Today's headlines: Daily news refresh for Czechia

The country's top news in brief for the week of Jan. 30–Feb. 3, 2023. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 30.01.2023 09:38:00 (updated on 03.02.2023) Reading time: 15 minutes

Feb. 3, 2023

POLITICS New survey finds Babiš is most-trusted senior politician

Out of all current senior politicians, a survey published today has found that people trust former Prime Minister and leader of the ANO movement Andrej Babiš the most.

A study by the Center for Public Opinion revealed that almost half (45 percent) of respondents trusted Babiš. In comparison, just 34 percent expressed faith in current Prime Minister Petr Fiala. The second-most trusted political figure is leader of the right-wing Freedom and Direct Democracy party Tomio Okamura.

This will likely come as a surprise to many, given Babiš’s recent legal case into subsidy fraud (he was found innocent last month) and a current investigation by French police into alleged tax evasion.

Current President Miloš Zeman and Chamber of Deputies Speaker Markéta Adamová Pekarová were the least-trusted senior politicians.

POLITICS Zeman hits back sharply at Pavel claims

In response to President-elect Petr Pavel’s accusations this week that the President’s Office had deep security flaws, the official website of the office has released a statement today asking Pavel to present evidence of his claims.

“Pavel made a number of serious accusations against the president of the republic and the President’s Office. These accusations, which damage the trust of citizens in the functioning of state institutions, should be properly documented,” the statement reads.

Following his meeting with the head of the Security Information Service, Pavel noted that the “reality he has encountered so far” is much worse than he initially imagined.

PRAGUE Next Prague coalition provisionally agreed

After over four months of back-and-forth negotiations, a tentative agreement for Prague’s new government has been agreed, writes.

Representatives of the Spolu group (encompassing the Civic Democratic Party, TOP 09, and Christian Democrats) have reached an agreement with the Pirates and the Mayors and Independents on how the city of Prague will be governed.

A breakthrough was made by Spolu conceding a majority to the Pirates and Mayors and Independents. ANO was also in the mix, but other parties were largely unwilling to co-operate with the populist movement.

All individual parties will now read and approve relevant contracts; a firm decision will be made by the second half of February. The next mayor of Prague is currently uncertain, but it is thought that it will be Bohuslav Svoboda of the Civic Democratic Party.

SPORT Czech men's tennis team prepares for Portugal showdown

The Czech’s mens tennis team will this weekend compete in Portugal for a chance to qualify for the finals of the annual Davis Cup tournament.

The competition involves individual players representing their country in a series of singles and doubles matches. The Czechs won the Davis Cup in 2012 and 2013.

"The chances are 50-50. The home team chose the surface, but we are definitely the more experienced team," captain Jaroslav Navrátil said to journalists as cited by ČTK. The surface will be indoor clay.

Action, which includes both men’s singles and doubles, is to take place Saturday and Sunday.

POLITICS Pavel requests detailed checks amid wiretapping suspicion

President-elect Petr Pavel will check the premises of Prague Castle after his official inauguration for wiretapping, reports.

According to Pavel, the work offices at Prague Castle are “unsatisfactory from a security point of view.”

He also expressed concerns about the dealings of outgoing President Miloš Zeman; Pavel requested an entire audit by the National Audit Office on the Presidential Office to ensure that “skeletons from closets” do not fall on him at some point.

He also criticized the fact that a private security agency presently works at Prague Castle, giving it access to sensitive political information.

BANKING Fio banka reports record profits for 2022

Fio banka has said in a press release today that its net profit almost doubled in 2022, rising by a record CZK 2 billion. The main reason was the increase in its interest rate.

Over 100,000 new clients opened an account at Fio last year, bringing the total to over 1.2 million customers. By numbers of clients, Fio is the fifth-largest bank in Czechia. It has the seventh-largest number of assets in the whole of Czechia.

Fio joins banks such as Moneta, Česká spořitelna, and Komerční banka that have registered significant profits in 2022.

UKRAINE Pavel – West should show more courage supporting Ukraine

In an interview with French news company AFP, President-elect Petr Pavel said that Western allies should show “greater courage” in supporting Ukraine, ČTK reports.

He called on countries to donate more military equipment to the attacked country. He pointed out specifically that F-16 fighter jets should be sent. On sanctions, he said that one of the only ways to end the war was to continue applying stringent penalties against Russia.

He also encouraged “an investigation of war crimes” committed by Russia.

Feb. 2, 2023

CHARITY Epiphany campaign in Czechia raises CZK 161 million

The annual Epiphany fundraising campaign, held by the Czech Caritas charity, has raised a record-high figure of CZK 161 million during its fundraising session.

According to ČTK, the majority of the proceeds were raised by child carollers who were dressed as the biblical three kings during the annual celebration in early January.

The collected cash is predominantly used to help the elderly, homeless, and people with terminal diseases. About two-thirds of all the donated money is spent on local charity groups, 15 percent is used to finance projects of diocese charity groups, and 10 percent goes to humanitarian aid abroad.

MISSING PERSON Police search for young girl missing in Prague

Police are searching for a 13-year-old girl, Eva Škrabaňová, who went missing in Prague Wednesday morning, police report. She is slim, has blue eyes, and is about 155 centimeters tall. She has in the past mentioned wishes to commit suicide. Anyone who may have viewed sight of Eva is urged to contact the police immediately.

WEATHER Weather warning extended in Czechia

The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (ČHMÚ) has today extended its wind weather warning until Saturday. In certain areas of Czechia, wind gusts will reach up to 90 kilometers per hour, forming snowdrifts in some areas as reported by ČTK.

Mountainous regions of Czechia – particularly in the north – will be the main places affected.

"When driving a car, don't forget your winter gear, snow chains, and tools for possible vehicle rescue,” said ČHMÚ meteorologists. 

Prague will face only small to moderate levels of wind, with some snow forecast for Saturday.

GOVERNMENT Czech president-elect and prime minister meet

President-elect Petr Pavel met with Prime Minister Petr Fiala yesterday evening for an official discussion on the future of Czech politics, writes. The pair, who were joined by a couple of other senior governmental figures, met at the Presidential Lounge of the Senate. 

“We represent an effort to communicate normally and coordinate the actions of all government institutions," Pavel said when speaking about his role with Fiala.

“I assume that we will meet on various occasions and coordinate our actions outside of these meetings as well," Pavel added.

Fiala told journalists yesterday that the current system of prime minister-president communication was partly “missing,” due to rare meetings with current President Miloš Zeman.

DIPLOMACY China continues to level criticism at Czechia

The new China-Czech Republic diplomatic feud has continued this morning. In response to the decision of Chamber of Deputies Speaker Markéta Pekarová Adamová that she will visit Taiwan in March, China has said the visit is “wrong” and called for its cancellation, Seznam Zprávy writes.

This follows outcry from the Chinese government after President-elect Petr Pavel’s phone call with the Taiwanese president. Prime Minister Petr Fiala defended the move, saying that Czechia as a sovereign country is able to talk with whichever country it wants to.

SPORT Czech teenage tennis player advances to Lyon Open quarterfinals

Teenage Czech tennis player Linda Nosková has advanced to the quarterfinals of the Lyon Open, beating sixth seed  Majar Sharif in straight sets (6:3, 6:2). This is the third time in Nosková’s career that she has made the quarterfinals of a tournament on the Women’s Tennis Association circuit.

Nosková, 18, will play Colombian Camila Osorio Friday. The Czech is ranked 56 in the world – a career high that she reached in January. Wednesday’s win means that she will be ranked in the top 50 from next week.

Feb. 1, 2023

SOCIETY New survey shows Czechs most fearful of war

A survey published today by the Center for Public Opinion Research shows that over 30 percent of Czechs live in fear of a potential war affecting them. One in five people cited a fear of currently rising prices, and a relatively low 14 percent said they were worried about their own health.

The main difference from the same, year-earlier survey is a reduction of fears about Covid-19. Then, 30 percent of respondents expressed fear about the virus. Now, this figure hovers around 1 percent. 

Over four-fifths of people generally feel “safe” living in the Czech Republic.

IMMIGRATION Czechia-Slovakia border controls to end

Border controls at the border of Czechia and Slovakia – in place since late September – are coming to an end following a ministerial meeting, writes.

 “From Feb. 5, there will be no border controls,” said Interior Minister Vít Rakušan this afternoon.

Checks were originally introduced to tackle the rising number of immigrants (predominantly of Middle Eastern origin) traveling via the Western Balkans, with the intention of traveling through Czechia en route to Western Europe.

Since the introduction of controls, Rakušan says that over 3 million people were checked, with over 9,000 people detained.

ENTERTAINMENT Ozzy Osbourne cancels Prague show

British singer Ozzy Osbourne has today canceled his planned show in Prague, which was due to happen in May.

"This is probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to tell my loyal fans," he said during the online announcement this afternoon. 

Osbourne has called off his whole European tour. He hinted that he would not properly tour again, writing “never would I have imagined that my touring days would have ended this way.”

He blamed a long-term spinal issue for his cancelation. The rock star had a serious accident four years ago, which damaged his spine.

LAW Former prime minister given CZK 100,000 fine

Former Prime Minister Petr Nečas has been handed a CZK 100,000 fine for perjury by the District Court of Prague 1. He was also handed a one-year probationary sentence.

Nečas was charged for knowingly giving false information in the well-known “Nagyová affair,” of 10 years ago, in which his then-girlfriend Jana Nagyová was accused of using military intelligence to spy on Nečas’s wife at the time. Prosecutors say he lied to protect Nagyová. 

Nečas is also facing a bribery case; court proceedings will continue.

SERVICES Česká pošta bumps up its prices

The state postal service, Česká pošta, will from now increase the prices of several of its services, according to its new price sheet found online.

For example, the cost of sending an ordinary letter will rise by CZK 2, to CZK 23. Similarly, priority delivery will go up from CZK 28 to CZK 30. Sending a registered letter will now cost CZK 62, instead of CZK 52 – a sizable 20-percent increase.

This is the third time in a matter of months that Česká pošta has upped its prices, with increases taking place in November and December, too.

EDUCATION School canteens to raise their prices by up to 30 percent

Some school canteens around the country will from today raise the prices of their school lunches, Seznam Zprávy writes.

 A new government decree that comes into force Feb. 1 allows schools to increase the prices of their main meals – up to a maximum of 20 percent. Breakfasts and snacks are set to rise by up to 30 percent.

Charity Women for Women, which helps parents in tricky financial situations, estimates that this year every sixth child will be unable to eat lunch in school canteens.

WEATHER Avalanche-danger level rises in Krkonoše mountains

Owing to strong gusts and continuing snowfall, the avalanche-danger level of the Krkonoše mountains has increased to level three on the five-point scale (five being the most dangerous). This means that the current situation is “very treacherous,” according to the Krkonoše Mountain Service.

Earlier this morning the Sněžka mountain was hit by hurricane-force winds of over 159 kilometers per hour. At present, there are about 100 centimeters of snow on the ridges of the Krkonoše mountains. More hurricane-level winds gusts and snowfall are expected today in the region.

Jan. 31, 2023

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS Czech PM rejects Chinese criticism over Taiwan phone call

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala has today rejected China’s criticism of President-elect Petr Pavel calling the Taiwanese president, writes.

According to Fiala, Czechia is a sovereign state, and therefore is able to choose freely with which countries it communicates. Similar to other Western countries, Czechia observes the “One China” policy, which is a diplomatic acknowledgment that there is only one Chinese government, which also rules over Taiwan.

Earlier today, China officials issued a statement sharply condemning Pavel’s phone call. They accuse Pavel of leading Czechia away from the One China principle.

PRAGUE Czech interior minister calls for new Prague Castle checks

Interior Minister Vít Rakušan has today repeated his view that current security checks upon people’s entrance to Prague Castle can – and should – be changed, ČTK writes.

Prior to a meeting with President-elect Petr Pavel this afternoon, Rakušan informed journalists that he believed more lenient and friendlier measures could be introduced at Prague Castle.

At present, visitors to Prague Castle’s grounds need to go through a police-involved security check, which includes walking through airport-style body and item scanners. It can also include a body search.

UKRAINE Lipavský – unity is main challenge in supporting Ukraine

Czech Foreign Affairs Minister Jan Lipavský has today said that “the main task” in supporting Ukraine is maintaining Western unity in the fight against Russia, ČTK quotes Lipavský as telling journalists today.

Lipavský mentioned that the war will likely drag on for a while; it would last for as long as Russian President Vladimir Putin kept his colonial dreams of extending Russian territory.” 

Lipavský criticized Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s oft-obstructionist stances and called for greater collaboration in supporting Ukraine.

DIPLOMACY Pavel discusses relations with Taiwanese president, China unhappy

Czech President-elect Petr Pavel told Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen via phone call that Taiwan and Czechia share the values of freedom, democracy and human rights, and will further enhance mutual partnership, according to a Monday tweet. Pavel previously said that assuring the country's security was one of his priorities.

According to Deník N, China contacted the Czech embassy in Beijing after the phone call to voice its displeasure. Czechia presently recognizes the "One China" policy, which states that there is only one sovereign state under the name China and Taiwan is a part of it, but is open to friendly co-operation with Taiwan.

China views Taiwan as its own province. Outgoing President Miloš Zeman has been accused by critics of having overly China-friendly views. 

EMPLOYMENT Two hundred-person strike gets underway in Czechia

Employees of a Korean tire company have this morning started a strike near Žatec, Ústí nad Labem. They are demanding an 8.3-percent pay rise as well as arranged overtime pay from their employer, Nexen.

The strike got underway at about 8 a.m. this morning and will last indefinitely. The workers – about 200 employees – will travel to Prague today to continue their strike, iDnes writes.

A last-minute meeting between the representative trade union and Nexen’s management offered temporary hope that the strike would be averted, but no deal materialized.

POLITICS Babiš scolded over betting tweet

Vice-chairman of the ANO movement Ivo Vondrák has publicly apologized on behalf of former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš for calling on people to bet on him prior to the second round of the presidential election.

On Jan. 26, Babiš tweeted: “The odds [of my victory] are 12:1. Bet CZK 1,000, and everyone come and vote – you will win CZK 12,000.”

Vondrák criticized former Deputy Prime Minister Karel Havlíček during Babiš’s for staying silent over the matter during a television appearance on ČT24 Monday, writes.

Jan. 30, 2023

EVENT Pedestrian dies after car accident in Prague

An incident in Prague 6 this afternoon killed one 23-year-old woman, Czech police report on Twitter. The victim, who was a passer-by, was crushed by a car against a wall and tragically succumbed to her injuries after 30 minutes of attempted resuscitation. She was trapped between the car and a shop, which also suffered damage.

The car is reported to have been unmanned upon the collision, iDnes writes. The full circumstances of the incident are being investigated by police.

POLITICS Former Czech foreign affairs minister dies aged 93

Czechia’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaroslav Šedivý passed away on Saturday, Jan. 28, Seznam Zprávy writes. He was 93 years old. 

Šedivý was suspended from the Czech Communist Party after the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 due to his airing of anti-communist views. He spent six years in custody thereafter.

He served as Foreign Affairs Minister from 1997 to 1998. He was an independent Czech Republic’s first-ever ambassador to France, a position he held until 1994. He later was the Czech ambassador to Luxembourg and Belgium.

DIPLOMACY Zeman meets with Serbian president

Outgoing President Miloš Zeman met with Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vučić in Belgarde to discuss “private matters,” ČTK reports.

Zeman told Vucic that Serbia is one of his favorite countries because it had the courage to “face any enemy.”

The Czech president has repeatedly criticized the independence of Kosovo, thereby putting him in a good light in most Serbians’ eyes. 

The Czech House – a building built a century ago by the Czech expat community in the area – was also officially opened in Serbia’s capital earlier today. It will predominantly be used by Czech organizations. 

This is Zeman’s penultimate planned diplomatic visit before the expiry of his mandate in March. He is due to visit Slovakia next.

EVENT Man with gun in Brno office arrested by police this morning

A man in possession of a firearm in an office building in Brno this morning has been detained by police, ČTK writes.

According to police spokesperson David Chaloupka, the man had been threatening others. The office is located on Holandská street, a large road in the city frequented by hundreds of people daily.

"We need to check the premises, why the person was there, what he was doing there, and if he was with anyone. The intervention is still ongoing,” Chaloupka said.

WEATHER Rainy and windy week awaits Czechia

It will rain on most days in the Czech Republic during this week, including in Prague, according to the forecast of the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (CHMÚ). Strong wind is expected across the country also, especially in the north.

This week will see milder weather in the capital, with maximum daytime temperatures reaching about 4 degrees Celsius today and Tuesday. Maximum temperatures in Prague will climb to about 6 degrees Celsius on Saturday.

The CHMÚ has issued a wind warning for the entirety of the Czech Republic for early Tuesday morning. Winds will be particularly strong in the mountains.

A mixture of rain and small snow showers is forecast in Prague for almost every day of this week.

ELECTION 2023 Zelenskiy invites Pavel to Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Twitter Sunday invited Czech president-elect Petr Pavel to Ukraine and congratulated him on his victory.

Pavel announced soon after his victory that he would make assistance to Ukraine as one of his near-term priorities, declaring total support for the attacked country. He said that he could continue to drive forward arms donations and financial aid to Ukraine.

Pavel announced Sunday that he, along with Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová, intends to visit Kyiv in the spring.

ELECTION 2023 Pavel announces he has not yet met with Zeman

The winner of the 2023 presidential election Petr Pavel told reporters yesterday that he has not yet spoken with outgoing President Miloš Zeman, ČTK reports.

Zeman told journalists over the weekend that Pavel had not yet reached out to Zeman, but that he would be glad to meet if an offer were made. He publicly congratulated Pavel for his victory on Saturday.

Zeman endorsed former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš for the election. Pavel disagrees with Zeman’s recent decision to name the new head of the Czech Constituional Court, and will ask the incumbent president to reconsider his choice.

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