News in brief for Sept. 23: Top headlines for Czechia on Saturday

European Commission president announces Prague visit, politicians in gridlock over austerity package, and more headlines for Sept. 23, 2023. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 23.09.2023 08:30:00 (updated on 23.09.2023) Reading time: 6 minutes

Culture Thousands attend Czech Railway Day in Bohumín

Despite the rainy weather, thousands flocked to Bohumín today for Czech Railway Day. Historic locomotive displays, modern train tours, and steam or vintage motor train rides drew visitors. Nostalgic train rides, shrouding platforms in steam, captivated spectators. A manually operated turntable proved another highlight.

Steam locomotives garnered particular attention, offering a nostalgic journey reminiscent of the past. Czech Railways' Lukáš Kubát highlighted the allure of nostalgia, where passengers could experience a journey with coal residue in their hair. Additionally, the event showcased modern trains with low-floor designs, Wi-Fi connectivity, and compliance with strict modern transport standards.

Migration Czechia, Germany to cooperate on possible border checks

Czech Interior Minister Vít Rakušan has announced that German and Czech police will collaborate intensively to combat people smugglers amid the deteriorating situation on the Balkan migrant route. They are coordinating efforts, including possible checks at selected border crossings.

Rakušan confirmed his agreement with German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, with the next meeting scheduled for next week. Faeser, who previously opposed full security checks, now supports them at borders with the Czech Republic and Poland to combat people smugglers. Czech police are closely monitoring the situation and have seen a significant decrease in illegal migration compared to last year.

Business Criminal complaint filed over sale of Atos to Křetínský

A minority shareholder of the French group Atos has filed a criminal complaint alleging corruption in the sale of part of the technology company to Czech billionaire Daniel Křetínský's EP Equity Investment. The National Financial Prosecutor's Office is investigating the complaint, which was made by the Alix AM fund.

The fund alleges both active and passive corruption during the transaction, but specific individuals involved have not been named. The sale of Atos' Tech Foundations division to Křetínský's group has stirred controversy, with some minority shareholders and French politicians expressing opposition. Atos' board has defended the sale, calling the allegations baseless.

Weather Fall kicks off in Czechia with cool and rainy weather

Today at 8:50 a.m. Central European Summer Time, the autumnal equinox marked the transition from astronomical summer to autumn. Meteorologists in Czechia predict a cool and rainy start to this year's astronomical autumn over the weekend in Bohemia and Moravia, but a return to warm and sunny weather is anticipated next week.

This seasonal shift is a result of Earth's axial tilt, which is approximately 23.5 degrees. As Earth orbits the sun, this tilt causes the northern and southern hemispheres to alternate their orientation to the Sun, leading to the changing seasons.

Politics New Czech ambassadors to Ukraine and Poland appointed

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský has announced the appointment of Radek Pech as the new Czech ambassador to Ukraine and Břetislav Dančák as the new ambassador to Poland. Both diplomats have received consent from their host countries.

Pech, who previously served as the Czech Ambassador to Denmark, will succeed Radek Matula in Kyiv, while Dančák, known for his expertise in energy security and geopolitics, will take up his post in Poland. This move comes after the recent vacancy in Warsaw following the sudden passing of Ambassador Jakub Dürr in February. Both diplomats are set to assume their roles this fall.

Sports Czech women's volleyball team falls to Ukraine in Olympic qualifiers

The Czech women's volleyball team suffered a 3-1 defeat against Ukraine during the Olympic qualification tournament in Ning-po, China. Despite a strong start with a 25-12 win in the first set, they couldn't maintain their momentum. Coach Jannis Athanasopoulos cited mental lapses and fatigue as factors contributing to the loss.

Ukraine's aggressive serving disrupted the Czech team's performance, leading to their defeat. The team's next and final opponent is Canada, who secured their fourth win with a 3-0 victory over Mexico. Czech Captain Michaela Mlejnková urged her team to gather their strength for the upcoming match and strive for a winning end to the tournament.

ELECTION Ex-president Zeman endorses Fico for Slovak election

Former Czech President Miloš Zeman Friday expressed support for ex-Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and his Smér-SD party in Slovakia's upcoming general election. Zeman's endorsement was shared in a recording on the internet, along with a letter from Václav Klaus, for which Smér-SD expressed gratitude. 

Zeman conveyed his wishes for success, emphasizing social democracy's importance in providing solidarity for those unable to afford private education or healthcare, as well as elderly citizens facing financial challenges. Zeman, during his spell as prime minister of Czechia, had been part of the center-left Czech Social Democratic Party. Smér-SD, favored in polls, appreciated Zeman's support, emphasizing their unity and shared values within the social democratic ideology.

Economy Minimum wage to increase in January

The Czech Ministry of Labor is proposing an increase in the minimum wage for the coming year, with two potential options. The first option is an increase of CZK 1,600, bringing the minimum wage to CZK 18,900, while the second option suggests a CZK 2,100 increase, reaching CZK 19,400. The goal is to eventually reach either 45 percent of the average wage or half the average wage within five years.

The minimum wage was previously raised by CZK 1,100 in January to CZK 17,300. Trade unions are advocating for a CZK 2,200 increase, but employers have expressed concerns about the associated costs. These proposals align with European guidelines for determining minimum wages, which recommend percentages of the average wage. Implementing these changes could impact both employer and state contributions.

EU Von der Leyen comes to Prague next week

European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen is scheduled to visit the Czech Republic next Tuesday, according to a statement by the EC. During her visit, she will meet with Prime Minister Petr Fiala and participate in the Green Deal Summit conference on Sept. 26. 

Von der Leyen has prioritized the Green Deal for Europe since taking office in 2019, emphasizing the urgency of addressing climate change. The Green Deal focuses on the EU's shift to renewable energy and includes climate standards referred to as Fit for 55. The Prague conference's main themes will revolve around the Green Deal, sustainability, and energy. Von der Leyen last visited Prague in early May, when she also met President Petr Pavel.

POLITICS Opposition prolongs argument on austerity package

The Czech Chamber of Deputies Friday has postponed the completion of the controversial government consolidation package aimed at bolstering the state budget. The session was adjourned until Wednesday, Sept. 27, following disagreements among lower house groups. 

Marek Benda, leader of the ruling Civic Democrats in the lower house, proposed the adjournment after his proposal to continue the debate into the afternoon was vetoed by the opposition's ANO group leader, Alena Schillerová. She argued against supporting the coalition's proposed tax increase, resulting in the session ending earlier than planned. ANO said Friday that the final vote on the austerity package was the last battle over whether Czechia will choose economic stagnation in the future.

VACATION Half of Czechs plan autumn getaway inside country

A recent survey by the CzechTourism travel agency shows that in the upcoming autumn season, half of Czech residents intend to take vacations within their own country, opting for domestic travel due to lower costs. They anticipate spending more on accommodation and dining out. 

The study showed that the southern regions of the Czech Republic, particularly South Moravia, are the most sought-after destinations. Travelers are primarily planning light tourism activities and are set to take an average of eight days off work, much like last year. Interestingly, regardless of staying in the Czech Republic or traveling abroad, most prefer cashless transactions, although some may still rely on cash.

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