News in brief for June 2: Czech healthcare workers announce strike alert

The top headlines for the Czech Republic on Friday, June 2, 2023, updated throughout the day to keep you up to speed.

Expats.cz Staff ČTK

Written by Expats.cz StaffČTK Published on 02.06.2023 08:33:00 (updated on 02.06.2023) Reading time: 6 minutes

international affairs Senior Czech politician calls for end to NATO-Russia act

During a NATO parliamentary meeting in Vilnius, Czech Chamber of Deputies Speaker Markéta Pekarová Adamová called for the repeal of the 1997 NATO-Russia founding act. The treaty aims for Russia and NATO to “build together lasting and inclusive peace in the Euro-Atlantic area on the principles of democracy and cooperative security.”

Additionally, she expressed support for Ukraine’s accession, pointing to the fact that Ukraine has protected the West from Russia. She also hopes for Sweden's NATO accession, currently pending approval from Turkey and Hungary.

sport Czech star climber through to World Cup semifinals

Czech rock and boulder climber Adam Ondra has advanced to the semifinals of the Bouldering World Cup in Prague, successfully scaling three out of five qualifying boulders. Other Czech competitors, such as Jáchym Cink and Šimon Potůček, failed to qualify. Out of 95 qualifying candidates, only 20 could progress to the next round. Ondra had a shaky start, but managed the climb the final two boulders on his second attempt. 

The semi-finals, held at Prague’s Letná, will take place Saturday. Ondra has won multiple World Cups and World Championships and is the only male climbing athlete to have won the World Cup series in the two disciplines of the sport (lead climbing and bouldering).

EDUCATION AND RESEARCH Czech academics and universities opposed to budget cuts

Czech university unions are expressing their disagreement with the leaked draft budget for 2024, which proposes significant cuts in the education and research sector. Chairman of the Higher Education Trade Union Petr Baierl voiced outrage at the proposed 10-percent reduction in the science and research budget. The Education Ministry aims to achieve savings of CZK 30 billion compared to the current year. 

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Baierl warns that diminished financial support may lead to reduced activity or even the closure of research institutes, impacting the quality of education and future graduates, as well as the introduction of innovations in industry.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Pavel to meet Taiwanese counterpart

President Petr Pavel has announced that he will meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen as part of a so-far unspecified multilateral event. Pavel said that it was the Taiwanese president that reached out to him, and that he was happy to arrange the meeting. 

Notably, Pavel spoke with Ing-wen shortly after he won the 2023 presidential election, despite sharp opposition and criticism from China. Czechia’s president also said that China was “planning to dominate the world,” and expressed support for Taiwan’s cause, which considers itself independent from China.

diplomacy Czech PM commits support to Moldovan defense

Prime Minister Petr Fiala has today said he hopes to deepen Czechia’s cooperation with Moldova’s defense industry. According to Fiala, Czech companies are perfectly suited to aid the modernization of the Moldovan army and provide the country with equipment. 

The Czech prime minister, in Moldova for the second European Political Community summit, also said that Czechia “fully supports Moldova” in bolstering its defenses against potential aggression from Russia. Fiala also signed an agreement that approved the donation of funds from the Czech Ministry of Defense to Moldova, which will be used to restore monuments commemorating Czechoslovak legionnaires who died in the region during World War I.

CYBER Fake news about Pavel death came from Russia, police say

The Czech police have closed the investigation into disinformation that claimed President Petr Pavel had died during his presidential election campaign, attributing the origin of the spread to Russia. 

Detectives from Prague's extremism and terrorism department say that their cyber technology shows that the origin of the fake news came from Russia. Hundreds of people in January received e-mails that Pavel had died. Prior to the second round of the election, Pavel expressed his dismay at the disinformation, stating that it had reached an unprecedented low in Czechia.

HEALTH Healthcare sector demands higher revenue in 2024

Health workers nationwide have today announced a strike alert following the publication of leaked governmental documents that showed payments made by state-insured people would not be reindexed or reevaluated. 

This, according to the Czech Health and Social Care Union and the Medical Trade Union Club, would deprive the Czech healthcare sector of CZK 14 billion in revenue next year. Under the state’s draft budget plans, basic salaries would also decline in real terms. Unions also criticized the government’s non-transparency and said it was behaving in an “undemocratic” way.

POLITICS Pavel warns against populism in Vienna speech

Czech President Petr Pavel concluded his visit to Austria with a speech at the Defence Academy in Vienna, highlighting the impact of the war in Ukraine on global security thinking. He warned against the underestimated changes in Moscow's attitudes that preceded the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Pavel stressed the need to convince citizens that preserving democratic societies may require sacrificing some comfort.

He also cautioned against the rising influence of China, noting its autocratic government and desire for dominance. Additionally, he highlighted populism as a threat that undermines societies from within. This visit marked the end of Pavel's trips to neighboring countries, with plans to slow down foreign travel.

ECONOMY Czech currency strengthens against dollar

The Czech koruna strengthened against the euro and the dollar for the first time this week, according to Patria Online. The euro strengthened by seven pennies to 23.68 CZK/EUR, while the koruna improved by 22 halers against the dollar, trading at a rate of 22.06 CZK/USD. The Prague Stock Exchange, however, experienced its fifth consecutive weakening.

Market analysts attribute the weaker koruna to negative sentiment surrounding risky assets and the strengthening U.S. dollar. Investors are now awaiting the release of May's inflation data on June 12, with expectations that inflation could fall below ten percent.

COMMUTERS Delays on inbound Prague trains expected til noon

Train services on the S7 line, specifically on the section between Dobřichovice and Radotín, have been significantly limited due to a fault in the traction line. The Prague Integrated Transport (PID) informed passengers via Twitter and on its site that selected trains will be terminated in Radotín and will not continue to Řevnice.

The breakdown occurred early in the morning, and service is expected to resume around noon. Connections on other affected lines, such as Prague main station to Řevnice and Prague-Radotín to Beroun, have been canceled. Passengers should anticipate delays of approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

CONTROVERSY Czech ambassador to Germany defends 'Pippi' books

Czech Ambassador to Germany, Tomas Kafka, has expressed his opposition to the proposed removal of potentially racist expressions from the popular Swedish children's books featuring Pippi Longstocking. In a commentary for Die Welt, Kafka, drawing from his experience of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia, criticized the current debate in Germany.

Kafka highlighted the importance of freedom of speech, which he believes is not highly regarded in the West today. The controversy surrounding the Pippi books stems from allegations of colonial or racist expressions. Kafka emphasized the need for a more tolerant approach to freedom of speech, referencing the late Czech President Václav Havel's trust in people's inherent goodness over extreme reliance on words.

CULTURE Church Night takes place throughout Czechia today

More than 1,700 churches, prayer rooms, temples, and chapels will open their doors during this year's Night of Churches on June 2. In Prague alone, 155 religious sites will be accessible to the public. The event, organized by Christian churches, associations, and volunteers, will focus on the theme of baptism, exploring its rituals, associated places, objects, texts, and traditions.

Over 6,350 program points are planned, including church visits, guided tours, concerts, lectures, exhibitions, and activities for children. The program can be found on the official website of the Night of Churches, www.nockostelu.cz.

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