Today's headlines: Daily news refresh for Czechia

The Czech Republic's top news in brief for the week of Oct. 10-14, 2022. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 08.10.2022 12:06:00 (updated on 14.10.2022) Reading time: 16 minutes

Oct. 14, 2022

HEALTH Vaccine against monkeypox made available to more of Czech public

The Czech Health Ministry reported today that more vulnerable members of the public will be eligible to receive a vaccine for the monkeypox virus. These include, for example, people who have been highly sexually active in the last six months and those with recent venereal diseases. It also encompasses people with, or who have potentially been exposed to, the HIV virus.

Until now, the vaccination had been made available to an extremely small group: only for healthcare personnel who were in contact with moneypox carriers, and for people who were in contact with an infected person.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Czechia has to date had 72 total cases of the monkeypox virus and one confirmed death. The World Health Organization notes that, recently, "the case fatality ratio has been around 3-6 percent."

IMMIGRATION Czechia to present migration policy reform plan to EU

The Czech EU presidency will present a draft reform of its asylum and migration policy, which will suggest methods to stem the tide of immigrants traveling from the east of Europe into the EU.

"There is growing alarm along the EU’s eastern edge about a spike in migrants using the Western Balkans — and Serbia, specifically — as a gateway to enter the bloc," Politico states. Serbia, which shares visa-free arrangements with India and Tunisia, has agreed to cooperate with the EU to resolve the issue.

An incoherent response to high immigration numbers among EU member states can cause tensions in the bloc, potentially leading to internal border checks as seen between Czechia and Slovakia.

UKRAINE Fewer Ukrainians claiming humanitarian state aid

The number of Ukrainian refugees receiving the welfare benefit of CZK 5,000 has been gradually dropping in Czechia, the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry told ČTK today. About 141,000 received it in September, which was almost 100,000 fewer than in the spring.

Since February, over 131,700 refugees (the majority of whom are women) have received a job in Czechia, partially explaining the reasons for the sharp decline in welfare claimants. The nation has granted temporary protection visas to 446,100 Ukrainian refugees since the war began.

FUEL Czechia has among most expensive fuel in Europe

Fuel prices in Czechia exceed those in neighbouring countries Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary, the company analyst of investment service Finlord, Boris Tomčiak, told ČTK today.

Today, Czechs can expect to pay CZK 41.92 per liter of fuel, in contrast with 40.9 in Slovakia and 34.3 in Poland. People living close to the Czech border therefore regularly make trips to fill up their tank, which according to Tomčiak can save them CZK 350 on a 50 liter tank.

Hungarians pay the lowest amount, at just CZK 29.6 per liter, following the introduction of a price cap by the Hungarian government (only for vehicles with a Hungarian license plate). Germany had the most expensive price of fuel, at CZK 49.3 per liter. 

MPs to approve bill for low-emission vehicles in public transport

The Chamber of Deputies today will approve a law on low-emission vehicles used in public transport. It imposes a minimum requirement of vehicles with low or zero emissions to be used by companies who are awarded contracts for providing public transport across the country. 

Analyis by GreenMatch, an energy company, found that Czechia is the fourth-most polluted country in the whole of Europe.

ELECTION Meeting between SPOLU and ANO in Prague brings no results

Bohuslav Svoboda, leader of the SPOLU coalition, met with the ANO movement yesterday evening to discuss potential co-operation in the Prague city administration following the September 2022 municipal elections. No tangible progress towards forming a coalition was formed, Seznam Zprávy reports.

A coalition including the Mayors and Independents (STAN) and Pirates is being discussed, however the latter has stated that it does not wish to share the City Hall with Jan Wolf of the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL), who is accused of the manipulation of sports subsidies. 

Svoboda stated last night that negotiations with ANO, who hope to be part of the coalition, are important even if ANO finds itself as the opposition.

"Forming a government over the city naturally consists of coalition actions, but also opposition actions. And that must start from the very beginning in order to define what is needed for the city," said Svoboda.

Oct. 13, 2022

Two dead in Bratislava shooting, suspect found dead

On Wednesday evening a shooting took place in Slovakia's capital, killing two men (under the age of 30) and injuring one other, the Slovak Spectator reports. The suspect, who had been on the run the whole night, was found dead by state police this morning. The police are not ruling out the possibility of a hate crime, as the shooting took place outside an LGBTQ bar in central Bratislava.

General Pavel ranks best in presidential opinion polls

A September opinion poll run by Median agency found that General Petr Pavel would win the first round of the presidential election (due to take place in January 2023). The former military head received 24 percent of the vote, fractionally higher than the 23.5 percent attained by former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. 

The result marks the first time since September 2021 that Pavel has polled higher in popularity than Babiš. This may be reflective of the public's growing dissatisfaction with Babiš's muddy legal issues. It is not clear yet whether the Slovak billionaire will run for president. 

Oct. 12, 2022

RUSSIA Czech Senate unwilling to grant visas to fleeing Russians

The Czech Senate stated today that Russians leaving their country in order to avoid mobilization did not meet the conditions for being granted a Czech humanitarian visa and may pose security risks.

The Senate also states that "each escalation of Russian aggression must be strongly reacted to by further military, economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine." 

The Czech Minister for European Affairs Mikuláš Bek (Mayors and Independents) told senators that the government would strongly castigate Putin’s aggression at the upcoming summit of the EU leaders and European Commission, to take place during Oct. 21-22.

Up to 200 Russians are traveling to Czechia across international airports daily. The Chamber of Deputies in Czechia is in agreement with the approach of not granting visas to fleeing Russians.

Karel Pezl, Czechoslovakia's last chief of staff, dies aged 95

General Karel Pezl, who was the last-ever chief of staff of the Czechoslovak army and the first holder of this position in Czechia, died on Monday.

Pezl had served in the army since 1948, and became colonel general of the Czech army in February 1993. Later that year, he became the army general of Czechia. In 2017, President Milos Zeman awarded the Order of the White Lion - the highest order in Czechia - to Pezl.

The renowned military figure had served as an adviser to Václav Havel, the president at the time, in the 1990s and played an instrumental role in safeguarding the country's security. The current army's chief of staff tweeted earlier: "he earned our good name at home and abroad...thanks to him, the military won big respect in the 1990s."

ANO comes top in September general election poll

The senior opposition ANO movement would win the Czech general election with 30.5 percent of the vote, according to a September opinion poll, reports ČTK. The Civic Democrats came in second place, with 16 percent, followed by the current junior opposition, Freedom and Direct Democracy, with 11 percent.

This differs with results of the 2021 legislative election 12 months ago, wherein ANO and SPOLU (a coalition of parties that includes the Civic Democrats) both received about 27 percent of the vote share. In this opinion poll, SPOLU would have received a smaller vote share, at 24 percent. Support for ANO increased, rising by 1.5 percentage points compared with the August poll.

ČEZ Group's shares fall for third consecutive day

The government's proposal to tax excessive profits of some companies continues to frustrate economists and investors. Following the Ministry of Finance's proposal on Friday last week to further tax energy, banking, petroleum and fossil fuel companies, shares of ČEZ, an energy conglomerate in Czechia, fell to about CZK 800. This marked its third day of decline in a row.

Since June the shares have declined in value by 34%, and the current price is at its lowest in the past six months. The government hopes to raise CZK 85 billion with the tax adjustments,

SUMMIT EU energy ministers to meet in Prague today

Energy ministers of EU countries continue their two-day meeting to discuss all things energy in Europe at the Prague Congress Center, ČTK reports. Today's topic of conversation will be hydrogen supplies and preparation levels for the upcoming winter. Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala hopes to progress towards a pan-European approach that would help large firms with energy costs in situations when individual state budgets are unable to provide full assistance.

Polish pipeline leak won't affect Czechia

A leak was discovered in a pipeline that carries oil from Russia to Europe. PERN, Poland's leading crude and fuel-logistics company, discovered the leak in the Druzhba pipeline yesterday. This particular pipeline was travelling westwards to Germany, and so the damage shall not affect Czechia in any form. The causes are unknown, yet are not being treated with suspicion: "here we can talk about accidental damage," a leading energy official in Poland, Mateusz Berger, told Reuters.

Oct. 11, 2022

Politics Czech Interior Minister plays down idea of Czech-German border checks

Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakušan (Mayors and Independents) hopes to avoid the introduction of checks between the Czech-German border, as had been suggested by the CDU-CSU, a German coalition of conservative parties. Random checks had been taking place on the border to help prevent the spread of migrants moving into Germany - usually coming from the Middle East. Rakušan said that the number of migrants detained on the Czech-German border was near zero earlier this week.

INFLATION Czechia posts record 18 percent inflation in September

The Czech Statistical Office today showed that inflation increased by 18 percent year on year in Czechia, following an increase of 17.2 percent in August. Utility costs - chiefly, energy and fuel - were the main drivers of the increase, registering annual inflation of almost 25 percent.

Prices for food and non-alcoholic beverages also rose significantly, by 21 percent annually in September. Consumer prices rose at a higher-than-expected rate on a monthly basis, posting 0.8 percent monthly inflation, rather than the anticipated 0.2 percent

Economy Czech Labour Minister calls for increase to minimum wage from January 2023

Marian Jurečka, the Labour and Social Affairs Minister, has proposed an increase to the monthly minimum wage in Czechia, so that it equals 41 percent of the average national wage. The change would be implemented in January 2023.

According to the government, this would imply a monthly increase of 350 crowns. Citing skyrocketing inflation, trade unions don't see this as enough.

Czechia won't close embassies or withdraw diplomats from Ukraine

Czechia does not plan to withdraw diplomats from Ukraine or temporarily close its diplomatic missions there, including the embassy in Kyiv, Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský told the Ukrinform agency Monday, following the massive Russian rocket attacks on Ukrainian cities.

"Our embassy in Kyiv continues operating. All necessary measures have been taken. The embassy is being protected by a security team who coordinate their steps with Ukrainian bodies," the foreign minister said.

Apart from the embassy, the Czech Republic also has a general consulate in Ukraine, seated in Lviv. The Czech honorary consulates in Dnipro and Kharkiv have been temporarily closed.

Hundreds gather in Prague to protest Russian air strike

Several hundred people protested against the Russian bombing of Ukrainian cities Monday evening on Wenceslas Square in Prague. The participants of the event, which included Czechs and refugees from Ukraine, condemned the Russian missile attacks and called on the West to support Ukraine more strongly.

Colllision brings Prague train line to a halt

A locomotive and two tanks of a freight train derailed between Poříčany and Nymburk on Monday evening. Traffic on the corridor between Prague and Cologne will probably be closed until Wednesday. Two people were slightly injured, and, according to early estimates, the damage is CZK 4 million.

Oct. 10, 2022

Russian Czech leaders condemn Russian missile strikes on Ukraine

The missile attacks on Ukraine "are another obvious manifestation of Russian cynicism and barbarism. Targeting civilians is cowardly,” the Czech Foreign Ministry tweeted today after Russian forces dropped 75 missiles at Ukraine Monday with fatal strikes targeting the capital Kyiv, Lviv, and other cities.

The ministry appealed to Russia to stop the war. Prime Minister Petr Fiala also condemned the attacks on the Ukrainian capital in a Tweet.

ENVIRONMENT Mining in Turów to be extended, Greenpeace to sue

The Turów lignite mine has received a new positive environmental impact assessment from local authorities that allows mining to continue until 2044, iDnes reports. The environmental organization Greenpeace says it will go to court to have the decision reversed. The mine is situated close to the Czech-Polish border, and only 15 kilometers away from Liberec in northern Bohemia. In addition to noise and increased dust, Czech residents fear the mine will lead to the loss of groundwater and soil subsidence.

PRIZE Havel prize awarded today

Imprisoned Russian opposition politician and columnist Vladimir Kara-Murza won the Václav Havel Prize for 2022. The prize is awarded by the Council of Europe and the Václav Havel Library. The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize is an annual €60,000 award that honors "outstanding" civil society action in defense of human rights, in Europe and beyond. Individuals, non-governmental organizations, and institutions working to defend human rights anywhere in the world may be nominated. This is the tenth year of the prize; Kara-Murza's wife accepted on his behalf.

Politics Most Czech presidential candidates support Green Deal

Most Czech presidential candidates agree with the principles of the Green Deal, but some say Europe should take into account the current situation, a survey conducted by ČTK shows. Energy Regulation Office former head Alena Vitásková strongly opposes the Green Deal, labeling it "green terror." Candidate Karel Janeček agrees with the idea of transitioning to renewable and green sources of energy but a more complex and well-considered vision is needed across the bloc.

COVID New Covid variant detected in Czech Republic

Experts have discovered a second case of the coronavirus variant Omicron BA.2.75, the so-called Centaurus in the Czech Republic, the National Institute of Public Health (SZU), said in its regular weekly report. Centaurus seems to be able to evade current vaccines and treatments and those who have already been infected with Covid are likely not protected against this variant. The first case of Centaurus was detected in Prague in late August, and the second one in Hradec Králové in mid-September.

Military Defense Minister wants to reinforce country's protection

Czech Defense Minister Jana Černochová would change regulations to enable more effective protection of the country's critical infrastructure due to the Russian aggression against Ukraine and its effort to weaken the arms industry in countries that help Ukraine, she said in an interview with Czech Television Sunday evening. Černochová would give more power to the military police and the military intelligence in an effort to help secure better protection of important buildings and premises. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Czechia strengthened its attempts to monitor crucial parts of the critical infrastructure.

Oct. 9, 2022

Media Czech carmaker Škoda shows off at NHL Global Series

The Nashville Predators swept the San Jose Sharks 2-0 to kick off the 2022-23 NHL season in Prague this weekend, but Czech carmaker Škoda stole the show with a unique augmented reality advertisement that combined footage from Prague's O2 Arena with animation played out over the ice.

During the spot, two Škoda vehicles decked out as a shark and a saber-toothed tiger were joined in the arena were joined by giant animals. "It is a unique project in the context of the whole of Europe, nothing like it has ever been implemented here," said Tadeáš Drahorád from Go4Gold, the company behind the advert. "Thanks to this technology, brands can draw the viewer into their story like never before."

Sports Barbora Krejčíková to face Iga Świątek in Ostrava Open final

Czech tennis star Barbora Krejčíková will compete for her second straight WTA title today, but she has her work cut out for her. Krejčíková will face off against world #1 Iga Świątek from Poland in the final at the Ostrava Open from 14:30 this afternoon. Krejčíková topped Elena Rybakina yesterday 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 to advance to today's final.

Last weekend, Krejčíková topped first-seeded Estonian Anett Kontaveit to win the Tallinn Open, her fifth career WTA title. Świątek has won both the US Open as well as the French Open this year; Krejčíková took home the title at Roland Garros last year. The two have faced each other twice before, with Świątek winning both previous matches.

Food & Drink Czech brewer Budvar wary of remaining out of Russian market

Czech brewer Budvar halted exports to Russia shortly after the war in Ukraine began, and isn't likely to resume them this year, its director Petr Dvořák told The loss of sales from the Russian market is estimated at around 250 million crowns, but the company is wary of remaining out of Russia for another reason: maintaining its trademark.

The Czech Budvar previously left the American market in 1939 on the eve of WWII; an American Budweiser created by Adolphus Busch would go on to become one of the world's largest beer brands. When McDonald's left the Russian market earlier this year, it was reportedly replaced by a local variant.

Economy September inflation expected to hit 17.2 percent

Year-on-year inflation in the Czech Republic is expected to have slightly fallen for the second month in a row, down to 17.2 percent, according to analysts contacted by the Czech News Agency. The Czech Statistical Office will publish official data on September inflation on Tuesday, October 11.

According to analysts, food prices saw the largest increases in September, spurred mostly due to soaring energy costs. Raiffeisenbank analysts predict year-on-year inflation to have reached 17 percent in September; if correct, it will be the first time since 2020 that month-on-month inflation in the Czech Republic has been zero.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Protest Czech trade unions to stage large protest in Prague today

Tens of thousands of protesters are expected to participate in a demonstration staged by Czech trade unions in the center of Prague this afternoon. According to Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions leader Josef Středula, the demonstration is in no way extremist or pro-Russian. Union leaders are demanding price caps on food, energy, and rent, as well as an increase in minimum wage.

The demonstration, called "Five Minutes After Twelve", accuses the current Czech government of insufficient response to soaring inflation and energy prices. The event will begin at Prague's Wenceslas Square from 12:05 p.m. this afternoon.

Sports Nashville tops San Jose to kick off 2022-23 NHL season in Prague

The Nashville Predators topped the San Jose Sharks 4-1 to kick off the 2022-23 NHL season in Prague on Friday evening. New Nashville signings Nino Niederreiter and Kiefer Sherwood both scored goals to lead the Predators to victory. “All of the new guys to our team obviously contributed a lot,” Nashville coach John Hynes tolf reporters after the game. “The style, the game they played really fits the identity we want to play.”

Prague native Tomáš Hertl scored a goal for the Sharks in the first period, much to the delight of Czech hockey fans in attendance. San Jose signed Hertl to a $65.1 million (about 1.6 billion in crowns), eight-year contract extension to remain with the team during the offseason. The two teams will play again this evening at Prague's O2 Arena to conclude the first series of NHL games in Europe since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Politics Czech Defense Minister doesn't mince words against Putin

Czech Minister of Defense Jana Černochová posted a selfie to social media wearing a t-shirt with the words "f*** you Putin" yesterday, reflecting her feelings about recent developments in the war in Ukraine. The shirt also bears the image of a skeleton with an armband in the colors of the Ukrainian flag giving the middle finger.

The t-shirt is part of a fundraiser titled Dárek pro Putina (Gift for Putin). All money raised from the sales of t-shirts and other items available through the fundraiser (including a new "Make Kaliningrad Czech Again" cap) goes to the Ukrainian Embassy in Prague and is used to buy equipment for Ukraine's armed forces.

Food Prague bakery sets new record for Czech Republic's largest loaf of bread

A new record has been set in the hotly-contested race to bake the largest loaf of bread in the Czech Republic. Prague bakery Mareš & Sons unveiled a 39-kilogram loaf of bread that measured over four meters in circumference on Thursday to claim the new title, topping the previous record set in 2013.

The idea to bake the largest loaf of bread in the country was initiated by Vojtěch Mitas, a Plzěn student who came up with the concept as part of a competition to reach out to U.S.-based Czech YouTuber Jon Marianek.

Politics Politico: Prague's EU summit leaves more questions than answers

This week's informal EU summit, which came to a close in Prague on Friday, left "a myriad" of questions, writes Politico. European leaders failed to come to a consensus on plans to combat soaring energy prices, postponing any potential actions until after their next meeting.

Friday's meeting took far longer than expected, and showcased a deep divide among EU countries over plans on how to fight the current energy crisis, Politico reports. While the Prague summit was only an informal meeting, leaders had expected to at least establish some preliminary framework agreements on how to proceed.

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