Today's headlines: Daily news refresh for Czechia

The country's top news in brief for the week of Feb. 13–Feb. 17, 2023. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 13.02.2023 09:36:00 (updated on 17.02.2023) Reading time: 12 minutes

Public transit Part of Florenc metro stop will close this weekend

Part of the metro C line will be out of operation this weekend on Feb. 18 and 19. Trains will not run in the section between the Hlavní nádraží and Vltavská stations due to renovation work at the Florenc station. Normal metro service on line C will resume on the morning of Feb. 20. In the meantime, passengers can use an alternative XC tram service and special tram line 36. The metro B line will operate at Florenc as usual. The ongoing project to replace beams that support the ceiling will last until the end of October 2023.  

Politics Pavel meets Macron before conference in Germany

President-elect Petr Pavel met French President Emmanuel Macron today before the start of the Munich Security Conference. Before leaving for Munich, Pavel said he would like to make contacts for his future role as the head of the Czech state at this major security event. He was accompanied by the Czech ambassador to Germany, Tomáš Kafka. After the conference, Pavel plans to meet representatives from Lithuania, Britain, Belarus, and Germany. Pavel will take his presidential oath on March 9.

Weather Rain and wind forecast for the weekend

It will rain over the weekend, with snowfall in the mountains. Winds will blow on Friday and Saturday, with gusts of around 50 km per hour in places, and up to 90 km per hour in the mountains. On Saturday, it will be cloudy with occasional rain and temperatures rising to 10 degrees Celsius. It will cool down from the northwest on Sunday but remain cloudy with rain in most areas. Precipitation will decrease from the north in the evening, according to the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (ČHMÚ).

TAX PEN club ask govt. not to increase VAT on books

The Czech Center of the International PEN Club sent an open to the government and parliamentarians urging the state not to increase the value-added tax (VAT) on books. In Czechia, a reduced VAT rate of 10 percent, which is one of the highest in Europe, has been applied to books since 2015. The government is considering changing VAT on some services and goods. However, Prime Minister Petr Fiala announced that he will not support an increase in VAT on books and newspapers because the cabinet does not want to endanger education or independent journalism.

Death Czech ambassador to Poland Durr dies suddenly

Czech ambassador to Poland Jakub Durr died suddenly today at the age of 46 , the Foreign Ministry announced. Durr, who became the ambassador to Warsaw in December 2021, has been on sick leave since November. Between 2018 and 2020, he was the Czech Republic's permanent representative in the EU. The Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic called him a “great diplomat.”

Military Czechia led NATO battlegroup exercise in Slovakia

Some 800 soldiers from a NATO multinational battlegroup commanded by the Czech Republic trained for combat alert during a four-day drill in Slovakia. The training included armored personnel carriers, including the Czech Pandurs and the Black Hawk helicopters. During the training, soldiers from five countries practiced a defense to stem a potential enemy's advance from the east. The battlegroup was formed in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year.

Feb. 16, 2023

NUCLEAR ENERGY U.S. supports Westinghouse in securing Dukovany bid

Support for U.S. firm Westinghouse in its bid to win construction of the new unit at the Dukovany power plant is a top priority, new ambassador to Prague Bijan Sabet told reporters today. Westinghouse reps will arrive in the Czech Republic later this month to negotiate with suppliers and other stakeholders, he said. French company EDF and the South Korean KHNP are among the other bidders. Westinghouse will supply nuclear fuel to the Temelin nuclear plant in south Bohemia from next year.

Travel Some Prague-Germany flights canceled due to strike

Starting this morning at 11 a.m. today, six Lufthansa flights between Prague and Munich, as well as Prague and Frankfurt, were canceled due to an airport worker's strike which according to representatives of the German Verdi trade union will lead to the cancellation of flights to and from several German cities. The strike is scheduled to last between midnight on Friday and Saturday night, reports

Military U.S. pledges USD 200 million to Czech military efforts

The U.S. will give Czechia a further USD 200 million for its military modernization as partial compensation for the country’s military spending on Ukraine, American ambassador Bijan Sabet told the media today. Last autumn, the U.S. pledged 106 million in support to Czechia. Sabet told reporters the money is for developing the capacities of Czech allies to defend against the increased Russian threat while aiding in the replacement of military capabilities the Czechia has or will provide to Ukraine.

TRIAL Man attacks former MP Feri during rape trial

Czech MP Dominik Feri was attacked by a man shouting racist insults during a break from his rape trial today. Feri faces rape charges. Security guards apprehended the man, who was handed over to the police. Feri told reporters he had no idea who the man was and withheld further comment. On Tuesday, Feri publically named one of his accusers. He faces up to ten years in prison.

World politics Fiala, Biden to meet in Poland next week

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala will represent the Czech Republic at the upcoming meeting of the "Bucharest Nine" (B9) held on the occasion of U.S. President Joe Biden's trip to Poland next week, Fiala told reporters Wednesday. Biden will visit Poland between February 20 and 22 to meet with Polish president Andrzej Duda as well as affirm U.S. support for the B9 alliance, said the White House.

Senate Russia is the greatest threat to world security

The Russian Federation presents the single most threat to world security, the Czech Senate said in its Wednesday session. In a resolution, the senate said it supported the government's move to establish an international tribunal to investigate war crimes committed by top-ranking Russian officials and to strengthen the defense capacities of Ukraine. The one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is on Feb. 24. 

DIPLOMACY U.S., British ambassadors to Czechia confirmed

The U.S. and Britain officially have new ambassadors to the Czech Republic. Bijan Sabet and Matthew Field, respectively, submitted their credentials to President Miloš Zeman at Prague Castle Wednesday afternoon. Sabet, a California native, and co-founder of Spark Capital arrived in Czechia in late January. Field arrived in Prague in January as well. Previously he held an ambassadorial post in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Both ambassadors have proven active social media users.

Ukraine 480 pairs of shoes on Old Town Square represent war victims

Amnesty International (AI) and Ukrainian scenographer Margarita Chala’s installation, yesterday, of nearly 500 pairs of shoes displayed across Prague's Old Town Square was an attempt to replicate the atmosphere of fear and hopelessness brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and to appeal for faster investigations into the Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

According to AI, the war has already claimed more than 18,000 civilian casualties with 14 million Ukrainians losing their homes and over 400,000 children forcibly deported.

Feb. 15, 2023

LAW Senate approves internet anti-terror law

The Senate this afternoon approved an amendment that aims to curb the spread of terrorist content on the internet. After it is signed by the president, the new act will give Czech police permission to order owners of servers that host terrorist-related content to take down any offending websites. The act is part of an EU directive that aims to crack down on excess pro-terrorist content on the web.

DIPLOMACY Zeman to meet Austrian president in early March

The president of Austria will meet with his Czech counterpart Miloš Zeman in early March for a general discussion on Czech-Austrian relations. This will likely by be Zeman’s last official meeting with a head of state, as his official mandata ends on March 8. Zeman recently said he would present the Order of the White Lion – the highest state honor in Czechia – to President Alexander Van der Bellen.

TurkISH EARTHQUAKE Czechia to send more aid to Turkey on Friday

Czechia will send various material aid to Turkey Friday this week to help the country’s efforts in recovering after two mass earthquakes nine days ago. Items include medical equipment and resources (such as food and blankets) for those made homeless by the quake. The Czech government has allocated CZK 10 million to assist Turkey and Syria.

Czech rescuers have recovered a total of 66 deceased bodies from under destroyed buildings.

RUSSIA Protestors demonstrate against Russian involvement in Olympics

About 60 people congregated outside the building of the Czech Olympic Committee in Prague Tuesday to protest against the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

The demonstrators held portraits of the Ukrainian athletes who have died since the start of the war and carried banners saying "No place for Russia at Olympics." According to the protest organizers – Voice of Ukraine – at least 231 Ukrainian athletes and coaches have died due to the war.

PRAGUE Prague leadership to sign coalition agreement

After about five months of negotiations, Prague will finally get a new governing coalition. Representatives from the Spolu coalition (comprising the Civic Democrats, TOP 09, and the KDU-ČSL party) will sign an agreement today with the Pirates and STAN party. The coalition will have a majority of 36 votes in the 65-member council – Spolu will have the highest amount of representatives in the Prague city government. The new mayor of the capital will be Bohuslava Svoboda.

HOUSING Volume of new mortgages falls by around 17 percent

The issuance of mortgages fell by a sizable 16.5 percent month on month in January, according to data from the Czech Banking Association Hypomonitor. The average mortgage also fell to CZK 2.83 million in January – the lowest value since September 2020. The average monthly number of new mortgages hovered around 6,000 in the first half of last year, while the year before last it stood at about 9,500.

Feb. 14, 2023

SOCIETY Czechia's anti-drug coordinator calls for softer punishments

National anti-drug coordinator Jindřich Vobořil told journalists today that Czechia needs a change in the way it punishes people caught possessing or cultivating cannabis.

According to Vobořil, the punishments often do not accurately correspond to the de facto harmfulness of the activity and are disproportionately severe. He said that excessive punishment (such as imprisonment) is counterproductive and expensive for the government. Vobořil added that a current government working group was researching the impacts of the decriminalization of cannabis.

BENEFITS Government plans to simplify claiming of housing benefit

The Ministry of Labor is preparing a draft amendment that would simplify the claiming of housing allowance from the government. At present, recipients of the benefit must declare their total housing costs twice annually – this change would reduce this to just once per year.

About 230,000 households received financial aid from the government in January. With an estimated half a million households potentially eligible for housing allowance, the government hopes that this obstacle will make it easier for people to claim the benefit.

PRAGUE Work on Prague airport trolleybus gets underway

Construction officially began today on trolleybuses that will travel to and from Prague’s Václav Havel airport to the Veleslavín bus and metro station. Work is predicted to last 15 months and will cost over CZK 350 million. The project aims to electrify the existing connection between the Prague 6 terminal station and the airport – the distance between both is almost 10 kilometers. The transport company of Prague late last year put the capital’s first trolleybus in about 50 years in operation.

SPORT Czech tennis number breezes through Qatar Open

Top-ranked Czech women’s tennis player Petra Kvitová sailed through to the second round of the 2023 Qatar Total Open after claiming a straight-sets victory over Chinese Zhang Shuai (7:5, 6:2). Kvitová now has a sizable challenge ahead in the shape of 18-year-old Coco Guaff, who is the tournament’s fourth seed. Kvitová was the winner of the Qatar Open in 2018, and has reached the final a total of three times.

EVENT Prague demolition causes collateral damage

A slope with an unoccupied building in Prague’s Vršovice district was demolished Monday night, leading to two cars and a van also sliding down the slope unexpectedly. The detonation occurred on Na Královce street in Prague 10. According to the city’s fire department, nobody was harmed during the process. Along with the slope, part of the sidewalk that was parallel to it was also torn off. A rescue team was sent to the scene this morning to inspect and clean up the damage.

WEATHER Warmer days ahead for Czechia

A four-week forecast issued by the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (ČHMÚ) shows that temperatures will be markedly higher than in recent weeks. Maximum daily temperatures are expected to reach up to 11 degrees Celsius, with lows of minus 2 degrees Celsius. Temperatures will very rarely fall below 0 degrees, according to the ČHMÚ. This week, temperatures in the capital will reach a warm 11 degrees on Thursday before a rainy weekend.

MILITARY Czech chief of staff meets with NATO commander

Czech Chief of General Staff Karel Řehka met with Supreme Commander of the NATO Allied Forces for Transformation Philippe Lavigne Monday afternoon to discuss how Western countries would continue to send aid to Ukraine. More broadly, they also spoke about the importance of innovation, expansion, and digitization of countries’ militaries. According to Levigne, the war in Ukraine disrupted the strategic situation and created a new reality that needs to be well understood. He said that the conflict in Ukraine was of “immediate interest” to the West.

Feb. 13, 2023

Politics Outgoing and incoming Czech presidents meet

Outgoing Czech President Miloš Zeman and his successor Petr Pavel met at Lany manor today. The president-elect invited Zeman to his inauguration scheduled for March 9 and the two leaders discussed the January presidential election, in which Zeman supported Pavel's opponent, former PM Andrej Babiš. The two leaders also discussed the workings of the presidential office and Pavel asked Zeman not to make fundamental decisions at the end of his term. Zeman agreed not to in what he called an accommodating farewell gesture.

CRIME Feri rape trial to begin on Tuesday

On Tuesday, the District Court for Prague 3 will hear arguments in the case against former MP Dominik Feri, who is charged with two counts of rape and one attempted rape. He faces up to ten years in prison as the indictment claims that he committed one of the acts on a then seventeen-year-old girl. Feri has already stated in the past that he is ready to prove his innocence. Read more about the Feri case.

SPORTS Ledecká won't race at Snowboard World Championships

Czech snowboarder Ester Ledecká, who won the women's snowboard parallel giant slalom at the Olympics last year, will not take part in the Snowboard World Championships, being held at Bakuriani, Georgia later this month after having clavicle surgeries, a rep for the athlete told ČTK today. She said Ledecká, who was the world snowboard champion in 2015 and 2017, started training but still cannot race. Ledecká won the Olympic gold medals in the Super-G in alpine skiing and in the parallel giant slalom in snowboarding in 2018.

EVENT Crowd gathers outside Ukrainian embassy in support

About 50 people congregated outside Ukraine’s embassy in Prague Sunday to express support for the country in its ongoing war with Russia. 

It was organized by the Prayer for Ukraine initiative. Martina Hanušová, part of the organization, said that Ukraine was “fighting for freedom for the whole of Europe.” 

She also thanked the Czech government for its strong, and ongoing support, in the past 12 months. The group later made its way to the Russian embassy to protest against the nation’s aggression.

TURKEY EARTHQUAKE Czech rescuers in Turkey may return home this week

Czech rescuers currently in Turkey to help with the country’s deadly earthquakes last week will likely return home this Friday.

Spokesperson for the Czech fire brigade Jakub Kozák said that the potential return to Czechia depended on “the development of the situation and the demands of the Turkish side.”

In total, Czech firefighters and other members of the national rescue squad have found and saved over 20 people among rubble in the city of Adiyaman.

INFLATION Food prices expected to rise in February

According to the Czech Trade and Tourism Association (SOCR), food prices will continue to increase this month – but not at the same rate as in January.

The president of the SOCR, Tomáš Prouza, said that continued inflation and “the dominant position” of suppliers were to blame for the current situation.

In January 2023, the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages rose by over 25 percent year on year. Sugar and eggs both went up by 85 percent annually last month.

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