Today's headlines: Daily news refresh for Czechia

The country's top news in brief for the week of Jan. 9-13, 2023. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 09.01.2023 09:26:00 (updated on 13.01.2023) Reading time: 15 minutes

Jan. 13, 2023

ELECTION 2023 President Zeman casts vote for his successor

Current and outgoing President Miloš Zeman today cast his vote in Lány, Central Bohemia, to choose his successor. He mentioned that he wanted somebody with political experience to become the next president – he had previously publicly backed former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.

A person who “does not have this [political] experience is a risk for all citizens and also for themselves,” he said today as ČTK describes.

Zeman, whose mandate expires in March, said that the role of the Czech president is not simply a “signature machine,” and instead plays an active role in the country’s politics.

CRIME Czech crime rate rises by almost 20 percent in 2022

According to president of Czech Police Martin Vondrášek, crime in Czechia increased by almost 19 percent year on year, iRozhlas reports. A total of 181,991 criminal offenses were recorded in Czechia last year – about 500 every day.

Vondrášek did stress, however, that the crime rate in 2020 and 2021 was reduced, in part, by coronavirus-driven lockdown measures. In 2019, almost 200,000 crimes had been committed – higher than in 2022.

All categories of crime increased in 2022 from 2021 levels. The police investigated 145 murders last year.

"In general, the rise is [due to] to a considerably higher tension in society, affected by…the war conflict in Ukraine and the complicated development of the economic situation,” the police said.

COVID-19 Czechia to require Covid-19 tests for people flying from China

Passengers flying from China to Czechia will from Monday, Jan. 16 need to present a negative Covid-19 test prior to leaving China or upon entering Czechia, Deník N writes. The new rule applies to those who have stayed in the country for more than 12 hours in the last 14 days.

Czechia originally said that it would follow the EU’s guidance before imposing any travel-related limits on its own accord.

France, Austria, and Spain already require negative Covid-19 tests. China recently partially opened its borders and slightly relaxed its stringent travel measures.

CYBER Cybercrime in Czechia almost doubles

The number of criminal attacks in the Czech cybersphere in 2022 rose by almost 100 percent, according to a statement made by Deputy Police Chief of the Criminal and Investigation Service Tomáš Kubík. The total number of recorded attacks rose by 9,036, to 18,554.

ČTK reports that the most common types of attacks were phishing and fraud-related acts in order to attain somebody’s sensitive – usually financial – information.

A new government branch – the National Center for Fighting Terrorism, Extremism, and Cybercrime – was created last year to help better protect Czechia against the attacks.

ELECTION 2023 Czechs go to polls to pick their next president

Czechs today will go to the polls to choose who the fourth president of the Czech Republic will be. Today marks the first day of the first round of the presidential election. Polls will open today at 2 p.m. and close at 10 p.m. They will then reopen tomorrow, Saturday Jan. 14, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Postal votes have already begun.

The current president, Miloš Zeman, has been in office for 10 years. The current frontrunners are former army general Petr Pavel, former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, and economist Danuše Nerudová. Pavel is the bookmakers’ favorite.

POLITICS Fiala accuses opposition ANO of disinformation

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala Thursday accused opposition movement ANO of spreading disinformation, ČTK reports. He made reference to ANO telling people in a circulated leaflet that the current coalition plans to introduce “restrictive measures” after the presidential elections.

ANO member of parliament Radek Vondráček said earlier this week that the cabinet plans to curb freedom of speech and “manipulate public opinion.”

"The cabinet does not restrict the freedom of speech, nor does it plan to restrict any freedoms," Fiala said in response.

HEALTHCARE Czechia to receive large amounts of penicillin

The Czech Republic is due to receive a large supply of penicillin as well as children’s antipyretics next week, according to a statement made by Prime Minister Petr Fiala Thursday. This will help partially relieve the country’s current drugs shortage, which has now lasted several months, writes.

"Hundreds of thousands of packages have been delivered in the past weeks and tens of thousands more should arrive by the end of January. The situation of the shortage of penicillin antibiotics is also being stabilized,” Fiala mentioned.

Jan. 12, 2023

UKRAINE Czech Red Cross announces Ukraine donation drive

The charity Czech Red Cross (CCK) announced in a press release today that it transported 416 tons of humanitarian aid and over CZK 121 million to Ukraine since February 2022.

Sending around 45 medical vehicles (such as ambulances) and various healthcare devices, it also said it had helped over 320,000 refugees in the Czech Republic.

Over 1,300 workers and volunteers for CCK took part in assistance missions.

CCK has been helping Ukraine since 2014, when Russia invaded Crimea. Between 2014 and 2022, CCK sent 13 missions to Ukraine.

POLITICS ANO gets enough votes to table no-confidence motion

The ANO movement, after announcing Wednesday its plans to call a no-confidence vote, has collected enough signatures to convene the vote, iDnes reports.

It will likely be held before the second round of the presidential election (Jan. 27 and 28). As the current coalition has a firm majority, it is highly unlikely to be overthrown.

The timing of the no-confidence announcement coincides with the first round of the presidential election this week, in which ANO leader Andrej Babiš is running.

Out of 17 attempts to express no confidence in the government, one succeeded in the history of the independent Czech Republic.

ACCIDENT Coal miner dies in Czechia

A miner this morning died in a North Moravian coal mine following a tremor, ČTK writes. The death was reported by a spokesperson for the state-run mining company for which the man worked, OKD.

Two people died in OKD coal mines in 2022 – in the late 20th century, as many as 10 people died in OKD mines annually in Czechia.

The government aims to phase out coal mines by the end of 2025. Most coal mines in the country have been closed due to low profits.

ELECTION 2023 Pavel and Nerudová face off in presidential debate

During a televised presidential debate hosted by CNN Prima featuring two of the frontrunners, former army general Petr Pavel and economist Danuše Nerudová battled it out to show who was most qualified to take on the role of Czechia’s next president.

Pavel said that he partly identifies with former president Václav Havel's former words that "our country is not flourishing". Nerudová said that she is focused on the country’s future and aims to create a “modern state.”

Both agreed to increased defense spending in the coming years, and both took essentially the same line on Russia. Positions slightly differed on China: Nerudová would support limiting the export of its important technologies, whereas Pavel would prefer opening negotiations with China to help stop its totalitarian regime.

Pavel received 70 percent of support from spectators of the debate. The first round of voting starts tomorrow for the majority of the populace.

ELECTION 2023 Half of presidential candidates fail to disclose full donor details

Just four out of the eight current presidential candidates have released full data that details their financial donors, ČTK reports. Two candidates –  former university rector Tomáš Zima and trade union leader Josef Středula (who recently dropped out, but is still legally obliged to disclose donor information) – released no information whatsoever regarding their donors, and now face a hefty fine.

Of the frontrunners, former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and economist Danuše Nerudová released all the needed information. Ex-army general Petr Pavel is missing some places of residence in his disclosure.

UKRAINE Prague mayor visits Ukraine with Visegrád Group counterparts

The mayors of the capitals of the Visegrád Group – Czechia, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary – all convened in Kyiv yesterday to discuss Ukraine’s progress in combating the Russian threat. They met with their counterpart, Kyiv Mayor (and former professional boxer) Vitali Klitschko.

The main goals of the trip included deepening cooperation regarding humanitarian aid, support for refugees, and planning for post-war reconstruction.

Prague has so far donated about two dozen trams, as well as several ambulances and buses, according to ČTK.

Jan. 11, 2023

POLITICS Babiš shares fake messages of support from coalition ministers

Presidential candidate Andrej Babiš shared on his Facebook profile earlier today fake statements of support from current Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Chamber of Deputies Speaker Markéta Pekarová Adamová, and Interior Minister Vít Rakušan, reports.

The message from Fiala wrote “we can’t handle it in the EU right now. I need a strong and experienced partner. That is why I will vote for Babiš.”

The fake statement from Adamová read “I will vote for Babiš…he is the only one who has the experience to handle a crisis.”

Perhaps the most audacious was the fabricated message attributed to Rakušan, stating: “I couldn’t stand Babiš…but we in the government no longer know where to go. Andrej, sorry for everything, you have my vote.”

All three coalition ministers have denied making the statements.

ECONOMY Inflation reaches over 15 percent for whole of 2022

Data published today by the Czech Statistical Office (CZSO) showed that year-on-year inflation slowed to 15.8 percent in December 2022, down from 16.2 percent in November. The average inflation rate for the full year was 15.1 percent – the highest amount since 1993 (when it had been 21 percent).

Food prices rose notably in December – flour went up by 42 percent year on year and eggs by 92 percent. Heat and hot water increased by 29 percent, and natural gas by 140 percent.

Analysts expect inflation to pick up again in January after the December slowdown, ČTK reports.

POLITICS Fiala – Czechia will continue supporting Ukraine

The Czech Republic will continue its military aid to Ukraine by way of cooperating with other countries and sending non-essential equipment to Ukraine, Prime Minister Petr Fiala told ČTK today.

He noted that frequent communication with Ukrainian politicians on what the country needs is important.

“Thanks to the heroic fight and defense as shown by the Ukrainians, and also thanks to the military aid by the Western countries, the Ukrainians are capable of facing huge Russian military predominance,” Fiala said.

Earlier this week, Fiala signed a message on a T-72 tank that had been donated to Ukraine by the Czech state.

POLITICS Opposition ANO announces no-confidence vote

The senior opposition ANO movement announced yesterday its plans to trigger a vote of no confidence in the current ruling government of Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Seznam Zprávy writes

ANO Chairperson Alena Schillerová announced the decision yesterday, justifying the move by saying that the current ruling coalition “did not allow one of the newly proposed opposition topics to be included in the [government’s] program.”

Fiala responded by saying that the opposition has the right to call a no-confidence vote, but it is likely based on the upcoming presidential election to benefit ANO founder and leader, Andrej Babiš.

ANO is unlikely to attain enough votes to overthrow the current government, as the current coalition has a comfortable ruling majority.

SPORT Petra Kvitová advances to quarterfinals of tennis tournament

Czech tennis player Petra Kvitová has advanced to the quarter-finals of the Adelaide International 2 women’s tennis tournament by beating Chinese Zheng Qin-wen. Her opponent was forced to retire due to an injury after losing the first set in a tiebreak. Kvitová, ranked 16th in the world, will play fifth-seeded player Daria Kasatkina Thursday.

Kvitová last won a tennis tournament in June 2022, when she won the Rothesay International Eastbourne tournament in England. She is Czechia’s most successful women’s singles tennis player in recent times, having won the Wimbledon Championships twice.

ELECTION 2023 Presidential election voting opens for Covid-19 patients

Czech voters who are self-isolating due to Covid-19 can vote in the Czech presidential election from today, ČTK writes. They can do this by driving to specially designated drive-through voting stations, of which there are five in Prague.

According to Ministry of Health information, about 2,600 people tested positive for Covid-19 in the past week. Voters must produce their ID card or passport when at the stations, as well as possess a Covid-19 isolation certificate issued by a doctor.

Jan. 10, 2023

POLITICS Controversial Putin bodybag-flag investigation dropped

The case of a flag depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin in a bodybag displayed on the back of the building of the Minister of the Interior has been dismissed by Czech police, ČT24 reports.

The flag appeared on Oct. 28 and was displayed in between a Czech and Ukrainian flag – Minister of the Interior Vít Rakušan defended the display and said he would pay any potential fine out of his own pocket. Based on national law, the Czech national flag must in theory hang on the front – rather than the back – of a building.

LAW Disinformer ordered to pay CZK 250,000 in damages

Former journalist Jana Peterková must pay a fine of CZK 250,000 for her campaign of disinformation during Czechia’s lockdowns, the High Court in Prague ruled today as reported by iRozhlas.

Peterková – who once worked for TV Nova – shared a series of videos online claiming that elderly people at a nursing home in the town of Měšice, Central Bohemia, had died as a result of vaccinations for Covid-19. She also claimed that death certificates had been falsified to mask the fact that the vaccine was the cause of the residents’ deaths. She is to pay the CZK 250,000 fine directly to the nursing home she made the allegations about.

ECONOMY Preliminary data shows national bank posting CZK 412 billion loss

According to preliminary, unaudited data published by the Czech National Bank (ČNB), Czechia’s central bank posted a CZK 412 billion loss in 2022, CTK reports. This is considerably greater than the CZK 38 million loss posted in 2021. Clearer financial accounts will be published in the spring.

TRAFFIC Section of D1 highway reopens after crash

A part of the D1 highway near Prague has been reopened after having been closed in both directions this morning following an accident involving a truck and van.

The incident took place around 5 a.m. near Říčany (just outside the capital), on the Brno-bound direction of the D1. Queues of “several kilometers” formed following the accident. Congestion had also been reported on smaller roads around Říčany as drivers attempted to reroute their journeys.

There were no serious injuries reported, according to ČT24.

HEALTH Chicken farm in Czechia removes '500 tons' of poultry

Following an outbreak of bird flu in the Czech Republic, a chicken farm in Tachov, Pilsen, has removed “approximately 500 tons of poultry,” according to a Monday announcement by State Veterinary Administration director Zbyněk Semerád.

This is about half of all laying hens in the farm that need to be disposed of, iDnes reports. About 4.3 million eggs have also been transported out of the farm.

According to Reuters, the virus based in the birds can be passed on to humans in contact with poultry, but experts see the health risk to humans as low.

DIPLOMACY Zelenskiy thanks Czechia for continued support

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked Czechia for its military support in a telephone conversation with Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala Monday, ČTK reports. 

"We appreciate the important defense support and expect its strengthening," Zelenskiy tweeted afterward. Fiala noted that the pair spoke “about "further concrete cooperation between our countries."

Czechia is currently training Ukrainian soldiers on Czech soil; 4,000 are expected to be trained by the end of the year.

POLITICS Andrej Babiš to meet French president today

Following his acquittal on Monday, former Prime Minister and presidential candidate Andrej Babiš will today meet with French President Emmanuel Macron, ČTK reports. Ukraine and general European affairs will be the main topics of discussion, Babiš told journalists yesterday.

Both Macron’s and Babiš’s political parties – ANO and the Renaissance party respectively – belong to the Renew Europe political party in the European Parliament.

According to political scientist Jan Kubáček, the former prime minister’s move is definitely a pre-election strategy, as Czech people “know Macron, rather like French politicians, and France is generally accepted by Czechs,” quotes ČTK.

Babiš is currently being investigated for alleged tax evasion and money laundering relating to the purchase of residences in France, Echo24 reports.

Jan. 9, 2023

SOCIETY Former journalist facing prison for lockdown lies

A former journalist has today in court pleaded not guilty to spreading undue alarm and fear during the government’s Covid-19-driven lockdowns, iDnes writes.

Jana Peterková, previously an employee of TV Nova, faces up to eight years in prison for allegedly spreading hoaxes and disinformation about the government’s actions during the lockdown. She mentioned the occupation of Czechia by NATO troops and that children will be shot by troops for violating stay-at-home laws.

Last January, Peterková was fined CZK 250,000 by the court for lying about the deaths in the home for the elderly. She says her statements were taken out of context.

WORK Unemployment sees slight increase in Czechia

Unemployment in Czechia increased marginally in December, to 3.7 percent, a rise from 3.5 percent in previous months according to data from the Labor Office.

Over 270,000 people applied for work via the country’s employment offices in December – 14,000 more than the previous month.

Analysts say that an increase in unemployment at the end of the year is normal: "with the arrival of winter, seasonal work is gradually coming to an end, especially in agriculture and construction,” said the Labor Office in ČTK.

ECONOMY Czech economy grows 1.5 percent in December

The Czech economy grew by 1.5 percent year on year in the third quarter of 2022 according to a data release by the Czech Statistical Office (CZSO). This marks a decline from 3.5 percent in the second quarter of the year, and comes below CZSO estimates that the economy grew 1.7 percent in the third quarter as written in ČTK.

According to CZSO, foreign demand and the creation of gross fixed capital were conducive to growth, whereas household consumption had a negative impact.

LAW Ex-PM Andrej Babiš found not guilty in subsidy-fraud case

Former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and his ex-aide Jana Nagyová have this morning been acquitted over EU subsidy-fraud charges relating to the drawn-out Čapí hnízdo legal case. Jude Jan Šott made the ruling shortly after 9 a.m. Monday, and is now justifying his decision. An unidentified man leapt up in the courtroom in protest and was promptly escorted from the premises.

Babiš and Nagyová had been accused of fraudulently claiming a EUR 2 million (CZK 50 million) subsidy from the EU, only available to small- and medium-sized enterprises, for the construction of a multi-purpose building named Čapí hnízdo.

Prosecutors argued that Čapí hnízdo had been connected with Babiš's Agrofert conglomerate, which would make it ineligible for the loan. Babiš and Nagyová asserted that Čapí hnízdo's ownership had clearly been separated from Agrofert, and that no laws had been violated, even after repeat checks from EU authorities.

This case has been ongoing since 2018 and has featured Babiš's own son testifying against his father, along with claims that the former prime minister faked his own son's signature.

ELECTION 2023 Petr Pavel performs strongest in latest opinion poll

An opinion poll by the Kantar polling agency finds that former army general Petr Pavel would win both the first and second rounds of the Czech presidential election, ČTK reports.

In the first round, Pavel would get 27.5 percent of the vote, former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš would receive 26.5 percent, and ex-university rector Danuše Nerudová would get 22 percent. Nerudová’s popularity declined substantially from the last opinion poll, dropping 5 percentage points. 

In a potential second-round run-off, both Babiš and Nerudová would lose to Pavel, with 41 percent and 45 percent of the vote respectively.

REAL ESTATE Jindřišská tower gets tens of suitors

A representative of the Vicar General of the Prague Archdiocese told ČTK on the weekend that there are about 30 parties interested in purchasing the Jindřišská tower, which had been announced as being on sale late last year.

The sale price of the 15th-century tower, which now features a cafe, souvenir shop, and gallery, is CZK 75 million. It was put on sale by the archbishop of Prague because it was “an unnecessary and economically disadvantageous asset.”

Election 2023 Trade unionist drops out of presidential race

Josef Středula, who is head of the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions, yesterday announced his decision to drop out of the presidential race.

He made the statement live on air Sunday evening after a televised debate on state broadcaster Česká televize.

He thanked his followers and emphasized that “he would keep supporting working people's dignity,” ČTK reports.

He announced that he would be supporting economist and former university rector Danuše Nerudová for president.

A recent opinion poll (from the STEM agency) released earlier this month showed Středula polling in seventh position.

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