News in brief for June 9: Prague 1 submits plan to charge toll fee for areas near Vltava

The top headlines for the Czech Republic on Friday, June 8, 2023, updated throughout the day to keep you up to speed.

Expats.cz Staff ČTK

Written by Expats.cz StaffČTK Published on 09.06.2023 08:37:00 (updated on 09.06.2023) Reading time: 6 minutes

Culture Czech conductor taking the baton at the Vienna Symphony

Petr Popelka will become the chief conductor of the Vienna Symphony for five years starting with the 2024/25 season. Popelka, who is just finishing his first season as the head of the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra, confirmed the news on his website. He called it a dream come true, adding that the Vienna Symphony is the musical embodiment of the city.

Already in the 2023/24 season as chief conductor designate he will lead the Vienna Symphony in a new production of Weinberger’s Schwanda the Bagpiper at the MusikTheater an der Wien, and will make his debut at the Zurich Opera House with a production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

Tragedy Body of unhoused man found near Eden

The body of a 30-year-old unhoused man was found on Thursday afternoon by two other unhoused people near the former Eden Cultural Center in Prague's Vršovice district. But they had trouble reporting the incident as passers-by refused to call for help of lend a phone for over an hour. Detectives are now investigating the case.

Residents of a nearby house said there are many unhoused people around Eden and they have had bad experiences with some of them. They told news site iDnes that they were not surprised that no one wanted to offer help.

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Politics ANO calls for urgent session on EU migration reform policy

The senior opposition ANO party, led by Andrej Babiš, has requested an urgent session in the lower house to discuss the EU migration reform agreed upon by EU interior ministers. Babiš criticized the government for what he called a failure to defend Czechia's interests. Tomio Okamura, leader of the junior opposition Freedom and Democracy (SPD), also objected to the reforms.

Interior Minister Vít Rakušan considered the agreement a success. Instead of quotas, it calls for solidarity-based financial assistance to the most burdened member states. Only Hungary and Poland opposed the reform, while Slovakia, Malta, Lithuania, and Bulgaria abstained.

law Three football fans detained in Czechia following crowd trouble

The Czech police have charged a football fan with violence against a person in authority following a European Conference League match held in Prague between West Ham and Fiorentina. Additionally, two fans remain in custody, suspected of participating in rioting during the event.

Prague police spokesman Jan Rybanský confirmed today that a fan is being prosecuted for aggravated violence. If convicted, the accused could face a maximum prison sentence of six years. Originally, 23 football fans were detained in connection with the match.

food Self-harvesting strawberry season gets underway in Czechia

The self-harvesting of strawberries has commenced at Vaklima company's plantation near Holešov in the Kroměříž Region. Due to cold and rainy weather, this year's season began about a week later than usual. However, the initial harvest seems promising, according to Jaroslav Valenta, the company's CEO.

The cold weather and excess rain in April and May delayed the strawberries' ripening, making it relatively normal for them to be ready by early June. Nevertheless, moisture increases the risk of fungal diseases, and the fruits are slightly less sweet compared to last year. The main self-harvesting period in Holešov is expected to last approximately three weeks, with a smaller batch ripening in early July. Typically, six to ten tons of strawberries are harvested per hectare in Holešov. Other self-harvesting farms nationwide will open this month.

foreign affairs New Czech center to open in Vietnam

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský announced today plans to establish a Czech Center in Hanoi, Vietnam, by the end of 2023 due to the significant interest in Czech culture from the 200,000 Czech-speaking individuals residing in Vietnam. Following a meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart, Bui Thanh Son, Lipavský expressed gratitude for their collaboration and discussed the upcoming direct air connection between Prague and Hanoi.

Both ministers emphasized the importance of enhancing cooperation in trade, defense industry, tourism, science, information technology, and transport engineering. Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala also supported the air route and aimed to facilitate visa-free travel between the two countries during his recent visit to Vietnam.

prague Prague 1 submits bid to introduce toll fee near Vltava

Echo24.cz has confirmed that Prague 1 has published a concrete proposal for charging a toll for cars and transit vehicles to pass through certain streets near the Vltava River. The bid suggests charging non-residents and transit vehicles CZK 200 per day to travel through certain areas, such as Divadelní and Smetanovo nábřeží on the right bank, and Újezd to Tržiště Street on the left bank. 

The council plans to start with minimal coverage, focusing on essential zones, while considering tolling Ječná Street. The fees for non-residents will be capped at CZK 200 per day, with monthly, quarterly, and annual passes available for CZK 2,000, CZK 5,700, and CZK 21,600 respectively.

Migration EU reaches agreement on migration reform

The European Union (EU) states reached an agreement on migration reform after years of unsuccessful attempts. The reform includes mandatory solidarity with countries overwhelmed by asylum seekers and faster processing of unsuccessful applications. The compromise proposal was supported by the majority of countries, including the Czech Republic, with the exception of Hungary and Poland. Instead of binding quotas, the approved proposal offers options such as direct financial contributions, sending experts, or providing material support to assist burdened countries.

The reform aims to strike a balance between responsibility and solidarity, relieving overwhelmed countries and expediting asylum procedures. The agreement comes as the number of migrants heading to Europe is increasing. According to Minister of the Interior Vít Rakušan, the Czech Republic, together with other states accepting refugees from Ukraine, negotiated an exemption from the obligation to financially assist overburdened Southern European states.

Politics Lower valuation of pensions passes first reading

The Czech Chamber of Deputies engaged in a lengthy 13-hour debate Wednesday over the government's proposed pension amendment aimed at slowing down pension valuation and tightening early retirement conditions. The opposition did not push for rejection in the first reading. The bill, including the replacement of current rules for extraordinary pension valuations with a temporary supplement, will now be evaluated by the social committee.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs believes these changes will help mitigate the pension system's collapse and reduce indebtedness. The government aims to decide on pension valuations for next year in September. The opposition criticized the modifications, claiming they would harm pension recipients.

business Sales of CBD products double in Czechia

Sales of products containing CBD, derived from hemp, have doubled in the Czech Republic with the e-commerce market experiencing a significant influx of sellers, reports iDnes. According to Upgates, a leading e-commerce solutions provider, sales of CBD products have grown fivefold in the past year alone.

The Ministry of Agriculture had announced plans to ban the sale of CBD substances such as oils, tinctures, and candies, but no action has been taken yet. The government is now considering regulation instead of a ban and is likely to introduce clear rules for the sale of CBD products, including age verification measures.

Education Secondary school system on brink of collapse

At a debate moderated by Czech news site Deník N this week at Prague's Václav Havel Library, Minister of Education Mikuláš Bek acknowledged the negative consequences of the current testing system for students' future prospects and aims to bring about changes. In response to the recent crisis in the education system, where many students were unable to attend their desired high schools, Bek plans to modify the testing process and extend the duration of schooling.

He also proposes introducing a new type of school, referred to as a "high school," that would provide equal opportunities for all students based on their motivations and abilities. Bek also supports strengthening six-year gymnasia, which would maintain a certain level of selectivity while avoiding extreme differentiation.

culture Czech 'Summer Film School' festival to honor Pedro Almodóvar

The 49th edition of the Summer Film School in Uherské Hradiště (LFŠ) will showcase films by Czech screenwriter Jan Procházka and Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar. The festival will feature foreign guests including Filipino director Lav Diaz and Croatian director Rajko Grlič. The program consists of five main blocks: History, Present, Czechia/Slovakia, Guests, and AČFK.

The festival will pay tribute to director Howard Hawks with a retrospective of his work, and the Film Reader section will explore Italian neorealism. The Terra festivalis section will highlight Brazilian cinema, and Pedro Almodóvar will be honored in the Icon section. Additionally, a retrospective of Jan Procházka's screenplays will be presented in the Czech Republic/Slovakia block. The festival takes place from July 28 to August 3.

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