News in brief for Oct. 4: Top headlines for Czechia on Wednedsay

Czechia to present climate-energy plan, no Czechs known to be aboard Italian bus that crashed and more headlines for Oct. 4, 2023. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 04.10.2023 08:57:00 (updated on 04.10.2023) Reading time: 6 minutes

POLITICS Fiala shuts down talks of interior minister resigning

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala has said today that there is no need for negotiations with opposition ANO leader Andrej Babiš regarding Interior Minister Vít Rakušan’s presence in the cabinet. Fiala sees no reason to dismiss Rakušan despite his possession of an encrypted telephone. 

Last week, ANO confirmed it would collect signatures to call a vote of no confidence in the government if Fiala were to retain Rakušan. However, due to the coalition majority in parliament, the likelihood of a successful no-confidence vote is low. This would mark the third no-confidence vote faced by Fiala's government.

DIPLOMACY Czech ForMin: Czechia needs Moscow-based ambassador

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský has emphasized the importance of having an ambassador stationed in Moscow, expressing that Prime Minister Petr Fiala shares the same stance. Despite the strained relations between Czechia and Russia, Lipavsky believes that the Czech diplomatic presence in Russia should not be weakened, as it is crucial to maintain communication. 

On the other hand, President Petr Pavel told journalists last week that he could not imagine the reinstalling of a Czech ambassador in Moscow for the moment. While the current Czech ambassador in Russia, Vítězslav Pivoňka, has been in Czechia for several months, Lipavský did not provide any details about Pivonka's future. 

IDEOLOGY Number of right-wingers in Czechia rises

According to a recent survey by the Centre for Public Opinion Research, 44 percent of Czechs consider themselves right-wing, a 5.6-percentage-point increase from 2020. The number of left-wing supporters remained steady at 23 percent. Centrist respondents decreased by 2 percentage points, to 25 percent. 

The representation of the right has been growing intermittently over the past decade, while left-wing support declined between 2013 and 2020. The research also found that voters of the Communist and Social Democrat parties lean left, while supporters of parties like Freedom and Direct Democracy and ANO are spread across the political spectrum – and are not just right wing. 

CRIME Court upholds jail term for tax-evading hospital head

The Supreme Court has upheld the six-year prison sentence for Filip Bušina, the former investment deputy of Central Bohemian regional hospitals, for tax evasion. The court made only a minor adjustment regarding alternative prison terms if fines aren't paid. Another convict, David Belous, also received a six-year sentence, while Martin Bušanský got five years.

Bušina, who is currently incarcerated, maintained his innocence and expressed determination to fight. The case raised objections about wiretapping as evidence, but the court found the evidence sufficient and ruled against reducing the sentences below statutory rates. The charges involved a group organizing significant tax evasion through fictitious invoices between 2007 and 2009.

ECONOMY Finance Minister to present draft budget to president on Thursday

Finance Minister Zbyněk Stanjura will present the 2024 Czech state budget to President Petr Pavel and discuss the government's consolidation package progress. The budget, approved by the government and now with the Chamber of Deputies, foresees revenues of CZK 1.94 billion and expenditures of CZK 2.192 billion, resulting in a CZK 252 billion deficit, down CZK 43 billion from this year. 

The budget incorporates measures from the consolidation package, which primarily consists of tax adjustments and is set for a final third reading and vote in the lower house next week. These measures aim to improve the state budget balance by approximately CZK 97 billion next year, although increased spending partially offsets this reduction.

IMMIGRATION Czech police catch over two dozen illegal immigrants

Police officers apprehended around 20 Syrian migrants in a van near Jablunkov in northern Moravia-Silesia Region and 17 migrants in South Moravia following border checks introduced with Slovakia. Approximately 80 police officers, including those from the Moravian-Silesian and Olomouc Regions, as well as foreign police, conducted the checks, focusing on major border crossings and also conducting random inspections at smaller crossings and trains arriving from Slovakia.

In one incident, a van carrying migrants was stopped at the Sance border crossing, with the driver fleeing the scene, leaving behind two dozen Syrian migrants, including three children. Authorities are currently searching for the smuggler.

Border control Slovakia to introduce border checks with Hungary

Slovakia is set to implement border checks with Hungary starting Oct. 5 for a ten-day period to combat illegal migration, following similar measures announced by the Czech Republic, Poland, and Austria at their borders with Slovakia.

The checks will be conducted along specific sections of the 655-km Slovak-Hungarian border, targeting areas at risk of illegal crossings while aiming to minimize disruptions to cross-border traffic, as indicated in government documents.

CLIMATE Czechia to present national climate-energy plan this week

The Czech Ministry of the Environment is set to present a national climate-energy plan to the government with the aim of raising renewable energy usage to 30 percent, reports iRozhlas. Environment Minister Petr Hladík envisions doubling the contributions of solar and wind energy by 2030, emphasizing the need for financial support and legislative adjustments. The plan aligns with EU climate targets, and its implementation will involve obligations from the State Energy Concept.

Some environmental groups and industry representatives feel the increase could be more ambitious. While this plan aims to secure a greener energy future, consumers may face slightly higher electricity prices in the coming year.

TRAGEDY Czech foreign ministry has no information on Italian bus crash

The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs has no information regarding the bus that crashed near Venice, Italy, on Tuesday evening. Although the passengers included foreigners, the ministry has no information regarding Czech citizens aboard the bus.

According to the latest information from the Italian media, the bus crash and fire claimed 21 lives, two of whom are children. Fifteen individuals sustained injuries, with five in serious condition. The bus, powered by natural gas, crashed from an overpass onto a railway track and caught fire while carrying around 40 tourists from a Venice city campsite.

Crime Foreign national held for abusing wife with pyrotechnics

Police report that a 36-year-old foreign national in Pilsen, West Bohemia, faces grievous bodily harm charges for seriously injuring his wife, including genital injuries. The suspect, a Ukrainian man, assaulted his wife on Saturday night, leaving her in critical condition. He took her to the hospital and left.

Following a swift police response, the man was apprehended. A court ordered him to be held in custody, potentially leading to a ten-year prison sentence. The incident occurred in a hostel, where the accused allegedly inserted pyrotechnics into his wife's genitals and detonated them. The victim remains in a serious condition.

Transport Czech toll prices to increase from next year

The Czech Ministry of Transport plans to save CZK 8.9 billion in subsidies next year, with reductions in funding for the State Fund for Transport Infrastructure accounting for CZK 2.9 billion crowns due to increased road tolls for freight carriers. Additional savings will be realized in subsidies for the Directorate of Roads and Highways of the Czech Republic and the Railway Administration.

Moreover, financial support for regional roads of classes II and III will be trimmed. These measures are part of the austerity measures in the upcoming budget. The Ministry of Transport also intends to raise tolls, potentially adding CZK 1.4 to 2 billion to state revenue. Overall, the draft budget proposes cuts to subsidies across 12 ministries, reducing subsidy programs by CZK 84.1 billion compared to the current year.

Culture Designblok begins in Prague today

The 25th edition of the Designblok design and fashion show commences in Prague today, showcasing contemporary Czech and international design, fashion, and jewelry. The event, which runs until Oct. 8, with two exhibitions at Prague Castle extending until Oct. 15, adopts the theme of "journey" for its jubilee year. Featuring 227 exhibiting authors and brands, the show encompasses workshops, lectures, fashion shows, foreign guests, thematic exhibitions, and sustainable projects.

The festival also introduces a School Day for students. Among the highlights are fashion shows, ecological design lectures, and exhibitions of family companies and traditional producers. A unique mirrored installation, part of the Designblok Cosmos exhibition, promises an immersive experience at Prague Castle.

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