News in brief for May 10: Leopard spotted in north Czechia, govt. to join damage registry against Russia

The top headlines for the Czech Republic on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, updated regularly to keep you up to speed. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 10.05.2023 08:13:00 (updated on 10.05.2023) Reading time: 6 minutes

EVENT Spotted leopard sighted in Czechia

A woman in Litoměřice, Ustí nad Labem, has photographed what appears to be a leopard in one of the region’s forests, near the village of Horní Bukovina. Police have urged residents to avoid the surrounding area until the leopard is safely captured. The region’s local zoo has confirmed that it may be a spotted leopard, also mentioning that no animal had escaped from its premises.

Those who see the animal in person should dial 158 immediately. Authorities are currently investigating whether any individual or organization is missing the animal and where it might have come from.

RUSSIA Czechia will sign up to registry that tracks Russian damage

Czechia has today announced its intention to join a special, Council of Europe registry that will monitor and log all damages caused by Russian aggression. It will be set up during a Council of Europe summit in Iceland next week and will include non-EU observer states, such as the U.S., Canada, Japan, and Mexico.

Czechia’s Foreign Ministry said today that the new registry’s task will be to review applications for financial compensation due to Russia-caused damage. The annual budget of the register is estimated at EUR 7.1 million (CZK 166 million).

ECONOMY Environment minister – govt. austerity plan to save over CZK 70 billion

According to Czechia’s Minister of Environment Petr Hladík, Czechia’s austerity package – to be announced in full Thursday – will save the state more than its original goal of CZK 70 billion this financial year to halt the government's widening deficit.

This afternoon, Czechia's cabinet announced the abolition of five government commissions, including those for nuclear energy and sport. President Petr Pavel has said he will consult with the head of the Czech National Bank before signing the package into law. 

CRIME Court extends prison sentence of teenage machete killer

The High Court in Prague has today extended by two years the court sentence given to a young man who murdered his 74-year-old teacher with a machete in March 2022. He will now serve 14 years behind bars and agreed to psychological treatment.

Then-19-year-old Jaroslav Řehák committed the act ostensibly because his teacher, Jan Knaisl, gave him poor grades and – Řehák claims –had been “bullying” him. He must also pay CZK 7 million in non-pecuniary damage.

ECONOMY Government to step away from wine tax

According to Seznam Zprávy, an excise tax on still wines – recently discussed by the government – is highly unlikely to come into force. Minister of Finance Zbyněk Stanjura had calculated that the introduction of taxes on still wines (those that are sparkling are already taxed) could raise up to CZK 4 billion this year.

The Czech Union of Winemakers recently pointed out that 14 countries in the EU have no excise duty on wine. According to the group, the introduction of a still-wine tax would, for example, increase on average a CZK 100 bottle of wine to CZK 135.

housing Mortgage rates rise marginally in past month

The average mortgage rate at the beginning of May in Czechia rose marginally, to 6.32 percent, according to data released today by the Swiss Life Hypoindex. In the past month, three- and five-year fixed mortgage rates fell by one and two basis points respectively. 

The Czech National Bank left interest rates unchanged again at the beginning of May. The two-week repo rate has thus remained at seven percent since last June. According to analyst at financial services firm Swiss Life Select Jiří Sýkora, no near-term changes to mortgage rates are expected.

CONSUMER NEWS Agriculture minister shamed for Lidl-discount tweet

Minister of Agriculture Zdeněk Nekula has been ridiculed on social media after tweeting an offer for a discount on flour by retailer Lidl. On Tuesday evening, Nekula wrote that thanks to the director of Lidl’s Czech branch, flour will be on sale today for the special price of CZK 12.90. 

The co-founder of the TOP 09 party, which is currently in government, described Nekula’s tweet as “insulting” and hindering the entire government. He criticized the agriculture minister for essentially being part of Lidl’s marketing campaign. Echo24 editor-in-chief Dalibor Balšínek told iPrima that his actions were similar to 1950s-style propaganda.

CRIME Police confirm driving license corruption in north Czechia

Regional police have today affirmed that “hundreds of people” have illegally obtained driving licenses in the town of Vansdorf, Ústí nad Labem. Authorities have also said that 722 applicants received a driving license despite not meeting the required standards to pass the driving test. Two investigating commissioners were found to have received bribes from the local driving schools.

In 2019, the Transport Ministry warned the police that it seemed strange that so many people received driving licenses in the small town and that most of them were not living in the district.

POLITICS Czech PM to meet Italian counterpart in Prague today

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala is set to meet Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Prague to discuss bilateral relations, European issues, and cooperation in energy and new technologies. The two leaders are expected to hold a joint press conference later in the day, with President Petr Pavel also welcoming Meloni at Prague Castle.

Meloni is the chair of the European party European Conservatives and Reformists, which includes Fiala's ODS. The meeting marks their first official talks since Meloni took office.

ECONOMY Budget deficit negotiations drag on

Negotiations on a government package to consolidate public finances are nearing completion, but some contentious issues remain. Coalition representatives stated after six hours of negotiations that they expect an agreement soon. However, a specific date wasn't given. The negotiations will continue even today, when the cabinet meets in a regular session.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Marian Jurečka, stated that some controversial issues remain open, and that the government will announce the result soon. The government aims to reduce the structural deficit of the budget by at least CZK 70 billion or 1 percent of the GDP.

culture Czech band Vesna advances to Eurovision final

Czech group Vesna has qualified for the final of the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest with their song "My Sister's Crown". Vesna aims to represent Slavic voices and features musicians from other Slavic countries. The group's video, which features a Ukrainian chorus, was banned in Russia and Belarus.

The final will include representatives of the five major European countries, as well as performers from 25 countries and the previous year's winner, Ukraine. The winner will be determined on May 13.

BUSINESS Czech billionaire sets sights on U.S., Australia

Czech billionaire Pavel Tykač, through his company Sev.en Global Investments, is seeking acquisitions in power generation, coal mining, and mining rights in the United States and Australia. He aims to invest in sectors that others shun due to their high returns. Tykač believes the fossil fuel industry currently offers strong returns despite its eventual phase-out.

Tykač's company recently acquired thermal coal mining rights in Australia, its third transaction in the country in the past eight months. Sev.en Group is an important player in the energy market in the Czech Republic, operating in various sectors, from mining and producing lignite in Europe to generating electricity and heat.

Prague Next stage of construction on Barrandov Bridge announced

The second stage of the reconstruction of the Barrandov Bridge in Prague will begin on May 15, with partial restrictions starting on May 13. The reconstruction will involve removing the bridge top and existing equipment, replacing bridge expansion joints, rehabilitating the lower part of the supporting structure, building new cornices, laying a new road layer, and adding new insulation. The bridge will also be strengthened by inserting additional prestressing, and both abutments will be repaired.

During the reconstruction, traffic will be conducted in three temporary lanes in each direction on the bridge, and the Barrandov ramp from Barrandov to the South Junction will be closed, with a bypass route marked on the Prague Ring Road.

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