NGOs and legal groups have warned that proposed laws boosting the powers of military intelligence are a threat to fundamental liberties and rights. The group Iuridicum Remedium warned Monday that the changes, justified on the grounds of boosted protection against cyber attacks, appeared merely to be a tool for increased collection of information. Practically, the result would probably backfire with Internet security worsened, it added. The proposal is in its second reading before the lower house of parliament. The head of military intelligence, Jan Beroun, said that it would only monitor the net’s operation and that a permit from a judge would still be needed to look at the contents on pages.
The Czech Ministry of Finance has increased its inflation expectations for this year to 2.0 percent from its previous forecast of 1.2 percent on Monday. One of the reasons is the stronger rise in prices seen at the end of last year. Two percent annual inflation is the target of the Czech National Bank which would allow it to drop its low crown policy, a major step which is not seen happening earlier than mid-year. The ministry boosted its growth forecast for this year to 2.6 percent from 2.5 percent with 2018 growth expected to fall back to 2.4 percent. Unemployment is seen largely unchanged this year.
In ice hockey, three newcomers have been nominated for the Czech national squad to take part in the Swedish Hockey Games in Gothenburg. The three include forwards Vladimír Růžička junior of Chomutov and Petr Jelínek of Liberec as well as back Lukeš Klok of Vitkovice. Czech participation starts on February 9 with a match against Sweden. Russia and Finland also take part in the games.
The Czech government on Monday agreed the prime minister’s mandate for an informal meeting of EU heads of government and state on Friday in Malta. The Czech position will support moves to tackle human traffickers and boost cooperation with North African countries to prevent immigration. Libya is a particular target for help with the European Commission last week already announcing moves aimed at helping Libyan authorities police their coastline. EU countries will also look ahead to their shared future following Brexit with the aim of coming up with a declaration on the group’s future by the middle of this year.
The country main spending watchdog, the Supreme Audit Office, has criticised how repairs were carried out in the Czech Republic key road artery between Prague and second city, Brno, the D1 motorway. The report said that the Motorways and Highways Authority responsible for preparing the project failed to look properly at the different repair scenarios available and insufficient preparation before work started meant that the final work was delayed by at least two years. The price for repairs to similar sections of the motorway varied by up to a third, the watchdog added. The state agency said that construction firms had been willing to drop their prices during the recession when the repairs started. Repairs should have been completed by 2018 but not look as though they will continue to 2020.
Speaking at a conference in Prague to mark the 20th anniversary of the Czech-German declaration, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said that it had created confidence between the two countries in which solutions to current European problems could be found. Czech-German relations are now at their best level ever in history, Sobotka added. The Czech prime minister described the relationship, together with the Visegrad grouping with Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland, as a pillar for the stability and development of Central Europe. The declaration aimed to heal the wounds caused by the Nazi regime during and in the run up to World War II and the expulsion of Sudeten Germans from their homes after the war.
Meat production returned to rise in the Czech Republic last years after years on the slide. Overall production climbed 0.3 percent year on year to total almost 449,000 tonnes. Beef and poultry production rose, but pork production, continued to decline. Pork production counts for almost half total meat production and was down by 3.3 percent. Milk production rose by 1.0 percent to 2.46 billion litres although the price paid to farmers was almost 15 percent below 2015 levels.
Prague’s Náplavka may see a number of improvements by next summer, the website Prague.tv reports, citing an architectural study to be discussed by City Hall in February. The plan reportedly calls for more cafes, galleries and public conveniences in a section under Rašínovo nábřeží. Some improvements should be implemented this year along the stretch of the embankment wall between Výtoň and Prague’s famous Dancing House.
Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has said that he will transfer all his assets to a trust fund in order to comply with conflict-of-interest legislation passed a final vote in the lower house this month. He made the statement in a debate programme on commercial broadcaster TV Prima on Sunday but added he would also challenge the rules at the level of the European Commission. Mr Babiš is a billionaire who owns more than 25O companies and is listed as No.2 of the richest Czechs by Forbes. Polls have repeatedly suggested his ANO party will win this year’s parliamentary elections, putting him in line to be the country’s next prime minister.
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