News in brief for April 21: Police take aim at speedsters across Czechia today

The top headlines for the Czech Republic on Thursday, April 21, 2023, updated regularly to keep you up to speed.

Expats.cz Staff ČTK

Written by Expats.cz StaffČTK Published on 21.04.2023 08:21:00 (updated on 21.04.2023) Reading time: 8 minutes

ENVIRONMENT Over 100 people in Prague center protest against coal mine

Over 100 people gathered at Prague’s Malostranské náměstí this afternoon to protest against the continuation of mining at the Bílina coal mine in Ústí nad Labem. The ČEZ Group, Czechia’s largest public company, recently received permission to extend mining operations at Bílina until 2035.

The demonstrators – who mainly consisted of young people – demand the government to condemn mining at the site. They also ask for the publication of data on the state of Czech groundwater near a Polish mine in Turów, which lies just a few kilometers from the Czech-Polish border.

INCIDENT Prague police search for man who performed lewd act on tram

Czech police are looking for a man who performed an indecent sexual act on a night tram in front of a 32-year-old woman on the night of Wednesday, April 12. The incident occurred on tram number 9 between the Poštovka (Prague 5) and Hlušičkova (Prague 17) stops.

The woman caught the incident on camera – the suspect is a middle-aged man with short graying hair and a beard. The police urge people with any information to dial 158.

Image: Police of the Czech Republic
Image: Police of the Czech Republic

LEGISLATION Whistleblower bill passed in Czech parliament

The Czech Chamber of Deputies this afternoon passed a bill on the protection of whistleblowers, which aims to safeguard them against the potential revenge of their (former) employers. This comes following an EU directive from 2019 to ensure adequate legislation for whistleblowers – the deadline for this was December 2021. 

The bill only applies to serious types of misdemeanors that a whistleblower exposed. Any retaliatory measures against the whistleblower, according to the new proposed law, would be punishable by a CZK 1 million fine. The Senate must now approve the bill.

CRIME Police accuse Czech volunteer in Ukraine of looting

Czech police have accused a Czech volunteer in Ukraine of looting, according to a statement today by the High Prosecutor's Office in Prague. The 26-year-old man, who had been assisting Ukrainians around late March 2022, is said to have stolen from abandoned houses that he was supposed to protect. 

The suspect ostensibly stole Gucci-brand designer glasses and silver bars while with the Ukrainian army. The man has defended himself, however, saying that he had merely been following the orders of his commanding officer. He faces a maximum of 20 years in jail for his crime.

CRIME Czechs arrested for shooting bear in Slovakia

Three Czech poachers have been arrested after shooting a bear in Slovakia, according to a statement by Slovak police today. The men were caught transporting the dead animal, which they had already dismembered, in their car – all face up to five years each in jail.

A bear is a protected animal in Slovakia, which is illegal to kill for recreational purposes.

education Chamber of Deputies confirms pay rise for teachers

The Czech Chamber of Deputies has today confirmed that teachers of elementary and secondary schools in Czechia will receive a minimum of 130 percent of the gross national wage. However, the Czech lower house noted that this would only apply to regular teachers of curriculum subjects, rather than other teaching professions, such as assistants.

The move is designed to entice more people to the teaching profession – and help with current teacher retention – after a recently rising increase in demand for school spaces and a shortage of teachers. The current national average gross wage is around CZK 41,000 monthly.

ECONOMY Czech year-on-year indebtedness highest in EU

The Czech Republic had the largest year-on-year increase in indebtedness in the European Union in Q4 2022, rising by 2.1 percentage points to 44.1 percent of GDP. However, the deficit of public finances in the Czech Republic decreased to 3.6 percent of GDP in 2022 from 5.1 percent in the previous year. Meanwhile, the indebtedness of the eurozone countries fell to 91.6 percent of GDP.

Eurostat attributed the decline in the debt-to-GDP ratio to higher GDP growth than the growth of public debt in absolute terms. Greece, Italy, and Portugal are the most indebted countries, while Estonia is the least indebted, with a ratio of 18.4 percent of GDP.

Business PPF Group acquires telecommunications company Cetin

The largest domestic investment group PPF's Cetin concern has acquired internet and television content provider Nej.cz from the Kaprain group of billionaire Karel Pražák, HN reported. Pražák, who already owns telecommunications infrastructure in several countries, is selling Nej.cz after an acquisition spree that made it the third-largest player in the Czech market.

AGENCY PROPERTIES

Apartment for sale, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 58m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for sale, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 58m2

K Vystrkovu, Praha 4 - Modřany

Family house for rent, 412m<sup>2</sup>, 1169m<sup>2</sup> of land

Family house for rent, 412m2, 1169m2 of land

Dubová, Praha 6 - Nebušice

Apartment for rent, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 52m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for rent, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 52m2

Pavla Beneše, Praha 9 - Letňany

Apartment for rent, 3+kk - 2 bedrooms, 85m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for rent, 3+kk - 2 bedrooms, 85m2

Nekvasilova, Praha 8 - Karlín

The transaction is still subject to approval by the anti-monopoly office. Nej.cz has almost a quarter of a million active customers and offers optical networks, Kuki Internet TV, and three data centers. The price of the acquisition has not been disclosed, but it is expected to be in the billions of crowns.

UKRAINE Pavel – Ukraine should start EU talks this year

According to President Petr Pavel, Czechia should "put pressure" on the EU to help Ukraine join the bloc. Pavel believes that Ukraine should push for the start of EU accession negotiations this year. He also reiterated his support for Ukraine joining NATO.

The Czech president said he believed nothing prevented Ukraine from joining the EU, and referenced the fact that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed support for this in the past.

MILITARY Czech lower house approves increase to defense spending

The Czech Chamber of Deputies has today passed a government bill that is set to raise the country’s annual defense spending to a minimum of 2 percent of GDP. 

This follows repeated pledges to NATO that Czechia would increase its defense spending, mainly due to the Russia-Ukraine war. The opposition Freedom and Direct Democracy Party voted against the bill. The government has earmarked CZK 130 billion for defense spending in 2024. The Senate and President Petr Pavel will need to pass this bill before it becomes law.

CRIME Czech prison population increasing sharply

The amount of prisoners in Czechia is on a continuous rise while the Czech Prison Service lacks staff, Prison Service director Simon Michailidis announced today.

The number of those jailed has been on the rise since 2021. Last year, the national prison population grew by 400 people – in contrast, since the beginning of 2023 the amount of jailees has risen by 640. "We expect that by this time next year, we will again be in a situation where the capacity for housing prisoners will not be enough," Michailidis warned.

DIPLOMACY European Commission president to visit Prague in early May

The European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen will visit Prague on May 2, Czech President Petr Pavel told journalists this afternoon. Von der Leyen was originally planning to meet Pavel today, but the birth of her grandson today delayed this. The pair will discuss European security, support for Ukraine, and relations between the U.S. and China.

Pavel today comes to the end of his three-day visit to Brussels, where he has also met other EU leaders, such as the European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.

Police Police to target speeders today as part of EU-wide marathon

The Czech Republic will participate in the pan-European Speed Marathon today, April 21, with officials measuring drivers' speed at over 1,000 locations throughout the country. The public voted on the areas that are most in need of a speed check on the Police of the Czech Republic website and the Bezpečné cesty portal.

The focus will be on areas where speed limits are frequently violated. A table of all the locations where speed will be measured can be found on the websites. View the locations for speed monitoring, including those in Prague, here.

politics MPs to vote on defense legislation, whistleblower protection today

The Czech parliament will vote on defense spending, changes to defense legislation, teacher salaries, and the protection of whistleblowers. The SPD opposition movement opposes the defense spending draft, which aims to anchor spending to at least 2 percent of the GDP, expand resident participation in national defense, and allow the Ministry of Defense to use public administration data for defense planning.

An amendment to teacher salaries, limiting the remuneration of only regular teachers to 130 percent of the average gross salary, has drawn criticism. Whistleblower protection is also being extended to cover serious offenses and the European directive on the protection of whistleblowers has been delayed.

Education Academics submit funding petition to Ministry of Education

The Hour of Truth initiative will present a petition to the Czech government requesting an immediate solution to the financial crisis of university workplaces. Academics will hand over the petition to the Ministry of Education and a copy to Prime Minister Petr Fiala. The petition calls for an increase in funding for higher education and a recommendation for universities to direct additional funds to faculties under the most financial strain, such as philosophy and social sciences.

The deans' association of the Faculty of Philosophy has also requested a meeting with the Minister of Education to discuss the issue. The Czech government is considering a potential increase in the university budget.

Diplomacy Ukrainian president bestows honors on Czech leaders

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has awarded the President of the Czech Senate, Miloš Vystrčil, and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Markéta Pekarová Adamová, with state honors for their contributions to strengthening Ukrainian-Czech interstate cooperation and supporting the state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

They will both receive the Order of Prince Jaroslav the Wise, established in 1995, and awarded to citizens of Ukraine and foreign nationals for outstanding services to the Ukrainian state and nation. Vystrčil visited Ukraine last year with a senate delegation to support Ukraine in its efforts to become a member of NATO and the EU.

Culture New museum tells the history of Czech-German relations

A new museum has opened in Plesna, West Bohemia, in a former textile factory to showcase the life of people in the Czech-German borderland during the 20th century. The exhibition tells the story of Adolf Penzel, the son of the last German mayor of Plesna, and the coexistence of the two nationalities in the area.

It also depicts the history and geology of Plesna and its surroundings, including earthquakes, and presents life in the borderland from a Czech perspective, covering the birth of Czechoslovakia and the rise of German nationalism, as well as the expulsion of ethnic Czechs from Plesna.

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