Nov. 16, 2022
FAMILIES Child benefits to rise from 2023
In a government proposal earlier today, child welfare allowances are set to rise by CZK 200 monthly, as written by Seznam Zprávy. Households with a net income of up to 3.4 times the subsistence minimum are entitled to child benefits. Depending on the child’s age, families now receive CZK 630, CZK 770, or CZK 880 every month. In families where at least one parent works, studies, is on parental leave or has a pension, the benefit is CZK 500 higher.
FINANCE Czech household indebtedness rises considerably in Q3
Data from the Czech Banking and Non-Banking Register of Client Information shows that household indebtedness rose by a substantial 10 percent year on year in the third quarter of 2022, ČTK reports. The total now stands at CZK 3.15 trillion.
“The credit market is going through a significant change this year. Long-term indebtedness is affected by rising mortgage rates, their reduced availability, and high real estate prices,” said Executive Director of the Non-Banking Register Jiří Rajl.
LEGISLATION Lower house approves creation of new digital and information agency
The Chamber of Deputies greenlighted today the establishment of a state Digital and Information Agency to interlink civil service information systems with citizens’ data and secure the sharing of digital services, ČT24 reports. It was approved by 92 of the 178 members of parliament present.
The agency is to be established at the beginning of 2023 and will include 187 employees from the Interior Ministry. The new agency is to focus on three specific areas: shared services and professional education; user-friendliness and analyses; and cooperation and development.
ECONOMY Producer prices in Czechia grow sharply
According to a data release today by the Czech Statistical Office (CZSO), producer prices for all components (agriculture, industry, and construction) rose significantly on a year-on-year basis.
Agricultural producer prices went up by 27.1 percent from the year-earlier level, industrial producer prices rose by 24.1 percent, and those of construction went up by a lower 12 percent.
Production prices for cereal rose by 49.3 percent year on year, potatoes by 26.7 percent, oilseeds by 24.6 percent, and fresh vegetables by 20 percent, the CZSO reports.
UKRAINE Prague mayor says capital has little space for new refugees
According to Prague mayor Zdeněk Hřib, Prague “does not have the capacity for emergency accommodation for potential new refugees from Ukraine,” ČTK reports. He asserted yesterday that the space available was “already exhausted” and the city is ill-prepared for a potential winter wave of migration.
He also strongly called for the central government to create a properly functioning distribution system for refugees, so that other cities in Czechia would accept more Ukrainians. Almost half a million refugees have been granted temporary protection visas since February.
POLITICS President budget veto overruled by Chamber of Deputies
Members of parliament (MPs) in the Chamber of Deputies yesterday evening overruled the presidential veto on the amendment to the state budget for this year.
The proposal had increased the approved budget deficit by CZK 95 billion, to CZK 375 billion, but was vetoed by President Miloš Zeman last month. The votes of at least 101 members of the lower house are needed to override the president’s veto: 103 legislators – all ruling coalition MPs present – voted for the budget amendment.
MILITARY Czech soldiers to get 10 percent pay rise next year
Under a proposed law drafted by the Defense Ministry, salaries of Czech career soldiers will rise by 10 percent from 2023. Police and firefighters are also said to receive a salary increase of 10 percent in the new year, though no official bills have been approved.
The salaries of privates, the lowest military rank, would increase by the same sum as the minimum wage; by about CZK 350 gross per month.
The army general, the highest military rank, will receive CZK 143,850 monthly.
The rate of year-on-year inflation was 13.5 percent in October.
WAR NATO, Czechia on high alert after Poland missile strike
Missiles that killed two people in Poland Tuesday evening, near its border with Ukraine, have sparked huge alarm internationally as in Czechia.
The source of the explosion is not yet confirmed, although many actors speculate that Russia orchestrated the attack.
“We will learn soon whether this was a lapse or a deliberate act and provocation. All sides are now trying to investigate this and to find out what type of missile it was exactly,” Czech Minister of Defense Jana Černochová tweeted Tuesday evening.
Russia has defended itself, claiming that the missiles originated from Ukraine, and has named the accusations as “provocation aimed at escalation,” the BBC says.
The Polish government has convened an emergency meeting as it decides whether to invoke Article 4 of the NATO treaty, which “allows NATO members to bring any issue of concern, especially regarding security, for discussion” among all nations in the alliance, as summarized by Reuters.
Nov. 15, 2022
INTERNAL AFFAIRS President hits back at police over Prague Castle security debate
As part of the ongoing – bordering on fierce – debate surrounding security checks at Prague Castle, the President’s Office has released a new statement today.
President Miloš Zeman is continuing his advocation of ending security checks on citizens before entering Prague Castle’s grounds. He called on Czechia’s police authorities to perform a systemic analysis of the effectiveness, and purposes, of the existent security checks to justify their continuation.
“We have lost confidence in the actions of the Police of the Czech Republic and in the setting of security measures at Prague Castle,” the press release damningly says.
Zeman hopes for the abolition of, or at least substantial change in, the current checks to avoid repelling citizens and tourists. He also wants queues outside Prague Castle to lessen.
EMPLOYMENT Government prepares ‘kurzarbeit’ regime – if needed
The Czech Labour and Social Affairs Ministry has drafted a government directive enabling the “kurzarbeit” system – in which firms receive state payments for staff’s wages if employees’ working hours are cut – ČTK reports today.
In a tripartite meeting of politicians, trade union leaders, and employers, Labor Minister Marian Jurečka said that the measure was mooted in case of future gas shortages. However, the current situation warrants no alarm: “at present…nothing indicates the need to activate [the kurzarbeit regime],” Jurečka said earlier.
POLITICS Opposition party to defend president’s state budget veto
The opposition Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party today declared that it will not vote against President Miloš Zeman’s veto of the 2022 state budget amendment.
Earlier this month Zeman vetoed a suggested amendment to the 2022 state budget, citing unhappiness with lower-than-possible government revenues.
SPD leader Tomio Okamura justified the decision to defend the president’s veto by saying that “the government had not sufficiently supported the citizens and had not economized,” ČTK reports.
On Oct. 18, the lower house passed a widening in the state budget deficit, from CZK 280 billion to CZK 375 billion.
POLITICS ANO still most-popular party in Czechia
An opinion poll shows that a hypothetical general election would place the current opposition party ANO as the winner – by a considerable margin. The survey, made by the Median agency, asked respondents in October about their voting preferences.
Populist ANO’s vote share increased slightly from September, to 31.5 percent of the vote. The Civic Democrats received 13.5 percent, a 2.5-percentage-point decline from the previous month. In third place was the Freedom and Direct Democracy party, with 12 percent.
In the de facto legislative election that took place in October 2021 last year, ANO received 27 percent of the vote and subsequently lost power.
DIPLOMACY Czech foreign minister to receive human rights award
Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský today starts his two-day visit to Great Britain. He will hold talks with his counterpart James Cleverly and other government ministers.
Lipavský will receive a human rights prize (the Magnitsky Award) for his contribution to the protection of human rights – namely Ukrainians, amid the current war.
This is Lipavský’s first visit to the country. Among other things, the main topic of the meeting will be the deepening of interdepartmental cooperation between countries. The ministers will also discuss Czech-British business collaboration.
EMERGENCY Large fire in Central Bohemia under control
A large fire that broke out in the center of Benešov, Central Bohemia, is under control according to local authorities. As reported by ČTK, a shop in the town caught fire on Monday afternoon – five people were treated for smoke inhalation, but nobody was taken to hospital. The building was engulfed in flames for several hours before being extinguished. Total damage to the premises affected is estimated to be at CZK 50 million. The cause of the fire is still being investigated.
Nov. 14, 2022
POLITICS Chamber of Deputies Speaker gives warning on EU enlargement
Chamber of Deputies Chairwoman Markéta Pekarová Adamová has warned against excess EU enlargement. At the opening of the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs (COSAC) today, she noted: “this [EU enlargement] is not a consensual topic. It is clear to me that a great deal of Europeans are afraid [of it].”
In June, EU leaders officially made Ukraine and Moldova EU candidates. These countries asked for their acceptance as soon as possible, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In July, the EU started accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia.
Candidate countries must fulfill and fully adhere to 35 chapters during negotiations with the EU before they become an EU country.
INCIDENTS Woman tragically crushed to death in garbage truck
A young woman in Havířov (Moravia-Silesia) tragically died after being crushed to death in a garbage truck this morning, Deník.cz reports. The woman ostensibly slept under papers in a waste container – she was undetected by the workers until it was too late.
“The garbage truck operator was about to dump the contents of the container into the truck when they heard a scream. After turning off the pressing equipment, a body was found. It was a young woman,” said Soňa Štětínská, a spokeswoman for the Moravian-Silesian police.
ENVIRONMENT Students around Czechia begin climate protest
According to the Universities for Climate group, a pro-environment organization in Czechia, students at some Czech universities went on strike today, arguing that the government is not dealing sufficiently with the climate crisis.
Students from Prague, Brno, Olomouc, Hradec Králové, and Pilsen skipped class and instead decided to protest. Around 80 students congregated in Prague’s Jan Palach Square to protest environmental damage, ČTK reports. The students also encouraged the government to end all coal-powered power plants in the Czech Republic by 2033.
A climate march is planned in the capital on Nov. 17, a public holiday.
POLITICS Interior Ministry hangs up banner commemorating Nov. 17
The Czech Interior Ministry has hung a banner outside its building commemorating the upcoming Nov. 17 celebration and the Velvet Revolution. The new display replaces the controversial image of Russian President Vladimir Putin in a body bag. The previous banner had evoked both positive and negative emotions in Czechia.
According to Interior Minister Vít Rakušan, Nov. 17 challenges, appeals and encourages people to think about how Czechia dealt with the values, ideals, and thoughts of the revolutionary events, ČTK reports.
TRANSPORT Train derails on way to Prague center, line closed
Shortly after midnight, a freight train carriage derailed after leaving the Prague-Horní Počernice station today, as seen on the Railway Administration website.
According to Prague Integrated Transport (PID), rail line connections between Horní Počernice and Prague hlavní nádraži (Prague Main Station) are suspended.
The route between Horní Počernice and Masaryk Railway Station in Prague is also closed. Replacement bus services are listed on the PID site. Disruption is expected until approximately 5:30 p.m.
ELECTION Almost 3 in 4 Czechs have a favorite candidate for president
With the presidential election just two months away, almost 75 percent of voters have a definite favorite candidate they would choose, according to a poll by the Median agency. Eighteen percent said that they had no favorite and 10 percent were “not sure” who to vote for, according to the survey as covered by iRozhlas.cz.
Voters of ANO were most likely to have already picked a favorite candidate. Elderly voters were the most likely to have no favorite.
A particularly high amount – 83 percent – of people claimed they planned to vote in the first round of the election, due to take place on Jan. 13 and Jan. 14. Turnout in the most recent presidential election was 62 percent.
POLITICS President’s Office reaffirms wish to end Prague Castle security measures
The President’s Office released an official statement yesterday confirming its view that security checks outside Prague Castle should be removed or fundamentally changed.
The announcement came in response to a press release by the national police, in which it was said that checks should continue for safety reasons, citing the Russian-Ukraine war as a factor. President Miloš Zeman holds the view that the security checks “were no longer correct and in harmony with citizens’ interests,” ČTK reports.
They had been introduced in 2016 and were initially encouraged by Zeman.