News in brief for June 5: Car sales perform strongly in first five months of 2023

The top headlines for the Czech Republic on Monday, June 5, 2023, updated throughout the day to keep you up to speed. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 05.06.2023 08:30:00 (updated on 05.06.2023) Reading time: 8 minutes

internet Govt. reveals plans to prevent public ads on disinformation sites

According to new plans set out by Czechia’s Minister of Development Ivan Bartoš, it will be forbidden and impossible for state-issued advertisements to appear on any conspiracy or disinformation websites. This is to prevent conspiracy-theory (and similar) websites from accessing public money. 

Bartoš wants to give advertisers – state and public – more control and transparency over where their advertisements end up on the web. Companies and the government will soon be able to set specific rules on where their advertisements will be displayed.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Czechia to send its police officers to Croatia for summer season

The office of Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakušan has announced that Czech police officers will once again be patrolling Croatia during the upcoming summer season. They will be stationed in the towns of Omiš, Šibenik, and Vodice. Minister Rakušan recently met with his Croatian counterpart, Davor Božinović, who presented him with an award for his assistance in joining the Schengen area.

At the request of Croatia, eight Czech police officers will be deployed to the Adriatic region. Minister Rakusan emphasized that their presence serves as a preventive measure and ensures that they are available to offer advice or assistance to tourists whenever needed.

tax Large Czech think tank recommends higher 'vice taxes'

Czechia’s Rational Addiction Policy Think Tank (TTRPZ) has issued a statement regarding the Czech government's austerity package, urging it to adjust its tax plans for alcohol, tobacco, and gambling. Under the government’s new budget, value-added tax (VAT) will rise for all aforementioned products, apart from still wine.

The TTRPZ recommends implementing a tax on still wine, higher taxes on regular cigarettes compared to other tobacco products, and increased taxation on betting and online gambling in comparison to lotteries. It also suggests setting an excise tax on tobacco products so that regular cigarettes are more expensive than e-cigarettes. The think tank cited the addictive nature of gambling, drinking, and smoking as its justification for further increasing taxes.

industry New-car sales see big jump in 2023 so far

In the first five months of this year, sales of new passenger cars witnessed a notable increase of 18.6 percent year on year, according to a press release by the Czech Automobile Importers Association. 

May alone saw a 12.3-percent annual rise in new-car registrations. The upward trend in sales is evident across all vehicle categories, except for buses. Leading the pack among passenger cars is Škoda with 34,178 registered cars, followed by Hyundai with 8,504, and Volkswagen with 7,773. From January to the end of May, sales of light commercial vehicles and trucks both increased by about 20 percent year on year.

EU Czech PM mulls European Parliament election

The Civic Democrats (ODS) party is deliberating whether to participate in the 2024 European Parliament election independently or as part of the Spolu (Together) coalition – Prime Minister Petr Fiala will this week hold a press conference announcing which choice is made.

The current government coalition includes parties such as the Christian Democrats and TOP 09, which are in a different grouping in the European Parliament (the European People's Party) to ODS due to ideological differences. TOP 09, for example, is more sympathetic to joining the eurozone.

law Prague judge dismissed due to delays in trials

The Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Administrative Court (NSS) has dismissed a Prague District Court judge due to alleged delays in “dozens” of legal cases dating from 2019 to 2022. Martin Valehrach had previously faced disciplinary action three times in as many years. An NSS judge found that Valehrach was unduly delayed in 42 legal cases.

In the judge’s own defense, he stated that Covid-19 considerably slowed down proceedings. He also noted that he helped reduce the number of the District Court’s unfinished cases from 300 to 150. 

Prague Prague govt. records lower surplus in 2022

The Prague municipal government has revealed a surplus of approximately CZK 15.5 billion for 2022, down from the year-earlier level. The primary source of income was from tax, contributing CZK 80.46 billion. Transfers from the state budget totaled nearly CZK 29.32 billion. 

Expenses increased by CZK 7.87 billion, particularly in education and transport, amounting to CZK 29.2 billion and CZK 25 billion respectively. For 2023, the capital has an approved a budget with planned revenues of around CZK 100 billion and expenses of CZK 104 billion. The most-expensive investment will be the construction of metro line D.

health Tick activity to decrease in Czechia

Tick activity in the Czech Republic is expected to decrease after today as the period of sunny weather with minimal precipitation comes to an end. However, caution is still advised. The upcoming week will see temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius but with more precipitation in the form of showers or thunderstorms.

Today marks the last day of an extraordinary risk of tick activity in the northern half of the country. People are advised to use repellent, avoid entering deciduous and mixed forests freely, and stick to paved paths. The risk on Tuesday is predicted to be mild or moderate, but tick activity will increase again afterward. Precautions such as avoiding thickets and bushes should continue to be taken.

work Labor costs in Czechia 12th lowest in EU

Labor costs in the Czech Republic rank as the 12th lowest in the European Union, at around CZK 400 per hour, similar to Portugal and Estonia, according to the Czech Statistical Office (ČSÚ). Bulgaria has the lowest labor costs at around CZK 200 per hour, while Luxembourg has the highest at around CZK 1,250.

The Czech Republic still remains a low-cost economy compared to many EU states. Over the past decade, labor costs in the country increased by 60 percent. The ČSÚ also presented experimental statistics on contract work, highlighting the need for further clarification and regulation in this area.

Economy Czech economy needs to open to the world, says PM

Prime Minister Petr Fiala emphasized the need for the Czech Republic to embrace economic openness in order to sustain its growth, in a speech at the 2nd Economic Transformation Review summit. Fiala highlighted the importance of attracting foreign investors and skilled workers, prompting the government to consider adjustments in investment incentives and strategic planning. Recognizing the untapped potential in the domestic economy, Fiala stressed the necessity to open up to foreign knowledge, innovation, and a qualified workforce.

Lukáš Kovanda, the chief economist of Trinity Bank, supports this notion, stressing the demand for both qualified and unqualified labor. The government aims to enhance conditions for foreign investments through incentivization and establish a committee for strategic investments. Despite recent challenges, the Czech Republic ranks as the twelfth most developed economy in the EU.

education University leaders warn against budget cuts

Rectors of public and private universities in the Czech Republic strongly oppose the proposed budget cuts for education and science in the years 2024 to 2026, as outlined in the current working draft of the state budget. They argue that such widespread cuts could undermine the competitiveness of universities and scientific institutions, leading to personnel instability. Rectors also caution against substituting university funding with European funds.

The Czech Rectors' Conference emphasizes the need to increase the share of higher education funding to 0.65 percent of the GDP, highlighting the current disparity compared to other OECD countries. The leaked draft budget indicates a 10 percent reduction in science and research funding, prompting criticism from Minister for Science Helena Langšádlová and calls for further discussions on the budget's form.

Politics Current and former PMs debate inflation

Prime Minister Petr Fiala and opposition leader Andrej Babiš voiced different views on the causes of high inflation in the Czech Republic during a televised debate on Sunday. Fiala stated that the government is not responsible for the current inflation and attributed it to government spending during the Coivd-19 pandemic, the energy crisis, and rising margins in the production chain.

The current PM also called for reducing margins in the Agrofert holding, owned by Babiš, which plays a significant role in the agriculture and food sectors. Babiš accused the government of being comfortable with high inflation to gain more money for the budget. Both politicians agreed on abolishing super-gross wages, considering it the right decision.

employment Economists warn of wage-inflation spiral in Czechia

Rising living costs have prompted one-third of medium-sized companies in the Czech Republic to raise wages by 5 to 10 percent, according to a survey by consulting company RSM, reported by Echo24. The increases often aim to catch up with previous wage freezes, but employees continue to demand further raises. However, experts warn of a potential wage-inflationary spiral.

The survey also revealed that two-thirds of Czech companies added employees this year, with half of them based on personal or team performance. The wage hikes were most common in the struggling industrial sector, while the IT sector surprisingly did not see any increases this year.

science Czech physicists capture shot of ISS in front of sun

On Saturday, the International Space Station (ISS) was captured in front of the Sun from Uhlířov near Opava, Czech Republic. The phenomenon can now be observed by both experts and enthusiasts interested in photograph said a spokesperson from the Institute of Physics of the Silesia University. With the approaching summer solstice on June 21, the Sun's position allows for the dark silhouette of the ISS to be seen against it.

Enthusiasts can capture this flyby using smaller telephoto lenses and a safe filter. The ISS, with a span of 108 meters, orbits approximately 400 kilometers above the Earth's surface, moving at a speed of 7.66 kilometers per second. Capturing the station during its fast flight presents a challenge for photographers.

The International Space Station ISS in front of the Sun on June 3, 2023 from Uhlířov in the Opava region. Photo: Petr Horálek, FÚ SLU in Opava.
The International Space Station ISS in front of the Sun on June 3, 2023 from Uhlířov in the Opava region. Photo: Petr Horálek, FÚ SLU in Opava.

society 63 percent of Czechs want to stay in the EU

According to a survey conducted by the Europeum Institute and STEM, 63 percent of Czechs would vote to remain in the European Union if a referendum on leaving the European Union were held. The survey also found that less than a fifth of Czechs are in favor of adopting the euro. The majority of respondents expressed an optimistic view of the EU, with 56 percent holding this opinion.

The survey also explored attitudes towards accepting Ukrainian refugees, revealing that a majority of Czechs still support the idea. However, concerns about the negative impact of migration on public services and the economy were also noted. June marks 20 years since the referendum, in which 77 percent of Czechs voted in favor of joining the European Union. 

Sports West Ham players recommend where to go in Prague

West Ham football players Tomáš Souček and Vladimír Coufal shared their top three must-see attractions in Prague, their hometown. The iconic sights they mentioned include Prague Castle (Pražský Hrad), which houses a cathedral, palace, and gardens, the historic Charles Bridge (Karlův most) dating back to 1357, and Wenceslas Square (Václavské naměstí).

They also highlighted Staré Město (Old Town) as the medieval heart of the city and Malá Strana as a neighborhood with charming cobbled streets, the Czech parliament, and the imposing church of Sv Mikuláš. West Ham will play Fiorentina for the UEFA Europa Conference League final on Wednesday, June 7 in Prague.

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