News in brief for April 14: Kellner investigation nears end, Prague footbridge to open this summer

The top headlines for the Czech Republic on Friday, April 14, 2023, updated daily to keep you up to speed. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 14.04.2023 08:05:00 (updated on 14.04.2023) Reading time: 9 minutes

COMPANIES Amazon to open new, large warehouse in Olomouc

The Czech arm of multinational retailer Amazon has announced today that in June it will open a new distribution center in Přerov, Olomouc. reports that the company aims to employ around 2,000 people at the facility.

According to the general manager of Amazon Czech Republic Michal Šmíd, the new center will allow the firm to expand its product range and support the growing number of businesses that sell goods online. Amazon has been operating in Czechia since 2013, with a total investment of over CZK 26 billion. It currently employs over 4,000 people in the country.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS South Korea investigates Czech doctor for harassment

The Czech embassy in Seoul is currently in discussion with South Korean authorities regarding the actions of a Czech doctor with the rank of lieutenant colonel who allegedly harassed a Korean sanitary officer while under the influence of alcohol.

The incident reportedly occurred in Busan, where the doctor had traveled with a Czech government delegation, though the doctor was not a direct member of the group. The man in question is currently barred from leaving South Korea. Experts say that the event is at risk of damaging Czech-Korean affairs.

ECONOMY Czech windfall tax will yield less money than expected

According to the Czech Ministry of Finance, the government will collect CZK 40 billion from its new windfall tax and electricity levies in 2023, which were passed late last year. This is in contrast with previous expectations that the taxes could yield up to CZK 100 billion.

Minister of Finance Zbyněk Stanjura said that this does not necessarily mean the government’s budget deficit – currently planned at CZK 295 billion for 2023 – will be deeper than expected, because the state will spend on energy than previously anticipated.

politics Populist ANO movement would win general election if held now

According to a survey by the Median polling agency released today, the opposition ANO movement would win a general election if it were held now, with 34.5 percent of the popular vote.

The largest party in the government’s current coalition, the Civic Democrats, trails far behind in second place with 15.5 percent of the vote. The right-wing, Eurosceptic Freedom and Direct Democracy party would come in third position, with 10 percent. This survey symbolizes a strengthening in ANO’s support – a February survey gave the party 32 percent of popular support.

SCIENCE Space mission with Czech tech has lift-off

The European Space Agency’s JUICE (Jupiter Ice Moons Explorer) mission, which features Czech technology, launched this afternoon at about 14.15 p.m. Czech time. This comes after a 24-hour postponement; a risk of lightning in French Guiana (the place of the launch) on Thursday meant that the launch could not take place.

Two teams of Czech scientists from the Czech Academy of Science worked on a device for researching radio and plasma waves in Jupiter's environment, which is on board the JUICE rocket. The aim of the mission is to study three of Jupiter's Galilean moons. You can stream the event live here.

AVIATION Israeli airline close to buyout of popular Czech airline

Israeli airline Israir has announced that it is close to a deal that will see it purchase the most-used Czech airline in Czechia, Smartwings. The buyout is expected to cost about EUR 44 million (just over CZK 1 billion).

Smartwings (previously operating under the name Travel Service) is majority owned by domestic investors, with Roman Vik and Jiří Šimáně holding the biggest shares. Another large shareholder is the Chinese company CITIC. No date has yet been set for the finalization of the acquisition. Smartwings transported 5.2 million people in 2022.

WEATHER Continuous rain to hit Prague, Czechia today

Almost all of Czechia will experience substantial rainfall on Friday, which will continue into the weekend. According to the forecast from the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (ČHMÚ), rainfall will be at its heaviest in South Moravia.

The ČHMÚ has also issued a warning against rising river levels – particularly the River Elbe. Temperatures are expected to reach a daytime maximum of 6 degrees Celsius in the capital Saturday, rising up to 12 degrees on Sunday – despite the continuation of rainfall.

tragedy Kellner investigation delayed due to difficulties accessing wreckage

The final report on the March 2021 helicopter crash that killed Czech billionaire Petr Kellner and resulted in four other deaths and one serious injury, is nearing completion, but will not be published until the summer, more than a year after the accident, Peter C. Knudson of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) told ČTK. Some critical components of the helicopter could not be immediately recovered due to challenging terrain and weather conditions, which caused delays in the investigation.

The widow of one of the victims, Renáta Kellnerová, has filed a lawsuit claiming possible errors by the airline and other entities involved in the rescue operations, alleging that timely rescue could have saved Kellner's life. The family had to take legal action before the two-year statute of limitations for civil lawsuits expired on March 27, 2023.

CONSUMER NEWS Authorities' inspection of food prices reveals 'massive violations'

Findings from the Czech Trade Inspection and State Agricultural and Food Inspection authorities revealed that some vendors have been trying to push food prices as much as possible in recent months, Minister of Agriculture Zdeněk Nekula announced today. He said at a press conference that there were "massive violations of food law" as well as consumer protection law, including unfair business practices.

In 91 out of the 417 inspections carried out, shops were charging a higher price for goods than justified, taking into account how much they paid to obtain the items. According to statistics, the prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages rose by 23.5 percent year on year in March.

SPORTS Pastrňák falls one goal short of Jágr's record

David Pastrňák scored the winning goal for the Boston hockey team in a 5-4 victory against Montreal, finishing the NHL regular season with 61 goals, just one shy of Jaromír Jágr's Czech record. Pastrňák played in all 82 games, finishing third in productivity with 61 goals and 52 assists.

He was named the first star of the match for his performance. Boston broke NHL records for most wins (65) and points (135) in the regular season and will face Florida in the first round of playoffs. Other Czech players, including Radek Gudas, Stanislav Svozil, David Kämpf, David Rittich, and Karel Vejmelka, also had notable performances in NHL games.

PRAGUE Footbridge connecting Holešovice and Karlín in final stages

The construction of a bridge that will connect the districts of Holešovice and Karlín over the Štvanice Island in Prague is in its final stages. The last concrete segments are being placed by the bridge near the Holešovice bank, and the final connection and finishing works will follow. The 300-meter-long pedestrian and cyclist bridge is set to open in early summer. The bridge will not only physically connect the two districts, but also provide a new gateway to the city for residents of Žižkov and improve accessibility to Štvanice Island, which is undergoing a transformation into a new park.

The bridge is also expected to be strategic for cycling, as it will connect cycling paths along both banks of the Vltava River. The bridge is made of high-performance concrete with a white marble-like surface, and its design was selected through an architectural competition organized by the Institute of Planning and Development of the City of Prague. The construction of the bridge began in January 2022.

Economy Pension system unsustainable

The Czech Republic's National Economic Council (NERV) has agreed with the government that the pension system needs modification due to its unsustainable nature. NERV supports adjusting the retirement age based on average life expectancy to align with the present. Tightening conditions for early retirement is also supported to discourage unnecessary usage.

Proposed changes to the pension system and tax system will be presented by the government in May, with the aim of increasing sustainability and affordability. NERV has also proposed adjustments to the pension system's pillars, largely aligning with the government's plans, though there is disagreement on introducing categorizations for retirement age based on the difficulty of profession. NERV was renewed by the government to address public system reforms and transparency.

Diplomacy PM Fiala to visit Asia starting tomorrow

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala is set to visit the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan in a two-week trip to Asia starting on April 15. He will be accompanied by a business delegation, including representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, the Export Guarantee and Insurance Company (EGAP), and the Czech Export Bank.

Fiala aims to explore cooperation opportunities, deepen economic ties, and seek alternative markets to counter Chinese dominance. The trip includes meetings with heads of state, business forums, and discussions on various areas of cooperation, including defense, healthcare, environmental protection, and transport. Specific contracts may also be signed during the visit.

SCANDAL Member of Czech delegation to South Korea accused of harassment

A member of the Czech government delegation in South Korea harassed a sanitary officer at Seoul Airport by drunkenly slapping her on the buttocks, according to local sources. The case is being investigated by local authorities and the Czech Ministry of Defense, under which the doctor falls, and plans to punish him.

The incident may potentially damage Czech-Korean relations, as the local society is sensitive to such cases. The delegation, led by Transport Minister Martin Kupka, is returning to the Czech Republic, but the doctor will no longer be flying with them. The delegation aims to strengthen cooperation in logistics, space activities, and modern technologies with Asian countries.

EDUCATION Fiala confirms that teachers' pay rise will be exclusive

Prime Minister Petr Fiala confirmed Thursday afternoon that a planned pay rise for teachers in Czech schools – at 130 percent of the average national salary – will not apply to other members of teaching staff (such as assistants or school psychologists).

Czechia is currently experiencing a shortage of teachers nationwide due to relatively low levels of pay (at around the national gross wage; CZK 41,000), and Fiala hopes that the salary increase will boost the attractiveness of the teaching profession.

LAW Pavel nominates third Constitutional Court judge

Česká televize confirmed Thursday afternoon that a third potential candidate for a new judge to Czechia’s Constitutional Court is Jan Wintr, a professor from the Department of Legal Theory at Charles University.

President Petr Pavel, in charge of the selection process, has already proposed two candidates: the former head of the Czech Judicial Union Daniela Zemanová, and the former president of the Supreme Administrative Court Josef Baxa. The Senate must approve all nominated candidates – the terms of the three current judges expire on May 3.

energy Czech energy group to install 47 solar power plants by 2025

The Solar Global Group announced today that it will build 47 solar power plants in Czechia – the total cost of the project is estimated to cost over CZK 2 billion and be complete by 2025. The company also announced it would build a publicly available filling station for hydrogen, produced purely from renewable energy sources.

Solar Global aims to produce over 8 tons of emission-free hydrogen annually. The share of solar and wind power plants in the total volume of electricity generated in the Czech Republic last year was 3.7 percent, below the EU average.

SPORT Sparta Prague owner fined for entering referee room

Czechia’s Disciplinary Commission of the League Football Association has today fined Sparta Prague CZK 220,000 for the fact that its owner, billionaire Daniel Křetínský, visited the referees’ room during a half-time league match with Zbrojovka Brno. Křetínský was personally fined CZK 50,000 for his unathorized entry.

The reason for the owner’s entry was to ask the referees for an explanation with regard to two decisions during the match’s first half – he claims to have demonstrated in a polite manner. An appeal from Sparta, currently on top of the Czech First League, is unlikely.

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