Czechs borrowed a record amount in mortgage loans last year, iHned.cz reported on Tuesday. The news website said market leader Hypoteční banka had estimated the total volume of such borrowings for 2016 at CZK 225 billion – an increase of 22 percent on the previous year. Hypoteční banka attributed the growth to the healthy economy, long-term low interest rates and new legislation concerning consumer borrowing that took effect at the start of December.
Consumer prices in the Czech Republic grew by 0.7 percent in 2016, according to figures released on Tuesday by the Czech Statistics Office. That was the highest rate of inflation in three years. In 2015 consumer prices rose by 0.3 percent. In December they climbed by 2 percent year-on-year from the 1.5 percent seen in November; analysts say this confirms that the ending of the central bank’s weak crown policy will not prevent inflation this year.
Czech government coalition leaders failed to agree on how to use the 2016 state budget surplus at their meeting on Monday, and Finance Minister and ANO chairman Andrej Babis proposed that the decision be adjourned until it is clear how the 2017 budget develops. "Let's the budget runs and see how it will look in late March," Mr Babiš told journalists. The ANO leader rejected the Social Democrats' proposal that the surplus be transferred to the pension system account. As an alternative proposal, the leading party in government suggested that the surplus be used to reduce the 2017 budget deficit. The deadline for the cabinet to make the decision and submit it to the Chamber of Deputies is April 30. The 2016 budget was approved with a 70 billion crown deficit, but saw a surplus of 61.8 billion crowns. The 2017 budget projects a deficit of 60 billion crowns.
Czech diplomat Štefan Füle, 54, former commissioner for EU enlargement, may run for the post of secretary-general of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a diplomatic source has confirmed for the Czech News Agency. According to the source, the government will deal with Füle's nomination in January. The Foreign Ministry, however, declined to comment on the information. Political analyst Vít Dostal, from the Association for International Affairs (AMO), described the post of OSCE head as "prestigious", calling the OSCE “now practically the sole international organisation where a dialogue between the West and Russia was being conducted”. The analyst told ČTK, that – in his view - a number of countries no longer thought it necessary to meet Russia in the EU-Russia or NATO-Russia formats as before.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia’s military could begin cooperating on the joint-protection of the countries’ air space as of this summer, as agreed by the cabinet. The news was tweeted by Defence Minister Martin Stropnický on Monday. The proposal between the two countries already received approval from the Slovak government. The plan, which would allow pilots from both countries, for example, to use deadly force in the event of a terrorist attack using a hijacked plane, will still have to be ratified by both countries’ houses of Parliament.
The Social Democrats, the leading party in the government coalition with ANO and the Christian Democrats, are weighing alternative proposals for how to use this year’s state budget surplus of 62 billion crowns. At a press conference ahead of a coalition meeting, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka suggested that the surplus could be transferred to the account used for the payout of pensions and the indexation of pensions; earlier, the prime minister suggested the funds could be rolled over to cut into 2017’s proposed deficit of 60 billion crowns (around 2.2 billion euros).
A group of around 50 activists travelling on foot from Germany to Aleppo in the hope of ending the war in Syria reached the Ústí region of the Czech Republic on Monday morning. Participants are working with a local priest to help organise the Czech part of their stay and journey. They are also being accompanied by Czech traffic police to ensure they are safe when travelling on the road, as recent snowfall has lowered visibility and led to poor conditions. The march to Aleppo is the idea of German journalist and blogger Anna Alboth; the number of participants has grown and fallen between cities since the group set out from Berlin.
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