Today's headlines: Daily news refresh for Czechia

The country's top news in brief for the week of Nov. 21-25, 2022.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 21.11.2022 09:40:00 (updated on 25.11.2022) Reading time: 18 minutes

Nov. 25, 2022

ONGOING President's chancellor embroiled in football-corruption case

President Miloš Zeman's chancellor, Vratislav Mynář, has been accused of taking part in match-fixing within Czechia’s top domestic football league, Novinky.cz reports.

The Ethics Commission of the Football Association of the Czech Republic (FAČR) fined today Mynář CZK 50,000 crowns for his attempts to influence the result of FC Slovácko, in the Czech First League. Mynář is said to have tried to sway the result of three FC Slovácko matches in the club’s favor.

Published text messages from 2018 show his communication with then FAČR Vice Chairman Roman Berbr, with Mynář asking Berbr for help with the selection of referees for an FC Slovácko match. Berbr is also facing heavy punishment for his role.

LAW Lower house approves bill canceling mandatory e-sales records

The Chamber of Deputies this afternoon approved the complete abolition of electronic sales records (EETs) by the end of this year, ČT24 writes today. This means that certain businesses and entrepreneurs will not be legally required to hold an electronic record of all their transactions. Since the start of Covid-19, the government made the keeping of EETs voluntary.

Out of 142 members of parliament present, 92 voted for the bill’s favor. ANO party members were against the ruling, with ANO Parliamentary Club Chairwoman Alena Schillerová dubbing the move a return “back to the 1990s.” Honest and fair business practice, according to her, will now decline.

The current government argues that EETs currently constrain businesses’ and self-employed people’s productivity. Minister of Finance Zbyněk Stanjura hopes that the cancellation of EETs will free up the state budget by CZK 13 billion.

POLITICS Babiš confirms he will not take part in live presidential debates

Former Prime Minister and presidential candidate Andrej Babiš has declared today that he will not take part in any televised presidential debates until the end of this year. Attendance in January debates is yet to be confirmed.

Calling on his populist standpoint, Babiš mentioned his preference for talking with citizens rather than other politicians.

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"So, whoever wants to hold a debate with me, I will be glad to see them," was his message to the public, ČTK reports.

LAW Former communist agents' cases to be re-examined

The Supreme Public Prosecutor in Czechia announced today that it filed an appeal in the case of four former members of the communist State Security (StB), who have been accused of harassing, assaulting, and torturing dissidents during the communist era.

An earlier ruling said that the four accused had limited criminal liability because of the changes in law and system of government since the claimed offenses.

Former StB agents Zbyňek Dudek and Jiří Šimák had their sentences overturned by the Court of Appeals recently because “the criminality of the crime must be assessed according to the law that was in force at the time the act was committed,” ČTK reports.

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION Petr Pavel receives highest amount of election funding

According to a study released today by Aktualne.cz, Petr Pavel has received the highest amount of funding in the presidential election run-up so far, trailed by Danuše Nerudová and Pavel Fischer.

General Pavel has amassed an impressive CZK 32.6 million from 824 donor sources. The highest single donation has been CZK 1 million from businessman Martin Vohánka. Nerudová, a former university head, has received CZK 30 million from mainly private donors. Her average donation amount is CZK 68,000. Fischer trails a distant third, with CZK 1.7 million.

Former Prime Minister and ANO party leader Andrej Babiš has received a low amount of donations; just CZK 19,000 in total. However, he is funding the majority of his campaign from ANO coffers.

The first round of the presidential election will be held on Jan. 13 and Jan. 14.

UKRAINE Interior Minister – space left for refugees, albeit limited

The Czech Republic has space remaining for Ukrainian refugees – but not much. This was the message of Interior Minister Vít Rakušan published in Novinky.cz today as he described the anticipated uptick of Ukrainians fleeing to Prague this winter.

This time around, the state can only accept “tens of thousands” of refugees, rather than hundreds of thousands. According to Rakušan, the capacity of accommodation is reaching its maximum. "If another wave were to come, the system would have to work differently,” he said.

The Ukrainian population in Czechia makes up 3.4 to 3.7 percent of the population, which is between 355,000 and 390,000 people.

BROADCASTING Czech broadcasters reject Česká televize's debate proposal

Televize Prima has rejected the proposal of Czech Television (ČT), Czechia’s public television broadcaster, to organize a joint debate of the country’s presidential candidates.

Prima justified this by saying that it has a different concept of a presidential debate’s ideal format.  Prima told ČTK today that it is planning its own debates before the first round of the election (Jan. 13 and Jan. 14) and possibly among the finalists of the presidential election. 

Recently, TV Nova also rejected ČT’s approach for a joint debate. Different “dramaturgical approaches” to presidential debates were the reason behind this, according to a TV Nova spokesperson, as cited in Lupa.cz.

Nov. 24, 2022

FRAUD Brno issues more arrests over property corruption case

Brno detectives from the National Center for the Fight against Organized Crime today arrested two more people in the months-long case regarding fraudulent and corrupt sales of municipal properties.

Businessman Michal Horký owned a criminal group that fraudulently took over residential buildings and flats via bribes and then sold them for profit, according to Brno Daily.

In October, seven people were prosecuted over the Brno corruption case. First Deputy Mayor Petr Hladík was questioned in October by police over what he knew about the case, leading to the delay of his appointment as the next Czech Environment Minister.

EMERGENCY Charles University building faces bomb scare

A student this morning threatened to bomb Charles University’s Faculty of Physical Education and Sports. The whole building was evacuated shortly afterward, and no explosive was found inside or on the suspect.

The suspect was secured by police and sent directly to hospital to assess their mental condition. Motives for the act are as of yet unknown.

ENERGY Czechs to receive monthly data on water and heat consumption from 2024

From 2024, apartment users in Czechia will likely receive data on heat and hot water consumption from remote meter readings at least once per month, ČTK reports.

The obligation to provide such information is required by a recent government law, which the constitutional and legal committee recommended to the Senate yesterday to approve without changes. The amendment, which is based on EU regulations, should be discussed by the upper house next week.

Critics of the new duty, as well as representatives of landlords and tenants, have argued that administrative costs will rise with the new information requirement.

ENERGY Heat outage hits part of Prague

Heat supplies from Pražská teplárenská, one of the largest electricity providers in the capital, stopped reaching the south-east of Prague yesterday night. The outage affects Jižní Město, Modřany, Krče and Vršovice, Chodov, Kamýk, and more. Disruption is currently continuing. A full list of areas affected can be found here.

The interruption of service is estimated to last until the afternoon. Services should begin to resume from midday and everything is planned to be restored by 4 p.m.

UKRAINE About 160,000 Ukrainian refugees find work in Czechia

The Labor and Social Affairs Ministry announced yesterday that almost 160,000 Ukrainians with temporary protection found jobs in the Czech Republic between late February and the end of October, ČTK reports.

However, some of the refugees have since returned home. At present, about 100,000 Ukrainians work here. Over 460,000 temporary protection visas have been given to Ukrainian refugees since Russia’s invasion nine months ago.

Central Bohemia and Pilsen have the highest amount of Ukrainian workers. The third-largest number of refugees works in Prague.

ELECTIONS Presidential candidates have last day to correct errors

Presidential candidates have until this afternoon to correct any errors on their applications for the January head of state elections. A total of 21 candidates submitted officially their intention to run for office.

However, nine of the candidates were earlier this month said to have violated transparency rules by the Office for the Supervision of the Management of Political Parties and Political Movements.

Last week, the Ministry of the Interior called on seven of the candidates to correct any application errors. The most frequent complaint was a lack of the necessary amount of valid signatures collected in support of the candidacy. The election will take place on Jan. 13 and Jan. 14.

Nov. 23, 2022

CHARITY Fall charity collection amasses over 500 tons of food in Czechia

Czechia’s annual fall charity collection collected 584 tons of food, pharmacy-related, and hygiene items, according to the Czech Federation of Food Banks. This is slightly more than last year, when 580 tons had been collected, Deník N reports

Need this year is, however, higher: 35 percent more people require food aid this year compared to 2021. 

Albert, Billa, Globus, and Kaufland were among the retailers that contributed. An estimated 270,000 people have used national food bank services so far.

BUILDINGS Old Town Bridge Tower in Prague will be fully renovated

The Old Town Bridge Tower beside Charles Bridge in Prague, which dates back to the 14th century, is to get a full renovation, ČTK writes.

New roofing, building material, wiring, stairs, and interior paintings will be rebuilt and/or replaced, Prague City Tourism Head Petr Kotalík told journalists today. Partial work had started in the fall.

Repairs are expected to start sometime in 2023 and will last about four years. “Several hundred million crowns” is the quoted cost of the project.

The tower had been ordered to be built by Czech King Charles IV in the mid-1300s and served as the entrance gate to the Old Town in the early modern period.

INFRASTRUCTURE Railway bridge over Prague's Vltava to get redesign

A new design of the iconic railway bridge between Prague's Výtoní and Smíchov districts was announced today by Czechia’s Railway Administration (SŽ), Novinky.cz reports.

The new bridge will have three tracks and a stop on it, in order to facilitate a change for a tram service. The new design will keep the current recognizable arches.

SŽ expects that the reconstruction of the bridge, which is over a century old, should start as late as 2026 and will last 20 months. The total cost will be about CZK 2 billion.

SPORTS Prague swimming stadium announces plans to stay open in winter

Prague’s swimming stadium in Podolí (Prague 4) and the Nymburk Sports Center (to the east of the capital) have confirmed today to ČTK that they will remain open during the winter period, despite rising energy costs.

Uncertainty existed over whether both of the large and important sports facilities would be able to function in the coming months.

However, following the government’s early November decision to expand its energy price ceiling to sports-related buildings and non-profit-making entities, both will be able to function.

The Podolí swimming center is seen as the main swimming hub in the capital, used by athletes and residents alike. The Nymburk Sports Center is used professionally and casually for both indoor and outdoor sports.

LAW Czech Senate to discuss bill sanctioning foreigners

The Czech Senate will likely pass a bill that will target foreign firms and individuals committing illegal acts outside Czechia as well as inside, enabling state authorities to deny wrongdoers entry to the country or freeze their Czechia-based assets, ČTK reports today.

The bill also enables the imposition of restrictions on organizations and regimes that violate human rights laws, use terrorist methods, or are guilty of cybercrime. It will be discussed by the Senate in the next two weeks.

DEFENSE Czech Chief of Staff – eternal peace a 'utopia,' chance of war

Military Chief of Staff Karel Řehka stated in the bi-annual Commander’s Assembly conference yesterday that “eternal peace is a utopia,” ČT24 reports. According to Řehka, the Czech army must now prepare for a potential wide-scale war in 2023.

He also criticized the West's reaction to initial Russian military aggression against Ukraine in 2014, stating that the West hoped that the situation “would calm down by itself.” Asserting the importance of continuing support for Ukraine, he also emphasized the need to modernize the army further, as the current infrastructure has much room for improvement.

POLITICS Presidential candidate's old workplace accused of maladministration

The National Accreditation Office for Higher Education is dealing with suspicions that rules were broken at Mendel University during the tenure of former Rector Danuše Nerudová, who is now running for president. 

Accusations exist that Ph.D. students completed their studies in a significantly shorter time than the norm, Seznam Zprávy reports. Around 15 students were said to have obtained a “quick [doctoral] qualification” in 22 to 30 months, as opposed to the standard minimum 36 months.

Nerudová denies any wrongdoing in the case, which will now be assessed legally. No firm conclusions will be made until well after the January presidential election.

EVENTS Pilsen man sets himself on fire

A 69-year-old man set himself on fire in Pilsen yesterday night, according to Pilsen police spokesperson Eva Červenková.

"Even before our arrival, the police tried to put it out. Our unit then helped with resuscitation," said the managing officer of the fire department.

According to ČTK, the man first doused himself with flammable liquid before setting himself alight.

Spokesperson for the regional rescue service Mária Svobodová said that – after about 30 minutes of resuscitation – the man could not be saved. The case is being treated as a suicide, the potential motives of which are not known. 

Nov. 22, 2022

FESTIVITIES Christmas tree now stands in Prague's Old Town Square

Old Town Square in Prague now has its own, huge Christmas tree – it will be decorated until Saturday. It was erected in the early hours of today, having been transported from the small village of Kyticle in the north of Czechia.

The tree will be lit up on Saturday – the same day that the Christmas markets in Old Town Square will begin. 

A large spruce will feature in Prague’s Wenceslas Square too, where there will be a Christmas market. 

POLITICS Pavel presents advisory team, says he would avoid veto

Presenting his advisory team today, presidential candidate Petr Pavel said that he would “consult with experts and politicians during the preparation of laws so that he does not have to use the veto,” ČTK reports.

He also commented that, although the governmental measures introduced so far to combat cost-of-living issues are appropriate, they are coming too late.

"The first thing is that the president brings together experts, no one can be an expert in everything," Pavel also mentioned as he introduced a range of specialists as part of his consultive team, including former Czech National Bank Head Zdeněk Tůma, Deloitte's Chief Economist (in Czech operations) David Marek, and the founder of the STEM/MARK agency Jan Hartl.

CRIME Kladno police search for man after hospital threat

A large-scale search is currently ongoing in the Kladno area, just outside of Prague, after a man verbally threatened to use a weapon in the city’s main hospital. Dozens of police officers are now searching for him, who is said to be in his forties. The incident occurred at about 2 p.m.

"The threats were supposed to be verbal, but the police do not underestimate them in any way," Central Bohemian police spokeswoman Vlasta Suchánková told ČTK earlier.

EDUCATION Czechia and Ukraine reach agreement on Ukrainian schoolchildren

According to Czech Minister of Education Vladimír Balaš and his counterpart in Ukraine Serhij Škarlet, the Czech Republic and Ukraine have come to an agreement on the education of Ukrainian children in Czechia, Balaš told journalists today.

Distance learning for Ukrainian children living in Czechia will now be limited. Ukrainian language and history will now be the only subjects that can be studied remotely. This will, according to Balaš, reduce strain on Ukrainian children and prevent “double teaching.”

All Czechia-based Ukrainian children will also receive a certificate at the end of the academic year that certifies their education in the country. It will be officially recognized in Ukraine.

WAR Fiala says Czechia faces high military threats, must prepare

At a conference today featuring the heads of the Czech military and government, Prime Minister Petr Fiala said today that Czechia must use Russia’s current aggression as a lesson to contain conflict next year, ČTK reports.

Fiala also mentioned that the recent fall of a missile in Polish territory showed that the risk of escalation is omnipresent. He said that the country presently faces an "unprecedented combination" of threats.

The prime minister pointed out that Russia has systematically undermined international order through its actions. Czech Chief of Staff Karel Řehka stated earlier that Czechia would “definitely” respond and participate militarily immediately if Russia attacked NATO. 

TECH Czech smartphone use grows strongly since 2018

According to a press release by the Czech Statistical Office today, more than 80 percent of Czechs over 16 years old use smartphones. This is an increase of 18 percentage points from the 2018 level.

On the flip side, push-button phones have seen a decline in popularity. Today, approximately 19 percent of the population uses them; a 20-percentage-point decline in the last four years.

Czechia is in line with the European average of smartphone use: 77 percent of people in Europe use the internet on a mobile phone.

ADMINISTRATION Bohemian Switzerland National Park to get new head

Petr Kříž will become the new director of the Bohemian Switzerland National Park Administration. He will be appointed tomorrow, as reported in Seznam Zprávy.

Kříž was previously part of the Czech Central Highlands administration. The former head of the Bohemian Switzerland National Park, Pavel Benda, was dismissed in late September owing to cited crisis-communication and management downfalls following fires in the park over the summer.

Bohemian Switzerland is the youngest national park in the Czech Republic, with an area of ​​approximately 79 square kilometers. It is the fourth-largest park in the country.

SECURITY State and military chiefs to hold security conference today

A so-called Commander’s Assembly, consisting of military chiefs as well as Czechia’s heads of state, is due to take place today. A significant event, it is held just twice a year and will feature President Miloš Zeman, Prime Minister Petr Fiala, and Minister of Defense Jana Černochová, iDnes writes.

The main topic of the meeting will be Ukrainian aid. The purchase of new aircraft – such as the acquisition of “CV90” armored tanks from Sweden – will also be discussed. Negotiations with the U.S. on the purchase of new F-35 aircraft will also take place; Czechia plans to buy 24 of these.

POLITICS Andrej Babiš 'helps' Russia and China – analysis company

According to analysis by the non-profit organization European Values, former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš “occasionally helps” both Russian and Chinese intelligence, Aktualne.cz writes today. 

"President Miloš Zeman and his entourage had a lot to do with it. But it was not helped by Babiš either, who…left foreign policy largely to Zeman and based his government on the KSČM [the Czech Communist Party], which is close to Russia," says one of the project's main analysts, Jindřich Přívratský.

Tomio Okamura, the head of the Freedom and Direct Democracy party, was also assessed to often spread Russian and Chinese influence.

TRAFFIC Mass disruption around Prague Dejvice-Bubeneč tunnel

A  failure of the camera system on the Dejvice-Bubeneč tunnel on the Prague city ring road has caused a mass blockage, resulting in substantial congestion. The camera outage was reported at about 5:30 a.m and queues have been forming since.

As ČTK reports, queues “for tens of minutes” are on the streets that lead to the tunnel

According to the Technical Communications Administration (TSK) website, normal service should resume at about 9:30 a.m., but this is not certain.

UPDATE: Normal traffic has been restored, as of 10 a.m.

Nov. 21, 2022

OPINION POLL Czechs, Visegrád Group supportive of Ukrainian refugees

In a survey of the Visegrád Group of countries, as well as Bulgaria, the majority of all countries’ respondents approve of refugees fleeing from Ukraine, according to an opinion poll by the STEM/MARK agency released today.

Over 60 percent of Czechs said they approved of Ukrainian refugees entering their country; Poland showed the highest amount of solidarity with Ukraine in this regard, with 80 percent approving of taking in refugees.

When it comes to accepting refugees into their own homes, just 12 percent of Czechs expressed willingness – the lowest of all surveyed countries.

Just 33 percent of Czechs, however, believe that Ukraine should join the EU, in contrast with 66 percent of Poles.

ENIVORNMENT COP27 climate conference result a 'step forward'

The plan of UN countries to create a special fund for states that are worst affected by climate change is a positive step, according to Czech environmentalist organization Climate Coalition.

The money pool will act as a compensation tool provided by countries producing high levels of emissions.

"Obviously, the results of the conference are dictated by the voices of fossil and corporate lobbyists, not by the needs and calls of the most vulnerable ones," Greenpeace climate change expert Miriam Macurova also said following the COP27 two-week climate summit, ČTK reports.

The main agreement from COP27 maintains the commitment to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

IMMIGRATION Over 5,000 immigrants illegally entered Czechia since September

According to South Moravia Police Head Leos Trzil, more than 5,300 illegal immigrants have attempted to cross the border from Slovakia to Czechia since the end of September, ČTK reports. The vast majority are from Syria, Trzil told journalists over the weekend. This is about 100 every day.

To combat the influx of illegal immigrants, the Czech Republic imposed controls on its border with Slovakia in late September. Initially a temporary solution, these are still in place and are due to end around mid-December – but will probably be extended again.

About 150 police officers have been monitoring the border area in response to the flow of illegal immigrants.

HEALTH Fees for emergency health visits may increase

According to Head of the Czech Medical Chamber (ČLK) Milan Kubek, the fee to visit an emergency department – currently at CZK 90 – is too low and should be increased by more than double, to CZK 200.

According to Kubek, the CZK 90 fee is not high enough to ensure the maintenance of good service, citing that the low fee may lead to the deterioration of Czechia’s health service. He also mentioned on a weekend television program that the low fee could contribute to the current health system being overburdened and overloaded, ČTK reports.

The law to pay CZK 90 for an emergency visit was implemented back in 2008.

TRAVEL Car on Prague tram tracks causes travel chaos

A stationary car on tram tracks near Masaryk station caused mass travel disruption to morning commuters today.

Shortly before 8 a.m., a non-moving car was reported on the eastbound tram tracks in the direction of Bílá Labuť and Náměstí republiky. Tram lines 3, 6, 12, 15, 24, and 26 were affected, according to Prague Integrated Transport (PID).

The issue was resolved and services resumed at about 8:30 a.m.

WEATHER Warmer weather expected after freezing weekend

A warmer week is expected across Czechia compared to the previous seven days, according to the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (ČHMÚ). A particularly cold snap hit the country over the weekend, with much of the country experiencing snowfall.

In Prague, maximum temperatures will range between about 2 and 7 degrees Celsius. The second half of the week will be warmer, with Thursday and Friday registering the warmest days. Temperatures in the mountainous north and east of the country will be slightly cooler, but will hover above freezing with only limited snowfall.

Despite the increased warmth, sun will be largely absent in the capital: most days will be rainy with some winds.

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