News in brief for Sept. 22: Top headlines for Czechia on Friday

Czech defense minister comments on Poland-Ukraine squabble, the Czech film industry loses a legend, and other news for Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 22.09.2023 07:44:00 (updated on 22.09.2023) Reading time: 5 minutes

media Anti-Putin Russian journalists in Czechia receive death threats

The international Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is urging Czech authorities to take action following threats against two Russian opposition journalists, Alesya Marokhovskaya and Irina Dolinina, residing in Prague. These threats were directed at the investigative website, where both journalists work. Both journalists had published works criticizing the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Prague police are currently investigating the matter but have not disclosed specific details for tactical reasons. Most of the Important Stories editorial team, including Marokhovskaya and Dolinina, relocated to the Czech Republic from Russia due to increased media restrictions after the Ukraine invasion. The threats contained personal information, such as their addresses and travel plans, heightening concerns.

ILLICiT DRUGS Deputy PM criticizes Czechia's anti-drug stance

Deputy Prime Minister Marian Jurečka has today criticized Czechia’s anti-drug coordinator Jindřich Vobořil for his proposals to establish a regulated market for certain substances, including kratom, which the government recently approved.

Vobořil is developing legislation for a regulated cannabis market, but his openness to potentially regulating substances like cocaine has raised concerns. Jurečka wants to initiate a coalition-level discussion on whether Vobořil aligns with the government's directives, expressing doubts about the current alignment between his actions and government policy. In its policy statement, the government says that regulation of addictive substances will correspond to the degrees of their harmfulness. The cabinet says it wants to apply policies based on a "scientifically proven and balanced approach to risk prevention and harm reduction" when dealing with addiction.

STATE AID Defense minister promises more care for war veterans

Czech Defence Minister Jana Černochová expressed her commitment to prioritize the welfare of war veterans during a speech commemorating soldiers who served in a peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslavia for 30 years. She announced plans to establish a nationwide agency in October dedicated to supporting veterans. 

At a ceremony in Prague, 179 members of the Second Battalion, which served between April 1993 and April 1994, received commemorative badges. Černochová commended their courage, emphasizing that the nation's subsequent overseas deployments were shaped by their experience, acknowledging their vital role in achieving a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

jobs Trade unions call for 10-percent wage increase

Trade unions in the Czech Republic are requesting a 10-percent wage increase starting in January due to declining real wages caused by inflation, according to a statement today by the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Union, which also remains on strike alert. Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Marian Jurečka believes that government departments can enhance employee compensation next year by utilizing savings or unused funds without raising tariffs. 

As part of cost-cutting measures, individual departments are expected to reduce salary expenditures by 2 percent. Jurečka acknowledges the challenging situation for Czech employees and emphasizes the need to fairly remunerate state workers, whether through tariff or non-tariff adjustments. He did not, however, specify by how much exactly wages could rise.

MILITARY ANO levels criticism over purchase of F-35 fighter jets

Czech opposition party ANO has criticized the state’s current plan to acquire US F-35 aircraft by calling it “excessive,” costly, and unnecessary. Karel Havlicek, ANO's deputy chairman, suggested today postponing the purchase for two years to explore more economically viable options for airspace security in line with NATO's requirements.

Last July, the government initiated negotiations to buy 24 F-35s, intended to replace Czechia’s existing Swedish Gripen jets. The Czech Republic has a contract to use the Gripens until 2027, with a two-year extension option. The US State Department approved the potential sale in June, with a maximum contract value of USD 5.62 billion over 10 years.

migration Bavarian minister says Czech-German border controls unneeded

Bavarian Minister-President Markus Söder has expressed that Bavaria does not require continuous border checks with the Czech Republic to combat illegal migration. He suggested that such security measures might be relevant for other German federal states, including Saxony. While Saxony and Christian Democratic Union leader Friedrich Merz support reinstating border checks, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser opposes the idea. 

Söder emphasized that Bavaria's border with the Czech Republic is already secure, and he assured Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala during a meeting in May that Bavaria was not pushing for permanent border controls.

Politics Czech defense minister: Ukrainian criticism of Poland unfair

Defense Minister Jana Černochová commented via the X social network on Thursday on the Kyiv-Warsaw dispute over Ukrainian grain imports, criticizing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s handling of the situation. The argument escalated when Poland announced it would cease supplying weapons to Ukraine, with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki stating they were prioritizing Poland’s own defense.

Zelenskyy had earlier criticized Poland and other nations for extending their embargo on Ukrainian grain imports, suggesting it indirectly benefited Russia. Černochová reminded both countries about the importance of unity, apology, and positive collaboration in order to defeat Russia.

CULTURE 'Kolya' screenwriter Šašek dies

Czech screenwriter Václav Šašek, known for films like Helimadoe and Intimate Lighting, died at age 89. With a career spanning 30 years he wrote screenplays and edited nearly 60 films, collaborating with acclaimed directors including Miloš Forman, Jiří Menzel, and Jan Svěrák.

Šašek won the Czech Lion for Helimadoe and edited Svěrák's Oscar-winning Kolya. His influence spanned from 1960s New Wave cinema to recent work with Václav Marhoul on The Painted Bird.

HEALTH Fiala: Co-payments for healthcare not on the table

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, speaking at the Healthcare 2024 conference organized by the Employers' Association, indicated that there is currently no political backing for implementing patient co-payments for medical treatment. 

Fiala mentioned the historical challenges faced by his political party when attempting such reforms in the past. He referred to the lack of social support for direct payments from patients, emphasizing the sensitivity of the issue. A survey by the Association of Health Insurers showed that 41 percent of the population opposes higher co-payments, whereas 69 percent support voluntary extra insurance for enhanced healthcare services.

business EPH Holding announces sizable profits

In the first half of this year, Czech billionaire businessman Daniel Křetínský’s Energy and Industrial Holding (EPH) reported a notable 12-percent year-on-year increase in its gross operating profit, reaching EUR 1.87 billion, equivalent to approximately CZK 45.7 billion. EPH also managed to maintain stable sales figures, remaining at around EUR 15 billion, consistent with the previous year's performance.

EPH employs more than 24,000 people through its companies, with over 70 companies across Europe. It is one of the largest energy companies in Czechia.

RIP Prague Zoo euthanizes polar bear Berta

The Prague Zoo euthanized female polar bear Berta yesterday due to incurable cancer. The bear was 20 years old. With no plans to replace her, male Tom will remain the lone polar bear on exhibit. Berta was born in 2003 to parents Bora and Alík but was initially thought to be male. In 2009, she formed a close bond with male Tom from Brno Zoo.

Four years ago, Berta's mother Bora was also euthanized at 32 due to paralysis. The Prague Zoo has successfully bred polar bears since 1932 despite the difficulties of nursing cubs.

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