News in brief for Sept. 28: Top headlines for Czechia for Thursday

National pilgrimage starts as part of St. Wenceslas Day, Ministry of Defense confirms record budget, and more news for Thursday, Sept. 28.

Expats.cz Staff ČTK

Written by Expats.cz StaffČTK Published on 28.09.2023 08:59:00 (updated on 28.09.2023) Reading time: 6 minutes

ROADS Speed limit to increase by 20 percent in Czech tunnels

A significant shift is set to occur on Czech highways as the maximum speed limit within tunnels is raised from 80 kilometers per hour (km/h) to 100 km/h. The Director of ŘSD, Radek Mátl, announced this change today in an interview with travel-news site Zdopravy.cz, highlighting that it has already been approved, and new highway tunnels will be designed to accommodate the higher speed.

While existing tunnels will also undergo modifications to allow for the increased limit, Mátl noted that these upgrades can be costly. This transition began in the Valík tunnel on the D5 last year, with more newly constructed tunnels, like the Pohůrka tunnel on the D3, expected to follow suit.

Slovak election 2023 Special 'election trains' to depart for Slovakia Friday

Two special trains will transport Slovak citizens from the Czech Republic to Slovakia for free to participate in early parliamentary elections. Over 1,000 people, including many students, expressed interest in this initiative organized by non-governmental organizations. Slovakia does not permit voting in parliamentary elections at its embassies abroad, necessitating an alternative for citizens residing in other countries. 

The project's goal is to facilitate the participation of young people, many of whom study and work in the Czech Republic. The initiative was well-received, with 1,200 people registering for the free train ride, underscoring the importance of accessible voting options for citizens abroad.

STATEHOOD DAY Current and former presidents pay tribute to St. Wenceslas

Today in Stará Boleslav's Mariánské náměstí square, people gathered to honor St. Wenceslas, the Czech Republic's patron saint. Distinguished guests, including President Petr Pavel, former President Václav Klaus, Senate President Miloš Vystrčil, lawmakers, military representatives, and ambassadors, attended the pilgrimage mass.

Cardinal Dominik Duka addressed the crowd, highlighting the proximity of Czech Statehood Day to the Munich Agreement's anniversary. He called for gratitude, drawing parallels to Palladium, which protected Prague during World War II, and emphasized the war in Ukraine as a call for unity, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Duka quoted writer Karel Čapek, stressing the enduring nature of emotions and the importance of goodwill and service.

DIGITAL EU report: Czechia falls behind in digitization

While 60 percent of Czechs possess basic digital skills, surpassing the EU average of 54 percent, the country still lags in digitization, per a new European Commission report. The report notes the Czech Republic's ambition in digital technologies but highlights a recent delay in business digitization.

Only 4.5 percent of employees are IT experts, and female representation in the field is low at 10.9 percent compared to the EU's 18.9 percent. Expanding fast internet access is a challenge, yet 5G network coverage exceeds EU standards. The report calls for greater emphasis on cloud storage, artificial intelligence, and aligning with the EU's 2030 digital goals for improved public services.

IMMIGRATION Police see big jump in illegal immigration into South Moravia

The South Moravian Region has seen a nearly tenfold increase in the number of migrants apprehended compared to the beginning of the year, according to local police forces. While only 35 refugees were apprehended in January, this number surged nearly tenfold to 292 in September according to police spokesperson David Chaloupka.

Notably, the police have also managed to apprehend more human traffickers this year, with 89 arrests compared to last year's 73, reflecting increased attention to the issue. To respond to the worsening issue, local police have ramped up random border checks between the Czech and Slovak border.

METEOROLOGY Cooler weather expected this weekend across country

According to the forecast of the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, the weekend will bring about slightly cooler temperatures in Czechia compared to the past week. Although Friday is set to see warmth of around 26 degrees Celsius in Prague, temperatures in the capital are expected to reach a high of 20 degrees Celsius on Saturday, with the warmest weather (up to 23 degrees Celsius) to be experienced in South Moravia and the southeast of the country. 

On Sunday, Prague will see maximum daytime temperatures of about 19 degrees Celsius, with rain, with sunny spells and no rain expected. Brno will be slightly warmer, registering around 22 degrees Celsius.

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The weather forecast across Czechia for Saturday afternoon. (Photo:
The weather forecast across Czechia for Saturday afternoon. (Photo: Czech Hydrometeorological Institute)

INCIDENT Firefighters aim to tackle blaze in Bohemian Switzerland

Firefighters anticipate extinguishing a fire in Czech Switzerland National Park near Jetřichovice today, according to the spokesperson of the Ústí nad Labem fire department. They pinpointed the fire Wednesday and faced challenging terrain, extending a water hose over a kilometer. 

The fire prompted dozens of firefighters to respond, with half remaining on site today. Drones are aiding the assessment. Accessing the fire solely on foot increases the complexity of the operation. The affected area has reportedly diminished, with no further spread. A local resident in Vysoká Lípa reported the fire, and park authorities promptly shared coordinates with firefighters. The location is about five kilometers as the crow flies from where huge fires burned last summer.

SEPT. 28 State buildings open their doors to public on Statehood Day

In celebration of Czech Statehood Day, several government offices and ministries in Prague are open to the public. Visitors can explore the Straka Academy, where the government convenes, the Nostic Palace (home to the Ministry of Culture), and the historic Ministry of Agriculture building in Těšnov. Guided tours are available for the Ministry of Finance, the former convent of the Discalced Carmelites and English Virgins, and the Prague hygiene station in Rytířská Street, known as Stará rychta since the Middle Ages.

At the Straka Academy, visitors can not only tour the premises, including the government's meeting room and press area but also view a three-day exhibition in the garden featuring cars used by constitutional officials from the 1960s to the early 2000s. For a full list of buildings that are available to visit, see our article.

MILITARY Govt. confirms purchase of 24 new F-35 aircraft

The Czech government has given the green light to acquire 24 U.S. F-35 aircraft, with a total budget of CZK 150 billion, including all operational preparation costs. The first aircraft is expected to be operational in 2029, and all 24 will be stationed in the Czech Republic by 2035, replacing 14 leased JAS-39 Gripen fighters and 24 L-159s. 

This military purchase, estimated to be Czechia’s costliest in modern history, surpasses the previous record for Swedish CV90 infantry vehicles at CZK 60 billion. The Czech Republic will allocate CZK 106 billion for aircraft, equipment, training, and gradually pay until 2034, with an additional CZK 44 billion crowns for infrastructure, fuel, training, and tax.

St. WENCESLAS DAY National pilgrimage begins as part of public holiday

The National St. Wenceslas Pilgrimage commenced in Stará Boleslav Wednesday with the arrival of a relic of St. Wenceslas at the basilica named after him. The event featured the relic's arrival in a special head-shaped reliquary, accompanied by castle guards and Catholic Church dignitaries.

Prague Archbishop Jan Graubner led a prayer for the nation. The pilgrimage, concluding with a mass at 10 a.m. today, attracted thousands of pilgrims from across the country. Around 500 attendees were welcomed by member of parliament Nina Nováková, who recounted the St. Wenceslas legend. The relic will remain in the basilica's crypt until Thursday, with Cardinal Dominik Duka leading the pilgrimage mass on the square.

BUDGET State confirms large jump in defense budget

In 2024, defense expenditure in the Czech Republic is set to surpass 2 percent of GDP, according to a statement from the Ministry of Defense. It is set to total almost CZK 160 billion. This substantial growth is driven by a new law enforcing defense spending at 2 percent of GDP, in line with the government's commitment to NATO's target of achieving this threshold by 2025.

According to the ministry, most of the year-on-year budget increase goes to investments in modernizing the military. “The approval of the record budget will allow us to continue with…the acquisition of CV90 tracked infantry fighting vehicles,” remarked Defense Minister Jana Černochová.

LAW US tribunal blames pilot for 2021 Petr Kellner air crash

The 2021 helicopter crash in Alaska that claimed the life of Czech billionaire Petr Kellner and four others was primarily attributed to the pilot's inadequate response to poor visibility, as reported by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Wednesday. The NTSB also cited "inadequate pilot training" at Soloy, the flight organizer, and insufficient oversight from a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector as contributing factors. 

The crash, which occurred during a heliskiing excursion, resulted in the deaths of snowboarding coach Benjamin Larochaix, pilot Zachary Russell, and mountain guides Gregory Harms and Sean McManamy. Only David Horváth, a former Czech snowboarding representative, survived but endured severe frostbite due to delayed rescue efforts.

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