News in brief for July 20: Top headlines for Czechia on Thursday

Czechia dramatically reduces reliance on Russian gas, Kundera cremated in Paris, and more top stories for July 20, 2023. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 20.07.2023 08:00:00 (updated on 20.07.2023) Reading time: 5 minutes

business Agrofert fined CZK 502 million for antimonopoly breach

The Slovak Antimonopoly Office (PMÚ) has issued a EUR 21 million (CZK 502 million) fine on the Penam bakery group, which operates under the Agrofert holding of former Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.

According to the PMÚ, Penam failed to notify the authority about its acquisition of control over two competing bakeries, violating antimonopoly rules. Agrofert has confirmed its intention to appeal the decision. The PMÚ writes that Babiš obtained both bakeries in a roundabout way in 2014, when he bought them via lawyers that were close to him.

PETR PAVEL President Pavel meets Czech Scouts before jamboree

President Petr Pavel presented a flag to the Czech Scouts, which will accompany them to the World Scout Jamboree (large gathering) in South Korea. The event, held every four years, will see 60,000 young participants from around the world, with the Czech Republic represented by 420 Boy and Girl Scouts. 

During the meeting with the Scout delegation, President Pavel commended the Czech Junák organization for its efforts in developing children of various ages, fostering a positive connection with nature and people, and upholding the values of democracy and humanity. The jamboree will take place from Aug. 1 to 12.

prague Petřín hill cable car welcomes 80 millionth passenger

Today, after 132 years of operation, the cable car to Prague's Petřín hill celebrated its 80 millionth passenger. This year, over 1 million people have already taken the ride, while last year saw a total of 1.7 million passengers.

The Prague Public Transit Company recorded its highest number of passengers in 2019, with over 2.23 million visitors. The cable car was first launched during the Jubilee National Exhibition in the summer of 1891. The funicular had reached 70 million passengers in July 2018.

law Supreme Court reopens case of former StB agents

The Municipal Court in Prague has been instructed by the Supreme Court to reopen a case involving former members of the communist State Security (StB) accused of harassing dissidents and coercing opponents of the totalitarian regime into emigrating.

Initially, the prosecution was halted by the court due to the statute of limitations as the alleged criminal activity took place before 1989 and during a time when it was de facto legal. However, after an appeal by Chief Prosecutor Igor Stříž, the Supreme Court ordered a reevaluation of the matter. 

ACCIDENT Fire truck crashes on way to call, leaving one dead

A firefighter has today died after a fire tanker crashed late Wednesday night while on its way to extinguish a family house fire in Kolín (Central Bohemia). The driver lost control, hitting a traffic light, and collided with a house, resulting in the tanker overturning. 

One firefighter lost their life, and the driver sustained severe injuries, requiring immediate hospitalization. Two other firefighters suffered minor injuries. The authorities are conducting an investigation into the cause of the crash, and a forensic autopsy has been ordered for the deceased firefighter.

society New data shows Czechs spent more on gambling in 2022

Data from the General Financial Directorate shows that people spent CZK 759.3 billion on bets last year. Deposits saw a 44.2 percent year-on-year increase, with a notable rise in money wagered in technical games. 

Winnings paid out also grew by 44.8 percent from 2021, reaching CZK 705.5 billion. Machine-based games, particularly slot machines, accounted for over three-quarters of all bets, amounting to CZK 586.1 billion. Notably, 56.8 percent of all bets placed in 2022 were on the internet – a sharp rise from 25.9 percent in 2021.

Politics Govt. approves digital management of health documents

The Czech government approved an amendment to the Act on Health Services during Wednesday's meeting. The amendment aims to regulate electronic health documentation and permit remote diagnosis of patients through telemedicine. The proposed modification allows medical records to be kept in both paper and electronic formats. Doctors will be able to conduct remote consultations or examinations with patients via video calls.

The specific details of telemedicine services will be determined through negotiations between insurance companies and doctors. However, the Czech Medical Chamber expressed reservations about the amendment, stating concerns about potential fees for remote medical advice.

In memoriam Milan Kundera cremated in Paris

Milan Kundera, the renowned Czech-born writer who passed away in Paris at the age of 94, was cremated at the Arcueil cemetery in the French capital Wednesday, as confirmed by Czech Radio France correspondent Martin Balucha and Ambassador Michal Fleischmann. A recording of a sonatina by Czech composer Leoš Janáček, performed by Kundera's father, Ludvík, was played at the ceremony.

The ceremony was only attended by Kundera's wife Vera and Antoine Gallimard, the director of the French publishing house closely linked to Kundera after his emigration. The writer's wish was to keep the urn at home, and only after his wife's passing, it will go to his hometown Brno. No further ceremonies are planned in accordance with Kundera's will.

Drought Firefighters battle large blaze in Moravia

On Wednesday afternoon, South Moravian firefighters battled a large forest fire near Býkovice in Blanensko. A third-degree fire alarm was declared, and two helicopters alternated dousing the fire with water between 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. After 6:00 PM, a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter joined the efforts.

The fire raged for four hours over an area of approximately 200 by 300 meters in challenging terrain. The strong winds posed a risk of further spreading. The cause of the fire remains unknown. The South Moravian region has been under an increased fire risk due to drought since July 11.

Natural resources Czechia has imported no gas from Russia this year

During the first half of the year, the Czech Republic didn't import any gas from Russia, said Minister of Industry and Trade Jozef Síkela. The minister attributed reduced gas imports absence of gas imports from Russia and the record level of gas reservoirs in the country, currently at over 88 percent capacity, to the numbers. Last year, the reservoirs were 75 percent full at this time and only 42 percent in 2021.

Síkela credited the responsible gas consumption of the Czech people for the decrease in gas imports and highlighted that all gas flows to the country through Germany, replacing gas from Belgium, Holland, and Norway.

Economy Inflation in Czechia third highest in EU

In June, inflation in the European Union (EU) dropped significantly to 6.4 percent, a decrease of 0.7 percentage points compared to May, according to Eurostat. The Czech Republic also experienced a notable slowdown in consumer price growth, with inflation declining by 1.3 points to 11.2 percent. Among the EU countries, inflation in the eurozone was confirmed to be 5.5 percent, down from May's 6.1 percent.

Last year's inflation in the EU reached a record 9.6 percent due to unprecedented energy price increases. Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Poland, part of the Visegrád Group, saw the highest price increases. Three countries, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Spain, reached the European Central Bank's long-term 2 percent inflation target for the first time in months.

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