News in brief for May 29: Czech Chief of Staff won't rule out war between Russia and NATO

The top headlines for the Czech Republic on Monday, May 29, 2023, updated throughout the day to keep you up to speed. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 29.05.2023 06:57:00 (updated on 29.05.2023) Reading time: 5 minutes

Housing Ukrainian refugees running out of housing options after change in support

Many Ukrainian refugees in the Czech Republic will struggle to afford housing following the reduction in state support starting in July, according to a consortium of NGOs working with migrants. The changes will halt the payment of solidarity benefits to individuals providing free or energy-cost-based accommodation.

Refugees will now receive monthly support ranging from CZK 3,000 to 15,000 Czech based on the number of people and type of housing. The consortium warns that the majority of refugees, who often earn low wages, will be unable to cover market rent. The new rules risk forcing them into inadequate living conditions or coercing them to return to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Economy U.S. investor buys Czech optics firm in million-euro deal

After a series of twists and turns, American investor Carlyle Group has acquired Czech optics company Meopta, marking the end of a month-long saga. The multinational private equity fund purchased the family business for under 700 million euros (approximately 16 billion crowns). Meopta, known for its binoculars and riflescopes, has shifted its focus to technology development and state-of-the-art optics.

The sale drew interest from various foreign buyers, with German company Carl Zeiss initially leading the negotiations but ultimately losing out due to prolonged discussions. Carlyle Group's acquisition of Meopta follows its previous purchase of Czech start-up Phrase, expanding its presence in the country.

Prominent Czechs Head of Václav Havel Library steps down

Michael Žantovský, the director of the Václav Havel Library, has announced that he will be stepping down from his position on June 1. The library, which preserves the intellectual and political legacy of former president Václav Havel, has not yet named a replacement. Žantovský recently published a book sharing his experiences with notable individuals and has also become a foreign policy advisor to President Petr Pavel.

TheVáclav Havel Library was established in 2004 and collects materials related to Havel while organizing public events. Žantovský, who has a diverse background in psychology, translation, and journalism, previously served as Havel's spokesman and advisor during his presidency. He has also held diplomatic positions in the U.S., Israel, and Great Britain.

Military Czech defense head won't rule out war between Russia, NATO

Czech Chief of Staff Karel Řehka issued a warning at a conference on internal security, stating that a war between Russia and NATO, including the Czech Republic, is a real possibility. Řehka emphasized the importance of a deterrence policy to prevent such a scenario. He highlighted the Czech military's efforts to prepare for a high-intensity conflict with technologically advanced Russia.

In the event of war, the Czech army would be deployed according to NATO plans, but also tasked with securing military transfers, training facilities, storage areas, and critical infrastructure within Czechia. Řehka stressed the need for support from other ministries and resilience against vulnerabilities and dependencies, including those related to material deliveries and Chinese telecommunications.

CULTURE Five acclaimed Cannes films to be released in Czechia

Aerofilms will release films from the Cannes Film Festival, which ended with an awards ceremony yesterday. Austrian director Jessica Hausner's unsettling Club Zero, Aki Kaurismäki's comeback Fallen Leaves, and Marco Bellocchio's gripping Kidnapped are among the five films selected for distribution by Aerofilms. Wim Wenders' introspective Perfect Days and Alice Rohrwacher's enchanting La Chimera complete the lineup.

Critically acclaimed, Kidnapped is hailed as a future classic, while Club Zero stands out as one of the most disturbing films of recent times. Fallen Leaves received praise for its festival appeal and rock 'n' roll rhythm, and Perfect Days features Kōji Yakusho's award-winning performance.

Society Majority of Czech population dissatisfied with democracy

According to a survey conducted by Ipsos, less than a third of the Czech population is satisfied with the functioning of democracy in the country. Only 18 percent of Czechs believe that politicians listen to the opinions of ordinary people. In comparison to Slovakia, Czechs are more satisfied with democracy. In Slovakia, less than a fifth of the population expressed satisfaction with democracy, with a majority expressing dissatisfaction.

The survey also revealed skepticism towards various aspects of the democratic system, such as elected representatives listening to ordinary people, fairness of the judicial system, and the belief that the situation will not change regardless of election outcomes.

Economy Czech Republic headed for wage-inflation spiral, says analyst

According to Tomáš Holub, a member of the Czech National Bank, rising wages are fueling inflation in the Czech Republic, leading to a wage inflation spiral. Holub believes that the central bank should raise interest rates again soon to address this issue. However, economist Jan Švejnar disagrees and sees the problem lying in the decline of GDP.

In April, consumer prices rose by 12.7 percent year-on-year, while wages increased by 7.9 percent. Adjusted for inflation, wages decreased by 6.7 percent in real terms. While Holub and some experts recommend an increase in interest rates, Švejnar emphasizes the need for greater investment and market regulation.

Police Tragedy in Most claims the life of a small child

A 31-year-old man in Most, Czech Republic, has been accused by the police of attempted murder and manslaughter in relation to the death of a preschool child. The incident occurred during a fight between two men, during which one of them was holding a small child. Despite the efforts of paramedics, the child succumbed to a stab wound sustained during the altercation.

Two men were arrested, and one of them has been charged with attempted murder and manslaughter. The investigator will request that the suspect is taken into custody in the coming days.

Road fatalities 10 die in traffic accidents through the weekend

Over the weekend, ten people lost their lives in traffic accidents in the Czech Republic, making it one of the deadliest periods this year. Five fatalities occurred on Saturday, and another five were reported by Sunday evening. This tragic toll is reminiscent of April 21, when five people also died in accidents. However, despite these recent incidents, the overall number of accident victims in May is still lower than the same period last year.

Among the weekend accidents, two occurred near Dolní Žandov, resulting in two deaths and injuries to three others. Another tragic accident involved a passenger car overturning, claiming three lives. So far this month, a total of 36 people have died in traffic accidents, compared to 40 last year and 43 in May 2022.

Art Toyen painting fetches record price at auction

Toyen's surrealist painting "Puis, plus tard" (Then, Later) from 1950 was sold for CZK 37.44 million at an auction in Prague, setting a record for her post-war work. The painting had a starting price of CZK 15 million. The auction, held at the Žofín Palace, featured nearly 220 works of art, with 98 percent of them being sold.

The total turnover of the auction exceeded CZK 280 million. Toyen's previous auction record was set in 2021 with the painting "Circus." The event also saw high prices for other artworks, including a painting by Karel Černý and a previously unknown work by František Kupka.

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