Today's headlines: Daily news refresh for Czechia

The country's top news in brief for the week of Dec. 5-9, 2022

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 05.12.2022 09:46:00 (updated on 09.12.2022) Reading time: 14 minutes

Dec. 9, 2022

POLITICS Danuše Nerudová tops new presidential opinion poll

The Median polling agency has today published its opinion poll results that show presidential candidate Danuše Nerudová is currently the most popular candidate, Novinky.cz writes.

In the survey, the former head of Mendel University has 28 percent of the vote share, compared with 26.5 percent for former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and 23.5 percent for retired army general Petr Pavel.

Nerudová is mainly preferred by women and younger voters between 25 and 34 years old, Babiš is chosen mainly by seniors over 65, and Pavel has a more even distribution of support.

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DIPLOMACY First-ever Czech chosen as president of UN Human Rights Council

The Czech Foreign Ministry announced today that Václav Bálek, the current Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the UN Office, will be the next Chair of the UN Human Rights Council. His appointment will take place on Jan. 1, 2023.

Bálek will be the first Czech in history to occupy this post; each president is in office for 12 months.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the role of the chairman is largely organizational, in which meetings are coordinated and convened.

AID UNICEF to donate over CZK 350 million to Czechia

International charity UNICEF will donate almost CZK 357 million to the Czech Interior Ministry in support of war refugees from Ukraine, Interior Ministry spokeswoman Klára Dlubalová announced today.

As ČT24 reports, the aid from UNICEF “has clearly shown that the Czech Republic is not alone in tackling the refugee crisis,” according to Interior Minister Vít Rakušan.

Last month, the Czech government approved the use of a loan of up to EUR 400 million from the Development Bank of the Council of Europe for Ukrainians in Czechia.

INDUSTRY Volkswagen postpones Czechia Gigafactory decision

German manufacturer Volkswagen announced yesterday that it is postponing its decision on where exactly in Eastern Europe to build its battery factory – or Gigafactory – Novinky.cz reports. 

Czechia is currently bidding to host the Gigafactory in Pilsen, despite this being met with criticism from people working at, or using, the Pilsen airport that the new Gigafactory would replace. The country is looking to bid up to CZK 120 billion to house the factory.

The Czech government is supportive of a new Gigafactory in the country, believing that it is “key to the transformation of the Czech automotive industry,” ČTK writes.

ECONOMY No current wish to increase VAT – Petr Fiala

Prime Minister Petr Fiala told journalists yesterday that there is no real will in the Czech government to modify Czechia’s value-added tax (VAT) rate, ČTK reports.

At present, most food is subject to 15 percent VAT. "If we look at neighboring countries' experience in this respect, we see that interventions in VAT have expectable effects, such as a shortage of some commodities, or a situation where the reduced VAT is untenable for long, and the price shoots up steeply all of a sudden," Fiala said when justifying the government’s stance.

WEATHER Snowfall hits Czechia overnight, more to come on weekend

Following overnight snowfall in Czechia, mountainous areas in Olomouc, Zlín, and Liberec are covered in snow. Layers of up to “5 centimeters” of snow have built up in the regions overnight, with some further daytime snowfall expected, albeit at a marginal level, according to the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute.

Saturday will see temperatures ranging between -1 degrees Celsius and 3 degrees Celsius, with light snowfall expected in Liberec and the capital on Saturday night.

Sunday afternoon will be markedly cooler, with temperatures barely reaching above freezing and snow forecast across almost the whole country.

Dec. 8, 2022

POLITICS President may appoint new Constitutional Court head before end of office

Seznam Zprávy today reports that there is “a real possibility” that President Miloš Zeman would appoint a new president of the Constitutional Court before leaving office. The mandate of the Constitutional Court’s current president, Pavel Rychetský, ends in August.

This would be a highly controversial move, as the new president traditionally appoints the Constitution Court head. The idea has been met with much anger: “I would declare this appointment act non-existent and properly appoint a new president of the Constitutional Court,” presidential candidate Danuše Nerudová said.

The president of the Constitutional Court holds office for 10 years.

SECURITY China closes its two 'illegal police stations' in Czechia

China has declared that it has closed operations in its two “illegal police stations,” in Prague, Deník N reports today.

The centers were ostensibly used to help Chinese citizens but in practice, according to Deník N, were also used to monitor members of the Chinese diaspora and to collect intelligence information against the Czech state.

The Chinese ambassador assured Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský that the stations were now closed.

EU Interior minister – Croatia joining Schengen 'nearly certain'

Czech Interior Minister Vít Rakušan, who today chairs a meeting of his counterparts from EU member states in Brussels, considers Croatia’s joining of the EU Schengen area as “nearly certain,” ČTK reports. 

No EU countries currently oppose Croatia joining the border-control-free zone, which provides free cross-border movement. Croatia is thus likely to be accepted into the Schengen area in January 2023.

The joint decision to let Croatia into the Schengen area would be a huge success of Czechia’s presidency (of the Council of the EU) and also a huge success of all the debates we attended," Rakusan said today.

ECONOMY Unemployment stagnates in November

Data published today by the Labor Office of the Czech Republic shows that unemployment stagnated in November, with a national unemployment rate of 3.5 percent, the same as in October. On a year-on-year basis, unemployment has increased by just 0.2 percentage points. The number of vacancies fell marginally in November, to about 292,000.

"Employers are still interested in employees, mainly in technical and manual professions. The long-term demand is for qualified craftsmen," were the words of Labor Office Director Viktor Najmon.

SOCIETY New poll – two-fifths of Czechs oppose Qatar hosting World Cup

Almost half of Czechs (40 percent) disagree with Qatar hosting the football World Cup, an opinion poll released yesterday to ČTK shows.

NMS Market Research asked Czech respondents their views on the morality and justness of Qatar hosting the football championships, currently ongoing. People most often cited the host country's political aggression towards other states, human rights violations, and corruption related to Qatar winning the nomination to host the World Cup.

Thirty-five percent were opposed to Qatar due to the deaths of workers during the construction of the stadiums, and 27 percent mentioned LGBTQ+ abuses as reasons why Qatar should not have hosted the championship.

RAIL Czech rail accidents cause cross-border disruption

Two accidents at a railway crossing near Moravský Písek, to the south-east of the Czech Republic, have disrupted traffic on the Austria-Poland train corridor.

Spokespeople for České dráhy, the national train operator, have said that trains through and around the Moravský Písek region will likely not run for the whole morning.

"One car of a passenger train derailed at the level crossing between Bzenec and Moravský Písek, at roughly the same time a freight train collided with a person at the same crossing," said Martin Drápal, a spokesman for the Czech Railway Inspection, told ČTK. One person is confirmed to have died.

Dec. 7, 2022

TELEVISION Česká televize at risk of layoffs, cuts from 2024

According to the council of Česká televize (ČT), Czechia’s public broadcaster, ČT will face “production cuts and layoffs” if the television license fee is not increased from the current CZK 135 per month.

ČT24 reported today that if the state broadcaster keeps its current fee – applicable to most of the adult population of the country that owns a television – the firm would need to initiate mass redundancies from 2024.  

The license, or concessionaire, fee was introduced in 2008. If the fee was adjusted appropriately for inflation, it would be worth CZK 209 today.

DIPLOMACY Church delegation meets Czech PM today

Members of the Commission of the Episcopates of the EU (COMECE) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC) will meet Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala today to discuss humanitarian issues, ČTK reports.

The archbishops of Luxembourg and Prague will – among other senior ecumenical officials – meet in Czechia’s capital to talk about ensuring protection for those from war-torn countries. 

If there is a humanitarian crisis caused by the war, the EU needs to continue supporting solidarity with the member states hosting most of the refugees, the COMECE and CEC said.

The church officials came regardless of the fact that Czechia is among the most atheist countries in Europe, with 75 percent of people naming themselves atheists.

IMMigration Border controls between Czechia and Slovakia to continue

The government has today decided to extend controls at the Czech-Slovak border, Interior Minister Vít Rakušan informed journalists, ČT24 writes.

They had been due to end on Dec. 12 after being introduced in September to combat the rising tide of immigrants traveling into Czechia through the Western Balkans route.

They will now be active for 14 days after Dec. 12. Rakušan asserts that the border measures are working, with numbers of illegal migrants dropping from over 100 per week in September to less than 10 weekly at present. 

The checks can legally continue until late March; six months after the checks were introduced.

POLITICS EU leaders, Fiala tell Western Balkans to watch borders

At Tuesday's Western Balkans summit, European heads of state, including Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, told Western Balkans nations to “watch their borders” if they want help with energy sources, Seznam Zprávy reports.

"We have made it clear to our partners that it is important that they are on the same page with us in terms of foreign policy and Russia. We agreed that Russia bears sole responsibility for the current energy crisis in Europe,” Prime Minister Petr Fiala told journalists after the meeting.

EU leaders also doubled down on their issues with immigrants traveling through the Western Balkans into Western Europe. The leaders agreed that strengthening the Serbian-Macedonian border is necessary to control the wave of migration.

PRAGUE Prague government negotiations continue to stutter

Following a meeting between the Spolu coalition (the Civic Democrats, TOP 09, and KDU-ČSL) and the Pirates in negotiations on the governing of Prague, Spolu has announced that talks with the Pirates have formally ended, ČT24 reports.

Despite about two and a half months having elapsed since the Prague municipal elections, no government for the capital has yet been formed. According to mayoral candidate Bohuslav Svoboda of the Civic Democrats, the Pirates are extremely reluctant to grant too much power to the Civic Democrats in the local government. 

Spolu, which received the most votes in the September elections, will continue its talks with ANO and the Praha sobě party.

ENVIRONMENT Subsidization of rooftop solar systems increases

Acting Minister of Environment in Czechia Marian Jurečka announced at a press conference yesterday that the government “subsidized the installation of almost 50,000 rooftop solar plants” this year – four times the 2021 level.

As reported by ČTK, the Environment Ministry has spent CZK 14 billion subsidizing households’ solar-energy sources as well as those of power plants.

Thanks to solar energy, a household can save on average CZK 30,000 a year and cover up to 70 percent of its energy consumption, Jurčeka said. The subsidization is part of the government’s “New Green Savings Programme” in its attempt to encourage people to use environmentally friendlier energy sources.

Dec. 6, 2022

ECONOMY Retail sales drop sharply in October

According to a data release today by the Czech Statistical Office (CZSO), year-on-year sales in retail trade in October declined by 9.4 percent. On a monthly basis, they fell by 1.8 percent. 

"All major assortment types of specialized non-food stores showed a year-on-year decrease, with the exception of pharmaceutical and healthcare stores. Internet and mail-order business continued to decline continuously for the 10th month," added the Head of Department of Trade, Transport, and Services Statistics of the CZSO. 

Sales of household products dropped by 13.7 percent year on year, with clothing and footwear falling by 12.7 percent.

PENSIONS Number of early-retirement applicants surges

Social security offices around the country received 41,600 applications for early retirement in the months of October and November. There are extremely high levels: normally, as ČTK reports, 30,000 people apply for an earlier pension every year.

The number of applicants increased markedly after the Ministry of Labour drew attention to the benefits of early pensions in mid-October. Lower disposable-income levels nationwide, connected with an inflationary environment, and relatively poor wage growth are the likely reasons behind the decision to retire early.

IMMIGRATION Interior Minister wants extension of Czech-Slovak border controls

Czech Interior Minister Vít Rakušan will ask the government on Wednesday to further prolong the checks at the borders with Slovakia, which Czechia introduced in late September, ČTK reports.

The most recent extension of the border controls (of which there have now been multiple) expires on Dec. 12. The checks were originally introduced to curb the flow of illegal migrants – mainly of Middle Eastern origin – into Czechia. They would usually travel through the Western Balkans before reaching the Czech Republic.

POLITICS Petr Fiala to attend Western Balkans summit today

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala will today attend a summit of EU leaders with representatives from the Western Balkans in Tirana, the capital of Albania.

The main topics will be EU enlargement, immigration, and protection against Russia.

"The stability of the Western Balkans is important for all of Europe. It is important for our security," Fiala mentioned, as reported in Seznam Zprávy.

Aleksandar Vučić, the Serbian president, will also be present. Fiala has previously criticized the stance of Vučić for being overly sympathetic to Russia.

Accession of Albania to the EU will also be discussed; the country was granted candidate status in 2014.

SOCIETY Man who attacked journalist at protest faces CZK 20,000 fine

A man who attacked a journalist during an anti-government that took place on Nov. 17 faces a fine of up to CZK 20,000, according to a police statement yesterday.

Reporter Radek Bartoníček, working for news site Aktuálně.cz, was assaulted while reporting on a protest organized by the “Czech Republic First” group while it had been protesting against Česká televize, the state broadcaster.

DISRUPTION Heavy snow affects South Bohemia travel

Heavy snowfall overnight has disrupted several rail links in South Bohemia, the Railway Administration reports this morning. Rail services from České Budějovice to Prague and České Budějovice to Pilsen are heavily disrupted.

Electricity outages are also prevalent around South Bohemia. "Due to the heavy snowfall, we recorded approximately 20 high-voltage line failures in the EG.D distribution network as of Tuesday morning. Outages concern the overwhelming majority of the South Bohemian region,” said a spokesperson for energy firm E.ON.

Icey conditions and fallen trees also contributed to a reported “five dozen” accidents reported on South Bohemian roads since midnight, ČTK reports.

Dec. 5, 2022

EDUCATION Dean at Mendel University resigns over unfair-practice claims

Dean of the Faculty of Business Economics at Mendel University Pavel Žufan, who had been in the post during the time presidential candidate Danuše Nerudová had been the rector of the university, has resigned.

Controversy has surrounded the university following claims that it unlawfully expedited doctorate degrees, essentially letting students graduate in a shorter-than-mandated timeframe.

"The reason for the resignation is my responsibility as dean for misconduct in the past period regarding the implementation of doctoral study programs at the faculty," Žufan stated in his resignation letter, as Seznam Zprávy writes.

Nerudová denies any wrongdoing or responsibility during the process.

DISPLAY Crown jewels of Czechia to be on display to public in January

The Czech crown jewels will be displayed to the public in St Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle from Jan. 17 to 21, 2023, Presidential Office Head Vratislav Mynář announced today, iDnes reports.

It will be the first time since 1955 that the jewels will be on display at St Vitus Cathedral.  They were last viewable by the public in 2018.

The crown jewels include the Crown of St Wenceslas that dates back to the 14th century. Other items on display will be the royal orb and scepter, coronation vestments of the past kings of Bohemia, and other accessories. 

The skull of St Wenceslas, the Czech patron saint, will be displayed in the chapel consecrated to him in the cathedral, too.

POLITICS Andrej Babiš to hold 'talk shows' as he starts tour of Czechia

In a video shared today, former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš announced that he will stage “talk shows” in Czech towns that he visits during his campaign to become president. He had earlier announced that he would not take part in any televised debates at least until the end of the year.

He will begin his campaign, touring in a caravan across the country, tomorrow. Olomouc, to the east of the country, will be his first stop. In an opinion poll published last week, Babiš is the most popular candidate.

WEATHER Czech Hydrometeorological Institute issues snow warning

On Tuesday, 5 to 10 centimeters of snow will fall in some parts of the Czech Republic, which may cause problems in transport or energy, the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (ČHMÚ) warned Monday as reported in Novinky.cz.

The warning concerns a strip of territory stretching from the south of Bohemia to the north of Moravia. It encompasses the South Bohemian Region, Vysočina, Pardubice, Central Bohemia, and Hradec Králové.

In the capital, temperature highs of about 4 degrees Celsius are expected tomorrow. By the end of this week, Prague temperatures are expected to drop to a maximum of 1 degree Celsius, with light snow forecast Saturday.

ART Artwork by Czech sells for over CZK 30 million

An oil painting by Czech surrealist Toyen (born Marie Čermínová) was sold Sunday at a Prague auction for CZK 31 million. Painted in 1967, the piece is entitled “Mirage.” It had a starting price of CZK 12 million.

Earlier this year, Toyen’s piece “Samotari” was auctioned for CZK 54 million. The most-expensive work of hers, “Circus,” was sold in 2021 for almost CZK 80 million.

The domestic auction record, set in this spring, is held by Bohumil Kubišta's “Old Prague Motif” from 1911, which was sold for CZK 123.6 million.

INFLATION Christmas confectionery to double in price

According to Executive Director of the Czech Association of Bakers and Confectioners Bohumil Hlavatý, the price of Christmas cookies in bakeries and pastry shops will rise by between 50 and 100 percent year on year, ČTK reported yesterday.

This is owing to a rise in the prices of raw materials and energy. Hlavatý also noted that the prices of flour rose by 80 percent year on year and the prices of sugar, butter, or vegetable fats doubled. 

AVIATION Plane makes emergency landing in Prague over bomb threat

A plane flying from the Polish city of Kraków to Bristol, UK, made an emergency landing at Prague Airport on Sunday night, ČTK reports. The flight, chartered by company easyJet, was grounded over suspicion of an explosive inside. 

Following checks by a bomb disposal unit, no dangerous items were found on the aircraft, the Czech police force reported.

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