Today's headlines: Daily news refresh for Czechia

The country's top news in brief for the week of Dec. 12-16, 2022 Staff

Written by Staff Published on 12.12.2022 09:43:00 (updated on 16.12.2022) Reading time: 16 minutes

Diplomacy U.S. Senate confirms appointment of new ambassador to Czechia

The U.S. Senate has approved the nomination of investor Bijan Sabet for the post of US ambassador to Czechia, Radio Prague reports. Appearing before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sabet said his priorities as ambassador to Prague would be to follow Václav Havel's legacy of protecting human rights and media freedoms and to develop U.S.-Czech security cooperation.

The position has been vacant since Joe Biden took over as president on Jan. 20, 2021. Sabet is a co-founder and a general partner of venture capital firm Spark Capital, which manages over $6 six billion across venture and venture growth funds. Prior to co-founding Spark Capital in 2005, he worked as a senior executive in technology startup companies in California, and Massachusetts.

HUMAN RIGHTS Czech Senate labels 1930s Great Famine in Ukraine genocide

Earlier this week, the Czech Senate called the Great Famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933 a genocide caused by the Stalinist regime and, in connection with the current Russian aggression, voiced determination to help promote international principles to prevent similar tragedies from happening anywhere in the world.

"The Senate recognizes the intentionally provoked famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933 as an outrageous crime of genocide against the people of Ukraine and against humanity," says the Senate resolution which takes its cues from similar resolutions previously adopted by the lower house of parliament and parliaments in foreign countries.

Defense Czechs to buy another 10 Caesar howitzers

The Czech Defense Ministry signed an addendum to the contract for the purchase of another 10 French Caesar howitzers, for which it will pay CZK 1.77 billion. In all, the military will receive 62 howitzers from the French firm Nexter Systems that will cost CZK 10.3 billion in total.

Defense Minister Jana Černochová also announced to the government that the Czech firm STV Group will deliver tens of thousands of shells for the howitzers to the military. "By the purchase of the howitzers, we are taking another step towards the much-needed modernization of our military and to decrease the internal debt we still have toward the army," Černochová said.

Most of the cannons will be completed in the Czech Republic by the industrial firm Czechoslovak Group, which will deliver the Tatra chassis and armored cabins.

Crime Two policemen punished for intervention at Babiš's rally

Disciplinary penalties were imposed on two policemen over their intervention at a rally of senior opposition ANO leader Andrej Babiš in Český Krumlov in August, South Bohemian police announced. The policemen were punished for not having sufficiently proved their police membership while dividing Babiš's opponents from his supporters.

The disciplinary proceedings were held with two policemen who were trying to separate the two groups due to the threat of a physical conflict. Both were found guilty of misconduct. The punishment was not specified as the disciplinary proceedings were closed to the public.

Labor Senate: EU ban on forced labor products not clear

 The EU's planned ban on the imports of products made by forced labor in third countries is a praiseworthy effort on the part of the European Commission, but the way of its enforcement needs clarification, the Czech Senate agreed. In Czechia, the enforcement of the ban should be supervised by the customs authority, the senators agreed. The Senate pointed out it was unclear how to enforce the ban and it would bring an administrative burden for individual member countries.

The proposed system counts on the authorities in EU states assessing a possible involvement of forced labor "based on many different sources of information" including NGOs' complaints. If "a well-founded suspicion" emerges that a product was made with labor done under the threat of punishment, the authorities are supposed to launch an inquiry that may result in the product's withdrawal from the market.

Ukraine Prague, Olomouc send power generators

Prague has sent 626 diesel heaters and 18 power generators to the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv and Mykolaiv, outgoing Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib and Ukrainian charge d'affaires Vitalii Usatyi said, and the city of Olomouc sent 230 generators to Kolomyia today.

The heaters and generators left the Czech capital city by train on Wednesday. They will get in one or two days to Čierna nad Tisou at the border of Slovakia and Ukraine where Ukrainians will take them over. The authorities of the Ukrainian cities will decide on their use. Hřib said the heaters and generators were part of the city's supplies and they had been bought for CZK 15 million. He said firefighters had further supplies for Prague in case of emergency.

Dec. 15, 2022

POLITICS Babiš and Pavel visit Hungary – but not together

Presidential candidates Andrej Babiš and Petr Pavel are currently spending the afternoon in Hungary, on separate trips.

Former Czech Prime Minister Babiš has headed to the Hungarian-Serbian border to meet Hungarian President Katalin Novák and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. Immigration and energy are among the main topics of discussion.

Pavel, on the other hand, met with journalists, academics, and representatives of the non-profit sector in Budapest. 

"While Babiš went to play president and celebrate [Hungrian Prime Minister Victor] Orbán's populism, I am going to Hungary to show his true face and how he complicates the lives of Hungarians,” he said earlier.

UKRAINE Government extends payment for refugee-hosting households

The so-called solidarity subsidy for those who accommodate Ukrainian refugees for free in their homes will continue to be paid out in the first quarter of 2023, Social Affairs Minister Marian Jurečka announced today as reported by ČTK.

The subsidy is paid for providing free accommodation for a minimum of 16 days in a month. It stands at CZK 5,000 crowns for one person accommodated alone and CZK 9,000 crowns for two.

In November, the subsidy was granted to 13,000 recipients for the accommodation of 35,000 refugees.

HOUSING Mortgage rate increases, near highest level in 20 years

The interest rate for newly granted mortgages in the Czech Republic rose slightly – from 5.86 percent in October to 5.96 in November. The current rate is one of the highest in the last 20 years, ČTK writes.

In part reflecting the high rates, activity on the mortgage market has fallen compared with the 2021 level; the number of mortgages issued in the first 11 months of 2022 fell 62 percent year on year.

LAW Senate cancels ruling on automatic creation of data boxes

The proposed automatic creation of data boxes – designed to facilitate digital communication between people and government entities – will no longer be implemented in 2023, Prague’s Senate ruled yesterday. 

The original ruling had been that, from next year, anybody logging in to the state’s digital services would have a data box created, which would then need to be used.

However, Minister of Trade Jozef Síkela said that the plan was “too ambitious” and burdensome for people with poor technological skills, ČTK reports. People may still set up, and use, a data box voluntarily.

PRAGUE ANO supports new Prague mayor

The ANO movement will today support the election of a new Prague mayor, Bohuslav Svoboda (of the Civic Democrats party).

At a meeting today between ANO and the Spolu coalition (consisting of the Civic Democrats, TOP 09, and KDU-ČSL), ANO has issued its support of Svoboda replacing current Prague mayor Zdenek Hřib (Pirates). 

Svoboda will not be a member of the ruling council, but will hold the same powers as a mayor, writes Seznam Zprávy.

Negotiations have dragged on for almost three months since the September municipal elections, in which Spolu received the highest vote share, followed by ANO and the Pirates.

TRAFFIC Truck accident blocks highway to Prague

A truck crashing on the D5 highway near Rokycany, Pilsen, yesterday evening caused the suspension of traffic Prague-bound on the highway. The lorry overturned and was lying across all highway lanes, blocking them.

"In view of the snowfall, we recommend maximum caution on the roads," the police said on Twitter in the evening, as reported in

The accident occurred at about 7:30 p.m., blocking traffic until 6 a.m. today. Normal service on the highway has now been resumed.

FINANCE Government approves increase to subsistence minimum

The government Wednesday approved a 5.2 percent increase in the living and subsistence minimum, ČT24 writes.

The living minimum is described by the Labor Ministry as the “socially recognized minimum level of income to ensure sustenance and other basic personal needs,” whereas the subsistence minimum is the base level of income to “ensure sustenance and other basic personal needs… allowing the individual to survive.”

For a person who lives alone, the living minimum will rise from CZK 4,620 to CZK 4,860. The subsistence minimum – used to calculate benefits payments – will rise from CZK 2,980 to CZK 3,130. 

Dec. 14, 2022

POLITICS Zeman signs 2023 budget into law

President Miloš Zeman today signed the 2023 state budget, which has a deficit of CZK 295 billion, Deník N reports. Revenues are budgeted to be CZK 1.93 trillion and expenditures CZK 2.2 trillion. Although welcoming the annual reduction in the deficit, Zeman commented that the deficit remains too large.

This afternoon the president also recommended to the Senate former Brno Law Faculty Dean Jan Svatoň to the post of judge of the Constitutional Court.

BANKING President picks new members of Czech National Bank board

President Miloš Zeman has today announced three new members of the Czech National Bank (ČNB) board.

Current director of the Export and Guarantee Insurance Company Jan Procházka and head of the National Budget Council Jan Kubíček will become the newest members of the ČNB board. Jan Frait, who currently sits on the board, will be promoted to vice governor. ČNB board members’ terms typically last six years. 

Citing Procházka’s and Kubíček’s experience, Zeman commented that a responsible fiscal policy is needed to help reduce inflation. He also underlined the importance of a low budget deficit.

POLITICS Fiala – we may override Germany's price-cap decision

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala announced today that Czechia, as current president of the Council of the EU, may override the decisions of Germany and other EU countries on the subject of capping gas prices.

Germany, along with other EU countries, is opposed to the idea of price ceilings on gas, citing a fear of a consumption increase and a lack of energy-producing supplies.

"If an agreement is not reached, then we will have to proceed in accordance with all the principles and rules on which the EU stands,” Fiala said today, as quoted by ČTK.

SOCIETY Senate approves child-benefits increase

The Senate has today passed a rule that will increase the amount of child benefits that families can receive. Payments of child benefits – the value of which depends on the age and occupation of the guardian(s) – will increase by CZK 200.

If President Miloš Zeman approves the change, monthly child benefit payments will range from CZK 800 to CZK 1,580. They are eligible for households with net incomes of less than 3.4 times the subsistence minimum.

LAW Former prime minister denies perjury accusations

Former Prime Minister Petr Nečas (2010-13) has denied today the accusation that he falsely testified in favor of his wife Jana Nečasova (formerly Nagyová) in the case of misusing military intelligence.

According to the indictment, Nečas falsely testified in favor of Nečasova twice, at the main hearings held in April 2015 and September 2017.

Nečasova had been accused of carrying out illegal surveillance of Nečas’s then-wife Radka. Nečas insists that he initiated the surveillance out of concern for his family's safety.

UKRAINE Ukrainian refugees to get visas extended

Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in Prague since February 2022 will be able to extend their temporary protection visas until March 2024, writes. Originally, their visas had been valid until March 2023. The law still needs to be passed by the Senate, and then signed off by President Miloš Zeman.

Slightly over 450,000 Ukrainian refugees have acquired temporary residence in the Czech Republic since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It is estimated that around 350,000 to 400,000 are currently in Czechia.

POLITICS Senate to abolish law on keeping electronic sales records

The Senate will today approve the abolition of electronic sales records (EETs) kept by businesses, iDnes writes. Entrepreneurs and some businesses will now no longer be legally required to keep an electronic record of all their transactions. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the government made the keeping of EETs voluntary.

Introduced during the tenure of Prine Minister Andrej Babiš, they were cited as being unnecessary and burdensome for entrepreneurs, as well as being costly in terms of administration.

ELECTION 2023 Poll shows Danuše Nerudová most popular among students

Economist Danuše Nerudová would easily win the presidential election if only secondary school students were to vote in it, ČTK reports. In a mock election held for Czech students, Nerudová received 54.1 percent from this demographic, members of the People In Need charity said.

She was followed by retired general Petr Pavel with 25.7 percent and former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš with 9.9 percent.

The poll underlines Nerudová’s popularity with the young generation, who in recent opinion polls has issued strong support for Nerudová.

Dec. 13, 2022

BIRD FLU Outdoor poultry breeding banned across whole country

The State Veterinary Administration (SVS) has banned the outdoor breeding of poultry in the whole of Czechia following last week’s outbreak of bird flu, reports.

Poultry breeders, apart from those who solely tend to runner ducks and pigeons, have been ordered by veterinarians to place farmed birds in buildings and to limit the contact of farmed poultry with wild birds as much as possible, SVS spokesman Petr Vorlíček said.

Six new bird flu outbreaks have been verified in the Czech Republic since the beginning of December.

LAW Former Czech politician indicted for rape

Findings from Seznam Zprávy reveal that former politician Dominik Feri has been accused by the District Prosecutor's Office for Prague 3 of three counts of rape.

He faces up to 10 years in prison; one of the accusations leveled is the rape of a 17-year-old girl. "I welcome the fact that after a slow two-year wait, I will be able to present to the court the evidence proving my innocence. So far, I have not been able to publicly comment on the ongoing proceedings in any substantive way,” said Feri in defense.

The accusations came in spring 2021, when, among other things, Feri was accused of using a date rape drug.

ELECTION 2023 Czech court makes decision on presidential candidates

The Czech Supreme Administrative Court today rejected the bids of two presidential candidates and accepted one other, iDnes writes.

Entrepreneur Karel Diviš will now be able to run for president, having previously been excluded from the running due to “an insufficient number of valid signatures,” ČTK reports. Further verification shows that the number of proper signatures collected exceeded the required 50,000.

On the other hand, activist Denisa Rohanová had her presidential bid rescinded because some signatures obtained from politicians were no longer in the Chamber of Deputies.

Mathematician and businessman Karel Janeček, who had his bid earlier rejected, lost his appeal due to not reaching the 50,000-signature mark.

WEATHER Avalanche-warning level raised in Krkonoše Mountains

The Czech section of the Krkonoše Mountains announced today a second-level (out of five) avalanche warning, iDnes writes, implying a “moderate risk” of avalanches in the area. There is an estimated 40 to 70 centimeters of snow on the Krkonoše ridges at present.

CTK describes that on both sides of the Krkonoše Mountains “over a hundred places with a total area of ​​554 hectares,” are at risk of avalanches. More snow is forecast in the area in the coming days, with the second-grade warning set to remain.

WEATHER Temperatures dip to -26 degrees Celsius overnight

Freezing temperatures continued in Czechia overnight, with the lowest-recorded temperature hitting -26 degrees Celsius in the south-west of the country. The temperature fluctuated between -8 and -10 degrees Celsius in Prague this morning.

The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute has issued a warning against severe frosts, which are disrupting traffic and transport systems nationwide. České dráhy, the national rail operator, announced that a smaller number of trains would operate around the Prague area.

The S1 (Prague – Český Brod – Kolín) and S9 (Prague–Benešov) lines are affected. "Our technicians are working on quick troubleshooting. We apologize for the reduced comfort," the carrier said, as reported in ČT24.

Further frosts are forecast for Wednesday, with a severe frost warning in effect for tonight.

POLITICS Czech PM: Zeman naming Constitutional Court head would be 'wrong'

A statement made yesterday by Prime Minister Petr Fiala reveals his reservations about President Miloš Zeman appointing a new head of the Czech Constitutional Court before Zeman’s term ends, ČTK reports.

"The absolute majority of constitutional lawyers…have stated that such thing is not possible and would undoubtedly cause huge disputes," Fiala commented on the matter.

In a Sunday interview for Czech Radio, Zeman confirmed that he is considering naming a new chairperson of the Constitutional Court. Zeman's mandate ends in March next year.

ENERGY Almost 40 percent of households do not monitor energy consumption

A survey by PAQ Research released yesterday shows that almost four in 10 (38 percent) of households do not monitor their energy consumption, instead waiting for their annual bill. About 30 percent of people monitor their consumption once a month, and 35 percent check their consumption once per quarter. 

"People are starting to monitor their energy consumption more, but it's still not enough. If I don't monitor my consumption, I could be in for an unpleasant surprise and [be in] large arrears at the end of the year," warned Institute for the Prevention and Solution of Over-indebtedness Director Radek Hábl.

Dec. 12, 2022

HEALTH Czechia 'on verge' of respiratory illness epidemic

According to a statement by the Czech Health Institute (SZÚ) covered by ČTK today, Czechia is “on the brink of an epidemic of acute respiratory tract infections.” On a week-on-week basis, the death rate of respiratory diseases has risen by 20 percent. 

Cases of influenza and similar respiratory illnesses are increasing sharply. Covid-19 cases are gradually rising, for example – from 695 (on a seven-day moving average) on Nov. 27 to 878 a fortnight later, on Dec. 11.

“It can be assumed that in the next week the number of patients with the flu will continue to increase," added Head of Department of Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases of the SZÚ, who also urged all those vulnerable and non-vulnerable to get vaccinations against influenza and Covid-19.

ECONOMY November inflation surpasses 16 percent

Data from the Czech Statistical Office released today shows that Czech consumer prices rose by 16.2 percent year on year in November, an increase of over 1 percentage point from the month-earlier level.

The increase was slightly larger than expected, with analysts having expected a rise of “several tenths of a percentage point,” ČTK reports.

Food prices grew 27 percent year on year and goods prices rose by almost 20 percent annually. Hot water increased by 30 percent year on year, and natural-gas prices surged by 139 percent in the same time period.

Analysts warn that inflation will remain at a high level in the coming months and will not reach below 10 percent until the middle of next year, ČTK writes.

DEMOGRAPHICS Czech population rises in first three quarters of 2022

A data release by the Czech Statistical Office (CZSO) shows that in the first three quarters of this year the population of Czechia rose by 10,200, to 10.53 million. Significantly, however, this does not include Ukrainian refugees with temporary protection status in Czechia since February 2022, whose numbers are estimated to be at almost half a million. 

The driving force for the increase in population is immigration, rather than a rising birth rate. Deaths outweighed births by 11,200 in the first three quarters of this year, for example. 

About 45,000 people moved to Czechia, and 23,500 moved away, from January to end-September, CZSO data shows.

POLITICS Miloš Zeman favors more Ukraine support, regrets Putin relationship

A Sunday interview with President Miloš Zeman reveals that he is definitively in favor of continuing support to Ukraine. According to Zeman, “in some situations, economic interests must give way to security interests,” as reported by ČTK.

On Russian President Vladimir Putin, Zeman admitted that his relationship with him was "a mistake." "I saw in Putin a politician whom I did not idealize, he always acted in the interest of his country. Aggression against Ukraine was against Russia's interests," he surmised in Deník N.

EVENT Avalanches in Tatra Mountains kill three

An avalanche in the Tatra Mountains killed two Slovak men on the weekend, the Slovak Mountain Rescue service reported. They had been hiking at an altitude of over 2,000 meters. The pair were found using GPS technology to detect the location of their cellphones.

A separate avalanche on the Polish side of the Tatras killed a 19-year-old Pole, ČTK reports. The strong winds and snow on the weekend led to an “emergency situation” being declared in the east of Slovakia.

POLITICS ANO clear favorites in opinion poll

In a hypothetical general election held at the turn of December, the current opposition ANO party would comfortably win with 31 percent of the vote, followed by the Civic Democrats with 14 percent and the Freedom and Direct Democracy party with 12.4 percent, ČTK reports.

The survey was carried out by the STEM polling agency, between Nov. 29 and Dec. 5. ANO First Deputy Speaker Karel Havlíček notes that the vocality of the party is behind the party’s strong support: “we have a shadow government, we constantly comment on everything, we go to the media. We are an active opposition and we are not afraid of the people, we go to the regions."

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