Today's headlines: Daily news refresh for Czechia

The country's top news in brief for the week of Nov. 28 - Dec. 2, 2022.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 28.11.2022 09:34:00 (updated on 02.12.2022) Reading time: 15 minutes

Dec. 2, 2022

UKRAINE Ukrainian consulate in Czechia evacuated after suspicious package

The Ukrainian embassy in Prague today reported receiving a “suspicious package” after the Ukrainian consulate in Brno was evacuated for four hours following a similar threat, Seznam Zprávy writes.

"A shipment arrived at the Embassy of Ukraine in Prague. Here, too, pyrotechnicians are analyzing the contents of the envelope, which at first glance looks similar to the one that arrived in Brno," reported the police today.

The Ukrainian consulate in Brno earlier experienced a four-hour evacuation after a suspicious-seeming package was detected. Dead animal tissue was found inside.

An explosion at the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid took place Wednesday. In recent days, “bloody packages containing animal eyes arrived at the Ukrainian embassies in Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Italy, and Austria,” ČTK reports.

ECONONY Czechia registers slight growth in third quarter

According to data released by the Czech Statistical Office today, the Czech economy grew by 1.7 percent year on year in the third quarter of 2022. However, it declined by 0.2 percent compared with April-June.

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Year-on-year growth was stronger than expected; the Czech National Bank predicted annual growth of 1.5 percent in the third quarter.

Higher net exports and foreign demand were among the reasons for the year-on-year growth. Household consumption, which registered a significant drop of almost 6 percent annually, constrained growth.

Labor costs increased markedly in the third quarter, by 6.4 percent year on year.

ELECTION Babiš would win election if held in November – poll

The former prime minister of Czechia and current ANO party leader, Andrej Babiš, would win the first round of the Czech presidential election with 29.7 percent if held in November according to a survey by polling firm Ipsos, released to ČTK today.

Former army general Petr Pavel and ex-university rector Danuše Nerudová came second- and third-placed in popularity, with 25.3 and 25 percent respectively.

Compared to Ipsos’s October poll, Babiš enjoyed an increase in support of 6.4 percent. Pavel’s popularity dropped 2.6 percent, and Nerudová experienced the highest rise in support, with an 8.1-percent surge.

LAW Government to debate rule on data boxes today

The House of Representatives will today debate the government's proposal to cancel people’s obligation to use a data box from January if they have signed up to a digital service from the state with a bank or an electronic identity card, iDnes writes.

The (currently valid) law envisages the automatic creation of mailboxes for citizens. However, the ruling government believes that a data box should be set up for a natural person exclusively at their request. 

Self-employed people, of which there are about two million, and legal entities will still need to use one from January next year. They have until March 2023 to establish their data boxes.

UPDATE: The cancellation of the law that causes the automatic creation of data boxes was successful today. It now needs to be approved by the Senate.

ELECTION Broadcasters announce plans for presidential debates

Česká televize, the state broadcaster, yesterday announced its plans to invite all candidates to a presidential debate on Jan. 12 – a day before the first round of the presidential election.

TV Nova, another large broadcaster, is also planning a debate for the very same day. Nova will include the top eight candidates in its televised debate. Prima televize is planning a debate on Jan. 4 and Jan. 11. Czech Radio also plans a “super debate” on the day of the election, Jan. 13, and will include all candidates who have opinion poll ratings of more than 5 percent, ČTK reports.

FINANCE One-tenth of Czechs get into troublesome debt

According to a new survey by the Czech Banking Association (ČBA), one-tenth of people who borrow get into “problematic debt,” ČT24 reported yesterday.

Czechs under the age of 26 are the most careless, and those between 26 and 35 years old are similar. Up to 15 percent of adults under 35 get into troublesome debt.

The most common source of borrowed money is via overdrafts, with 30 percent of Czechs reporting to have used one recently. About one quarter have used credit cards with zero or negative balance to fund the purchase of goods.

Dec. 1, 2022

LAW Chamber of Deputies passes law to increase child benefits

The Chamber of Deputies approved today a law to increase the monthly child benefit by CZK 200, ČT24 reports. It will now be deliberated on by the Senate.

At present, monthly child benefits range from CZK 830 to CZK 1,580; households with a net income below 3.4 times the subsistence minimum are entitled to receive the payments. If at least one parent (or guardian) of the child is working, studying, or receiving a pension, CZK 500 more is paid by the state (not exceeding CZK 1,580).

Some members of the ANO party oppose the bill, believing that increases in payments should be made by a percentage, rather than a fixed amount.

LAW Czech Senate approves foreign-criminal sanctions law

The Czech Senate today passed a law on national sanctions against foreign companies and foreigners who have committed serious illegal acts inside or outside of the Czech Republic. It had been much encouraged by the Czech Pirates.

The state will be able to prevent them from entering the country or staying on its territory, and Czechia will have the right to freeze a suspected criminal’s assets on its own accord rather than following EU protocol.

The new law is derived from the U.S. Magnitsky Act, following the murder by Russian officials of Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

ROAD SAFETY More than one killed every day in November Czech road accidents

In the whole of November, 39 people died in traffic accidents in Czechia; a small decline of two from last year. Since the beginning of 2022, 429 people have died on the Czech Republic’s roads, ČTK writes.

Many more traffic accidents (that required police assistance) were recorded in November of this year, at over 7,700 (more than 256 every day). 

Compared with EU countries, Czechia had a slightly above-average rate of road-accident deaths, at 50. Bulgaria has the highest amount of fatalities according to European Commission data.

ECONOMY Chamber of Deputies approves 2023 state budget

The Chamber of Deputies today passed the state budget for 2023 with a deficit of CZK 295 billion. The state plans to collect almost CZK 2 trillion in taxes and other revenue, and foresees expenditures of about CZK 2.3 trillion.

The planned deficit for next year is wider than that of 2022, which is at CZK 375 billion. Subsidies and other financial assistance protecting people from spiraling energy prices, as well as health- and pension-related expenses, will be among the highest drivers of government spending next year.

Members of the opposition ANO and Freedom and Direct Democracy parties claim that the government is being fiscally irresponsible and overspending, citing “unprecedented borrowing,” ČT24 writes.

GOVERNMENT Rejected presidential candidates file complaints

The Czech Supreme Administrative Court (NSS) has received 13 complaints over the registration of candidates for the January presidential elections, submitted by Karel Diviš, Karel Janeček, Roman Hladík, Pavel Zítko, and Libor Hrancik, whose bids were rejected by the Interior Ministry last week.

The main issue with the candidates’ applications had been invalid signatures. "I firmly believe that checking all the collected signatures is the only possible way to get the truth," Janeček said in iRozhlas, as he plans to take the government to court over the decision.

POLITICS Regional politicians to get 10 percent salary increase

Regional politicians' wages (such as those of mayors or governors), which have been frozen for two years, will rise by 10 percent as of 2023 in Czechia.

Pay will now range between gross CZK 47,255 and CZK 156,00 depending on a politician’s role and the size of his/her region, according to ČTK.

The approximate average wage of governors of medium-sized regions is about CZK 140,000. Mayors of the smallest villages (with less than 300 inhabitants) receive CZK 47,200.

Nov. 30, 2022

COVID-19 Ministry of Health changes way Covid-19 cases are recorded

The Ministry of Health has announced a change in the way it will calculate Covid-19 infections in Czechia. Previously, new infections and repeat incidences of the virus were categorized separately. They will now be included together in the country’s overall Covid-19 case count.

This will lead to an artificial spike in statistics, such as those viewed when performing a Google search.

The Health Ministry’s website shows that since the pandemic’s outbreak also 4.6 million cases of the virus were recorded; 8 percent of these were repeat infections.

WORKFORCE Czechia's largest energy firm to give 10 percent pay rise and bonus

State-owned ČEZ, the largest energy firm in Czechia, has announced today that it will increase the wages of all its employees by a minimum of 10 percent in 2023. Employees will also get a bonus of CZK 60,000 at the turn of the year, ČTK writes.

The entire firm employs an impressive 28,000 people and is doing well financially. Between January and September this year, ČEZ increased its year-on-year net profit year-on-year from CZK 6.7 billion to CZK 52 billion; an increase of about 800 percent.

FINANCE Czech household debt rises sharply in October

Data published today by the Czech National Bank (ČNB) shows that total Czech household debt rose by CZK 6 billion month on month in October, to CZK 2.1 trillion, as written in ČTK. Compared with the year-earlier period, this represents an increase of CZK 120 billion. Almost four-fifths of the volume of household debts at banks originate from home loans.

Corporate debt increased to CZK 1.3 trillion. The country’s public debt currently stands at over CZK 1.7 trillion.

UKRAINE Interior Ministry – Ukrainian refugees may have visas extended

Ukrainian refugees currently residing in the Czech Republic under a temporary protection visa will have the chance to have it extended by one year – until the end of March 2024 – iDnes reported yesterday.

Interior Minister Vít Rakušan told iDnes that a potential introduction of the temporary-visa extension will be discussed in government today.

So far, temporary protection has been granted in the Czechia to more than 460,000 people who fled Ukraine attacked by Russia. Rakušan also mentioned that refugees who want to stay in the Czech Republic will have to register using an electronic form by the end of March 2023.

ECONOMY Unemployment not expected to rise markedly in 2023

Minister of Industry and Trade Jozef Síkela stated yesterday that unemployment is not expected to increase significantly next year, ČT24 writes. He also said that there would be enough vacancies in the labor market even if some companies were to reduce staff due to rising operational costs.

Deputy Minister of Industry for European Funds Marian Piecha voiced his concerns at a business conference yesterday: "we see that subcontracting chains are broken, there is high inflation, which increases the price of construction…and high electricity prices discourage further investment."

Síkela, however, noted that the government’s recent energy price caps and plans to allocate a further CZK 10 billion in aid to entrepreneurs will limit any lay-offs.

European Commission data estimates that average unemployment for full-year 2022 in Czechia will be 2.7 percent, rising to 3.3 percent in 2023.

MILITARY Thousands of Ukrainian soldiers to get training in Czechia

The Chamber of Deputies today approved yesterday Ukrainian soldiers’ stay in Czechia for the purpose of military training, ČTK reports.

Five training courses, each lasting four weeks, are to take place by the end of next year. The camps will involve up to 800 Ukrainian troops. Up to 4,000 Ukrainian troops are scheduled to get training in Czechia by the end of 2023.

Final voting by the Senate is to take place on Thursday.

Nov. 29, 2022

GOVERNMENT State administrative sector to cut jobs next year

Interior Minister Vít Rakušan said earlier today that jobs in the state-administrative sector are in the process of being streamlined, as per the goal of the government, ČTK reports.

Jobs in the state administration will are projected to decrease by 851 (on a year-on-year basis) in January 2023. At present, there are about 76,000 positions in the sector.

The Interior Ministry will is set to lose 200 jobs – both vacant and filled roles – from the beginning of 2023. The cuts in personnel will pave way for an increase in state employees’ gross monthly wages: from CZK 40,571 to a planned CZK 42,932.

POLITICS Pavel criticizes Babiš over televised debate refusal

According to presidential candidate Petr Pavel, the refusal of Andrej Babiš to take part in televised presidential election debates says “volumes" about "his courage,” ČTK reports Pavel as saying today.

"Each of us has his/her own arguments by which we intend to address the public and it will be up to people to assess which of the candidates has the most experience and practical skills,” he said more generally of the upcoming election showdown, which will feature himself, Babiš, and former university rector Danuše Nerudová. 

Polls between Babiš and Pavel are tight thus far, with Babiš taking the lead in one recently published election poll. The first round of the presidential election will take place on Jan. 13 and Jan. 14.

CRIME Dead bodies found in Prague identified

The Prague police department announced today that the three dead bodies found over the weekend near a forest between Čakovice and Letňany, in the north of the capital, were a “34-year-old man, his partner two years younger, and their 2-year-old son,” ČTK writes.

On Saturday – the day the deceased were discovered – police spokesman Richard Hrdina said the case was a likely double murder-suicide, Deník N reported. According to police statistics, 136 murders took place in Czechia by the end of October – 31 more than in the whole of 2021.

JOBS Czech minimum wage could increase by more than CZK 1,000

Deputy Prime Minister Marian Jurečka has announced that the gross minimum wage could rise from January 2023 by as much as 6.8 percent, Novinky.cz reports today. This would entail an increase from the current CZK 16,200 to CZK 17,300. The suggestion is to be discussed further today by the Ministry of Labor, trade unions, and employer representatives.

Although this is a change from Jurečka’s statement in October that the minimum wage would only rise by about CZK 400, trade unions are still demanding more. The Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions, for example, calls for a minimum CZK 2,000 increase.

Fourth-quarter national inflation is expected to reach above 18 percent, according to a Czech National Bank forecast.

LAW National crime agency investigates 'Putin body-bag' banner

Police from the National Centre against Organized Crime (NCOZ) announced yesterday that they were dealing with the case of a massive poster depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin inside a body bag in between the Ukrainian and Czech flags outside the Interior Ministry.

According to Prague’s police division, who had investigated the banner prior to NCOZ, there are grounds to say that a law had technically been violated because the Czech national flag should hang on the front of a government building.

Minister of the Interior Vít Rakušan, who staunchly defends the display, notes that a preliminary legal hearing found nothing inherently wrong with the banner. He is happy to pay a fine, if one is imposed.

TRANSPORT Large section of Prague metro line disrupted in morning

Prague’s metro line B (yellow) was non-operational between Nové Butovice and Florenc stations from about 07:30 a.m. – a large chunk of the line. Normal service resumed at about 08:30 a.m., Prague Integrated Transport reports.

The spokeswoman of the transport company, Aneta Řehková, said that the reason was a technical defect in the ceiling at the Smíchovské nádraží station, Aktualne.cz reports.

Nov. 28, 2022

SOCIOECONOMY Czech standard of living declines marginally

According to data published today by the Czech Statistical Office, the standard of living in Czechia has decreased in relative terms, compared with the EU average.

GDP per capita (adjusted for purchasing power parity) decreased by 2 percentage points since last year, to 91 percent of the EU average. This can be explained by the Czech economy growing slower than the EU average in full-year 2021, at 3.3 percent versus 5.3 percent. Bulgaria had the lowest standard of living in the EU, and Luxembourg the highest.

INSURANCE VZP to post narrower-than-expected deficit

Czechia’s public general health insurance company, VZP, will likely have a budget deficit of between CZK 1.5 billion and CZK 3.5 billion, according to VZP Board Deputy Head Miroslav Kalousek who divulged this information in a press conference today. The deficit is narrower than expected; the previous deficit projection had been CZK 5.9 billion.

VZP’s better-than-expected financial results are largely down to the economy growing faster than anticipated. Over CZK 1 billion was spent on the treatment of Ukrainian refugees.

HEALTH Regional health head – half of Czech population has had Covid-19

According to the director of the anti-epidemic branch in the South Moravian Regional Hygiene Station, “at least half of the population” of Czechia has had the Covid-19 virus. ČTK reports today Renate Ciupek’s words that Covid-19 is “becoming a common respiratory infection” and that the overall situation in the country regarding the pandemic is “calm.”

Despite the presence of Covid-19 variants, cross-immunity plays a critical role in protecting the vast majority of the populace, preventing any reoccurrence of spring 2020. Ciupek also pointed out that “the suppression of the natural circulation of air-borne agents [causes of disease]” has led to a sharp increase in chicken pox and other viral infections today. 

EMPLOYMENT Almost three-quarters of firms have no 2023 plans to hire more

A survey released to ČTK yesterday reveals that 73 percent of companies do not plan to hire any new recruits. The ČSOB Index of Firms' Expectations survey revealed that 21 percent of firms planned to recruit additional workers, whereas 6 percent had intentions to reduce their current workforce numbers.

Expectations for next year are slightly more favorable than companies’ plans for the final quarter of this year, according to which 15 percent of the surveyed companies wanted to increase their number of employees, and 9 percent were planning to cut back.

ART Czech painting fetches over CZK 40 million at auction

A painting by František Kupka, a famous Czech painter from the 20th century, sold at the Prague Kodl Gallery auction yesterday for CZK 42 million. The starting price had been CZK 25 million. The “White Horse” was finished in 1909 and emblematic of Kupka’s abstract style. Depicting a horse running alongside a small house and the sea, the painting is inspired by Kupka’s stay in Brittany. 

Kupka’s most-expensive work sold at a Czech auction is the “Divertimento II” painting, which was sold for CZK 90.2 million in 2020. Since this spring, the domestic auction record has been held by Bohumil Kubišta's “Old Prague Motif” from 1911, which was sold for a princely CZK 123.6 million.

POLITICS Prime Minister delays appointment of new Environment Minister

Czech Prime Miniter Petr Fiala has asked Deputy Prime Minister and acting Environment Minister Marian Jurečka to continue his temporary environment post until the end of the year.

Petr Hladík, the First Deputy Mayor of Brno, was originally to assume the post in October. However, amid an ongoing police investigation into subsidy fraud and corruption relating to the allocation of municipal property, Fiala recommended postponing Hladík’s appointment.

It was planned that Jurečka would be acting Environment Minister for just one month when he took over the role in October. Fiala wants unambiguous clarity on Hladík’s non-involvement in the corruption case before he appoints Hladík, which should now take place in early January. 

TRANSPORT Austrian nationwide rail strikes affect Czechia

A 24-hour rail strike held by Austrian trade unions, starting today, will disrupt Czech rail services, ČTK reports. The strike began at midnight Monday and will end midnight Tuesday; the majority of the country’s main rail services will be affected.

Another round of negotiations will take place today with trade union representatives to potentially shorten the strike. Czech travelers are advised to be aware of the strikes for journeys to and from Austria.

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