Czech news for March 20: Pension amendment takes effect from today

Plus: Chimps escape Czech zoo and a Czech volunteer is injured in crossfire in the Donbas. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 18.03.2023 09:56:00 (updated on 20.03.2023) Reading time: 7 minutes

ENVIRONMENT Fiala attends opening of novel, high-tech recycling system

Prime Minister Petr Fiala today attended the official opening of Czechia’s first-ever automatic plastic-waste sorting line, which cost CZK 330 million to manufacture. The automatic line can process up to 4.5 tonnes of plastic waste an hour. Its software program can distinguish pieces of plastic waste according to their shape, composition, and color. The technology can detect recyclable plastic objects with a 95-percent accuracy rate. With Global Recycling Day having taken place last week, Fiala mentioned that protection of the environment is of the cabinet’s main priorities.

Ukraine Czech volunteer killed in Ukraine

A Czech volunteer fighting on the Ukrainian side was killed, marking the second such case in the past year. The first Czech died in a fight with the Russian army in Donbas in June. In addition, a Czech volunteer who helps treat Ukrainian soldiers in eastern Ukraine was recently wounded by shrapnel, and a transfer to the Czech Republic is being arranged, although the Foreign Ministry has said it is not possible due to his current health condition.

POLITICS Pension-reduction law takes effect today

The Czech government's controversial pension amendment has been published in the Collection of Laws meaning that it becomes valid and effective today. The average monthly pension will now increase from June by CZK 760 instead of CZK 1,770. The government's pension amendment can now be challenged at the Constitutional Court level. The opposition ANO plans to challenge the amendment.

According to the government, pension reform is necessary to stabilize public finances, and the state will save CKZ 19.4 billion this year alone. The opposition, on the other hand, says the government is robbing pensioners, who will lose an average of around CZK 7,000 this year alone.

SLOVAKIA Pavel pledges help to Slovak town damaged by fire

In response to a large fire in the Slovak town of Banská Štiavnica this weekend Czech President vowed to help the area. Pavel – who called Slovak counterpart Zuzana Čaputová soon after the fire broke out – tweeted that Czechia will provide specialists to aid in the reconstruction and restoration of the seven buildings damaged by fire. The area where the fire hit is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

ZOO Chimpanzee trio escape from Czech zoo

Three chimpanzees from the Hodonín Zoo in South Moravia managed to break down the door to their enclosure and escape into a connecting corridor Sunday afternoon. Due to a threat to employees and public safety, staff at the zoo immediately sedated the animals. They recovered and were subsequently returned to their enclosure. The trio consisted of a 90-kilogram male, who was accompanied by two females. Workers evacuated a section of the zoo as a result.

CULTURE Kokoschka painting fails to beat auction record

A painting by Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka painting "Woman and the Slave" failed to beat the Czech auction record Sunday with a starting price of CZK 200 million. Bohumil Kubišta’s "Old Prague Motif," which sold for CZK 123.6 million in 2022, maintained its record. The oil on canvas painting, depicting a brown-skinned male slave beside a woman, belonged to a German collector of Jewish origin who was forced to sell it in the early 1940s.

Sports Krejčíková and Siniaková win doubles title at Indian Wells Masters

Czech tennis stars Barbora Krejčíková and Kateřina Siniaková won the doubles title at the Indian Wells Masters yesterday, topping  Germany's Laura Siegemund and Brazil's Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-1, 6-7, 10-7 in a hard-fought match. The title completes an incredible collection of victories for the Czech duo.

With their doubles win at Indian Wells, Krejčíková and Siniaková have now won doubles titles at every major tournament. They are one of only seven pairs to have titles at the four Grand Slams (French Open, US Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon), and have also won an Olympic gold and the Tournament of Champions. The Indian Wells Masters is often called the tennis world's fifth Grand Slam for its quality of competition.

Sports Snowboarder Ester Ledecká wins gold in Berchtesgaden

In just her second start after returning from a broken collarbone, Czech snowboarder Ester Ledecká won gold in the parallel slalom race at a FIS Snowboard World Cup event in Berchtesgaden yesterday. Ledecká led all competitors by more than one second in the qualifying race, and ultimately defeated the current world champion, Switzerland's Julia Zogg, by .19 seconds in the final.

The victory gives Ledecká her 21 gold medal at FIS World Cup events. Ledecká was the World Cup season leader in the overall parallel slalom in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019, and won gold medals at the event in the Winter Olympics in 2018 and 2022. She hasn't competed since last summer due to injury, but has now won a silver and gold in her first two events since returning.

Weather Saharan dust to color sky in eastern Czech Republic

Dust from sandstorms in the Sahara Desert is likely to color the sky in the eastern half of the Czech Republic today, according to the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (CHMI). The fine pollen-like dust, carried by winds from the Sahara over Europe, is not an uncommon occurrence, but concentrations today are expected to be higher than usual.

"During the day [on Sunday], Saharan dust will likely drift over the eastern half of the Czech Republic from the southwest in high cloud cover. Its presence can significantly 'thicken' the cloud cover and reduce the amount of incident radiation, and thus affect temperatures," writes the CHMI on social media.

Ukraine Czech volunteer seriously injured in Donbas

A Czech volunteer who is serving alongside Ukraine's military as part of the Project Phoenix project, which assists in the medical treatment of soldiers on the front line, was seriously injured by shrapnel in Donbas. The volunteer is in serious but stable condition, and his transportation back to the Czech Republic is currently being arranged, Project Phoenix officials state on social media.

"One of our brave volunteer medics was hit by shrapnel in Donbas," writes Project Phoenix on Facebook. "At the moment, his condition is stabilized, but the situation is serious and further developments cannot be predicted. We are doing everything in our power so that he can return to his homeland soon."

Saturday, March 19, 2023

Politics Czech leaders praise ICC warrant for Putin's arrest

Czech President Petr Pavel, Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský, and other politicians have praised the International Criminal Court (ICC) for issuing a warrant for the arrest of Vladimir Putin on Friday. "In this moment it is important for the international community to continue intensively supporting the Ukrainian defenders who are fighting not only for their homeland but also for the security of whole Europe," Fiala wrote on Twitter.

"If we respect international law, we must reject violation [of the International Criminal Court] by anyone," said Pavel through Facebook. "Crimes against humanity, attacks on civilian infrastructure, abductions of children, and other horrors of war cannot be tolerated. Putin is the head of a country that commits such crimes, therefore issuing an arrest warrant is correct."

Sports Krejčíková and Siniaková make doubles final at Indian Wells Masters

Czech tennis stars Kateřina Siniaková and Barbora Krejčíková will play for the title at the Indian Wells Masters later today in California after defeating Japan's Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara in straight sets 6-4, 6-2 on Friday. The top-ranked Czech doubles team will be competing for their first title of the year.

Krejčíková and Siniaková have won doubles titles at all four Grand Slams tournaments, but will seek their very first title at the Indian Wells Masters, sometimes called the fifth Grand Slam, later today. The Czech pair will match up against Germany's Laura Siegemund and Brazil's Beatriz Haddad Maia from 7:00 p.m. Prague time.

Politics Czech President visits center for Ukrainian aid in Poland

Czech President Petr Pavel visited the coordination center for military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine in Rzeszów on Friday during his trip to Poland after meeting with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. A large amount of the international aid sent to Ukraine passes through Rzeszów.

"I spent the afternoon here in Rzeszów, at a U.S.-Polish logistic base through which about 80 percent of all the military and humanitarian help to Ukraine passes," Pavel told journalists before flying back to the Czech Republic in the evening. "In less than a year, there were over 1,800 flights and hundreds of thousands of tonnes of materiel that have gone through here to Ukraine."

Education Young university graduates are leaving the Czech Republic

Young people with higher education often leave the Czech Republic after graduation but little attention is paid to migration out of the country, Martin Guzi, an economist from the SYRI National Institute, told journalists on Friday. Young educated Czechs are primarily leaving the country for Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, and Britain.

"They are attracted by better working conditions and higher salaries," Guzi said. "These are often people with a high specialization who do not find the relevant jobs in the Czech Republic." According to the economist, the young economic migrants differ from cross-border commuters who live in the Czech Republic and work abroad, and are most often men aged 40-50 without higher education.

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