News in brief for Aug. 11: Top headlines for Czechia on Friday

Czech films screen at Toronto Film Festival, Czech banks see decline in profit, and Czech president goes on holiday. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 11.08.2023 08:30:00 (updated on 11.08.2023) Reading time: 5 minutes

HOUSING Ostrava's largest district to get new residential complex

A new residential neighborhood with almost 240 apartments will be built in Ostrava's most populous Jih district, according to municipality spokesperson Gabriela Pokorná. The project in the Středoškolská locality will also include parking spaces, a park, and sports facilities. The investor of the project will be Linkcity Czech Republic, which will pay at least CZK 29 million without VAT for the land. Phased construction should begin in 2027. 

The location's accessibility, amenities, and innovative design aim to provide quality housing. The project also emphasizes affordability by giving a 25-percent discount on 10-year rents for one-tenth of all the newly built apartments.

CRIME Pilsen court to sentence 18-year-old rapist in Pilsen

A court in Pilsen is expected to decide today on the custody of an 18-year-old foreigner whom police on Thursday accused of the rape and attempted murder of a 15-year-old girl in the city, police spokeswoman Pavla Burešová has said today.

Police confirmed today that the accused is a foreigner, but refused to elaborate on his nationality. Some reports on social media say the man is from Ukraine. People on social networks are calling for a harsh punishment and are talking about calling a demonstration against Ukrainians. The accused man lured the girl for a walk around the river in the Doubravka district on Tuesday night, raped her in a forest, and then attempted to kill her.

INTERNATIONAL EVENTS Czech scouts return from South Korea

Czech scouts are concluding their participation in the World Jamboree in South Korea. Around 90 of them will return to Prague on Aug. 16, while other groups will head to Vienna. The Jamboree's last event is a K-pop concert featuring 19 bands, held at the Seoul stadium. 

The event faced challenges, including health issues caused by a heatwave and criticism for poor organization. Due to a tropical storm, scouts were evacuated from the venue to safer places with the help of buses. The Jamboree drew 40,000 Scouts from 150 countries.

FOREIGN affairs Twelve Czechs on fire-affected Hawaiian island

According to the Czech Foreign Ministry, 12 Czech nationals are currently on fire-affected Maui Island in Hawaii, However, all are confirmed safe from the wildfire. Tourists planning Hawaii trips are advised by the ministry to stay updated through the island's official website. Although parts of the main Hawaiian island are also affected, tourist zones remain open. 

The Foreign Ministry remains in contact with the honorary consul in Honolulu, who is communicating important updates to the Czech citizens' relatives. Communication challenges due to mobile network outages complicate the situation. Czech tourists are urged to register with the DROZD system online to receive the latest alerts about emergency situations.

REAL ESTATE Issued mortgage loans fall 18 percent in June

In July, mortgage loans provided by banks and building societies in Czechia amounted to CZK 11.4 billion, marking an 18-percent decrease compared to June, new data from the   Czech Banking Association Hypomonitor shows. Interest rates for new mortgages also dropped to 5.8 percent, the lowest since August last year. 

The decline in mortgages is influenced by a lower comparative base due to a noticeable freeze in the mortgage market since July last year. Newly granted mortgage volume reached CZK 9.5 billion last month. Mortgage rates remain around their highest level in the last 20 years, although in 2008 and 2009 they were also at similarly high values.

EDUCATION New sanitary rules to give schools more freedom

Chief Public Health Officer Pavla Svrčinová today informed reporters that the proposed Czech school sanitary rules will incorporate air-quality assessments and revised lighting criteria, primarily targeting new buildings. 

Due to come into force in October, these regulations will grant school providers and principals increased authority over design and operations. Existing schools will eventually be required to monitor carbon dioxide levels in classrooms. This approach aims to replace rigid state directives with adaptable options. The new amendment will not force schools to have a minimum or maximum amount of square meters per number of schoolchildren in their spaces. There will also be no obligation to fence kindergarten grounds, have a washbasin in each classroom, and have a fixed number of toilets.

Society Pilgrimage to Sněžka honors the patron saint of chefs

A multitude of pilgrims from both sides of the border converged for the traditional St. Lawrence pilgrimage to Sněžka, the highest peak shared by Czechia and Poland. The event culminated in an open-air Holy Mass, led by German Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Görlitz, at the St. Lawrence chapel atop Sněžka.

Former President Václav Klaus, officials, and locals joined the reverential gathering. The Pilgrimage to Sněžka takes place every year on the feast of Saint Lawrence, who is the patron saint not only of chefs, confectioners, brewers, and innkeepers but also of the Giant Mountains. The wooden chapel that stands on the top of Sněžka also bears the name of St. Lawrence.

Politics Czech president goes on holiday

Czech President Petr Pavel is set to take a two-week vacation, with plans to return on August 21 to mark the 55th anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. During his absence, Pavel will spend quality time with family, briefly interrupting his vacation to participate in the historic event's commemoration.

Next week, on the other hand, sees the end of the government's two-week vacation. The cabinet did not meet this week and last week, and has already published its agenda for next Wednesday, Aug. 16. Ministers will deal, among others, with a bill on top-up taxes, a regulation on collective management, and a timetable for moving central government offices to a single domain.

transparency Ban on media ownership by politicians signed into law

The ban on media ownership by top politicians and the acceptance of subsidies and incentives will be stricter as of next year. Czech President Petr Pavel signed these amendments to the conflict of interest law today, the Presidential Office has said.

The amendments, often referred to as "lex Babis," impose prohibitions on transferring media to close associates or trust funds, accompanied by elevated fines for transgressions. Notably, these regulations don't encompass online media due to the absence of adequate legislation.

Culture Czech films screened at Toronto Film Festival

Czech cinematic works "Hranice" and "Electra" are poised to grace the Toronto International Film Festival's program. "Hranice" navigates a compelling narrative as a psychologist becomes enmeshed in dramatic events along the Polish-Belarusian border.

"Electra," a modern reimagining of a Greek myth, merges animated and live-action sequences. These films, supported by the State Cinematography Fund, attest to Czech cinema's evolving diversity and creativity.

Economy Major Czech banks see a decline in profits

The six leading Czech banks subject to the extraordinary profits tax reported a collective H1 2023 profit of CZK 37.1 billion, reflecting a CZK 2.5 billion downturn from the previous year.

A contributing factor to the decline is a decrease in net interest income resulting from competitive pressures and the Czech National Bank's monetary policy. Analysts also cite the newly introduced windfall tax as influencing banks' decisions to raise deposit interest rates, impacting profit margins.

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