News in brief for Aug. 9: Top headlines in Czechia for Wednesday

Facebook most used social platform among Czechs, TSMC to establish first European factory on Czech-German border, and more top headlines for Aug. 9, 2023. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 09.08.2023 08:00:00 (updated on 09.08.2023) Reading time: 6 minutes

ANIMALS Baby forest buffalo born in Czech zoo

A rare forest buffalo – an endangered species in Czechia – has recently been born at Dvur Králové nad Labem Safari Park in Hradec Králové, according to a statement from the zoological garden's management today.

This challenging-to-maintain species is not found in any other Czech or Slovak zoo. The safari park specializes in African wildlife and holds the second-largest herd of this kind worldwide. It is also renowned for its successful breeding of rhinos and giraffes. The female cub, born to mother Grnda and 22-year-old bull Charel, hasn't been photographed yet in its spacious enclosure.

ADMINISTRATION Czech language exam may be eliminated for foreign doctors

A proposed amendment in Czechia states that starting next year, foreign doctors, dentists, and pharmacists applying for permanent residence will not need to take a separate Czech language exam. Their existing approval exam for medical practice would sufficiently demonstrate their language proficiency.

The change aims to aid foreign medical professionals and families by eliminating bureaucracy and saving time. Politicians behind the proposal emphasize that a high level of Czech language proficiency is necessary for doctors and pharmacists to successfully clear their medical entrance exams. Consequently, their grasp of the Czech language would exceed current examination standards if they pass their approval exam – this has also been highlighted by the Ministry of Education.

society New study shows 70pc of Ukrainian refugees below poverty line

A recent study by the Voice of Ukrainians project, conducted with PAQ Research and the Institute of Sociology, reveals that 70 percent of Ukrainian refugees in the Czech Republic live below the income poverty line. Despite two-thirds of those over 17 having jobs, they often earn low wages, with nearly two-thirds making less than CZK 150 net per hour.

Additionally, many are employed in positions below their qualifications. The report suggests enhancing Czech language courses, aiding job search efforts, and adjusting humanitarian benefits. In June, 55 percent of Ukrainian refugee households received humanitarian benefits for at least one of their members, which was 10 percent lower than last summer. According to PAQ, a further decline can be expected after the change in the form of support in July.

POLITICS Brno coalition remains intact after photo controversy

Brno's ruling coalition has confirmed it will remain united as its parties continue to support Mayor Markéta Vaňková despite a recent photo controversy. The image depicted Vaňková and Deputy Mayor Robert Kerndl, both of the Civic Democrats party, with a suspicious white powder.

Recent drug tests for both came back negative, although the photo is said to have been taken around two or three years ago. Vaňková has explained the situation to the police but declined further media comments. Kerndl is yet to be approached by authorities. The two expressed remorse for the negative image the photo portrayed for themselves, the coalition, and the city. 

SECURITY Criminal Czech guru extradited from Philippines

Czech police have today announced that they have successfully extradited a Czech fugitive known as “Guru Jára” from the Philippines, via Taipei, to a Prague prison. The police withheld the man's name, but implied he is the founder of an esoteric school called Poetrie Jaroslav Dobeš. 

Convicted of raping clients through a practice called "unhooking," he is to serve a five-and-a-half-year sentence. The transfer, assisted by air marshals, utilized the new Taipei-Prague air link to minimize waiting and transfers. Dobeš had evaded authorities since 2012, and was later arrested in the Philippines in 2015. Extradition took over seven years due to legal issues.

PRAGUE PRO party announces September anti-government protest

The non-parliamentary PRO political party has announced today that it will stage a protest in Prague on Sept. 16 against the government's policies. Under the motif "The Czech Republic against the government," PRO intends to express dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Petr Fiala's cabinet for mishandling inflation, proposed tax changes, and pension adjustments.

PRO leader Jindřich Rajchl likened Fiala to the captain of a sinking Titanic and called for citizens unhappy with the government to gather in mid-September. The party aims for the cabinet's dissolution before the upcoming general election in two years, citing the nation's severe economic and moral crisis reminiscent of 1989.

UKRAINE Charity will help Ukrainian teenagers in Prague

Intercultural aides proficient in Ukrainian language and culture will collaborate with Prague's youth integration clubs and engage with Ukrainian adolescents, the Czech Streetwork Association organization has unveiled.

Backed by the municipality of Prague and UNICEF, these aides will facilitate communication and cultural understanding, targeting youths aged 15 and above, who often encounter language and cultural barriers. While existing migrant-focused organizations provide outreach services, this initiative addresses the overlooked demographic of Ukrainian teens. Many struggle with language barriers, lack of schooling, and war-related trauma. The goal is to prevent social vulnerability and aid in their integration.

History Czechoslovak courts convicted nearly all emigrants in 1980s

Historian Jaroslav Rokoský highlighted an April 1988 Interior Ministry report revealing that Czechoslovak courts convicted almost every registered emigrant from the 1980s under illegal exit laws. In 1985, 5,226 new emigrants were recorded, and the same number faced convictions.

Criticism has arisen surrounding the appointment of Robert Fremr, a constitutional judge candidate, for his rulings against emigrants as a young judge. More than 110,000 people were convicted for illegal departure under the communist regime. Rokoský points out that emigration was seen as a political crime, even during the Prague Spring. Sentences were carried out in absentia.

Society Facebook dominates information sharing among Czechs

A recent survey by Ipsos agency for Eset security company reveals that Czechs primarily use Facebook for online information sharing, followed by Instagram and WhatsApp. While TikTok, Twitter, and LinkedIn remain passive platforms for them, 88 percent use Facebook, 39 percent opt for Instagram, and 35 percent choose WhatsApp.

Concerns include sharing risky content and encountering bullying. However, a mere 2 percent shared sensitive data posts. Eset security experts said that Czechs use social media judiciously and prioritize account security.

Business TSMC to establish first European factory on Czech-German border

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC), in partnership with Bosch, Infineon, and NXP, plans to establish its first European factory in Dresden, Germany. With an expected investment of over ten billion euros, the factory aims to create approximately two thousand jobs and begin production by the end of 2027. 

With an expected investment of over ten billion euros, the factory aims to create approximately two thousand jobs and begin production by the end of 2027. TSMC will hold a 70 percent stake, while Bosch, Infineon, and NXP will each have 10 percent shares. This move aligns with TSMC's aim to bolster semiconductor production in the EU and Germany, supporting its automotive industry competitiveness.

Real estate Mortgage rates slightly decrease, impact limited

Czech mortgage interest rates have marginally decreased, primarily affecting three-year loan fixations. Although the reduction in monthly installments is nominal, the decrease in average offer rates for mortgage loans is evident. Over the past three months, banks' mortgage rates have consecutively declined.

Analysts, however, say the reduction only amounts to a cosmetic change. While the impact on monthly payments is relatively modest, the overall trend is indicative of a shift in the mortgage market.

Jobs Labor law amendments to prompt changes in employment contracts

Companies in the Czech Republic anticipate adjusting their work arrangements due to impending changes in labor laws. Approximately 26 percent plan to reduce contract workers and redistribute tasks among employees, while a quarter intends to replace contract workers with self-employed individuals.

Around 24 percent aim to hire workers under different contractual arrangements and 16 percent consider converting agreements to short-time work. These responses are derived from a survey conducted by the Czech Chamber of Commerce among various-sized companies across sectors. The changes are expected to increase costs and administration for employers.

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