routes in the Czech Republic can be difficult. These training sessions serve as a mental boost for Ondra, providing confidence before the competition. His focus is on qualifying for the semi-finals in the men's event.

Education Czech teachers' salary to be guaranteed by law

A new amendment to the education law in the Czech Republic proposes guaranteeing teachers a salary of around 130 percent of the average gross nominal salary starting next year. The proposal, which has been recommended for approval by the senate education committee, narrows the salary guarantee to teachers only, excluding other education staff.

Minister of Education Mikuláš Bek has acknowledged the need for compromise and interpretation with trade unions. The amendment also allows professionally educated university students to teach subjects for a limited period and introduces the position of an accompanying teacher to enhance teaching practices. The draft aims to strengthen the authority of school principals in determining teaching methods.

Sports Nosková advances to second round of French Open

Linda Nosková advanced to the second round of the French Open, while Barbora Krejčíková and Marie Bouzková were eliminated. Nosková's opponent, Danka Koviničová, retired from their match, giving Nosková the victory. Krejčíková lost to Lesja Curenko, and Bouzková was defeated by Wang Sin-yü.

Additionally, world number two Daniil Medvedev was knocked out in the first round by Thiago Seyboth Wild after a four-hour battle. German player Alexander Zverev made a successful return to Roland Garros after a previous ankle injury, while world number one Iga Šwiatek won her match convincingly.

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