Economic certainty is not the Czech Republic’s only national interest – so is maintaining a pluralist democracy and free society, the Czech minister of foreign affairs, Lubomír Zaorálek, said on Tuesday. Mr. Zaorálek told the Czech National Interest conference in Prague that a number of economically developed countries were currently going through crises of democracy and that Czech history confirmed that the nation thrived when society was free. The country’s foreign policy chief said many people felt uncertainty and fear and that the best defences against this were investing in education and infrastructure and a well-chosen economic strategy.
A fresh smog alert was declared in Prague on Tuesday. The level of dust particles in the air in the capital is so high that forecasters say regulations may soon be introduced forcing some companies to limit production. At the start of this month smog levels led the Prague authorities to call on residents to keep car journeys to a minimum. However, a proposal to introduce free travel on public transport was rejected.
The 160th anniversary of the establishment of the Moser crystal company is being celebrated at an exhibition that has just opened at Prague’s Municipal House. The show features glass items produced throughout the existence of the Karlovy Vary-based luxury goods maker. Moser today has around 320 employees and is sold at high-end outlets throughout the world. Entitled The Story of Moser Crystal, the exhibition runs until March 22.
President Miloš Zeman has signed into law a ban on smoking in pubs and restaurants in the Czech Republic. The head of state had previously pledged not to veto the legislation as he had a “conflict of interest” on the matter as a chain smoker. The news means that the smoking ban will come into effect on May 31, which is World No Tobacco Day. Senate deputy chairman Jaroslav Kubera, a smokers’ rights advocate, says he is considering taking the matter to the Constitutional Court.
Coalition leaders the Social Democrats say they will campaign for the autumn’s general elections on a pledge to introduce a special tax on banks. Leader Bohuslav Sobotka said on Tuesday that the party planned a system of four tariffs, based on the assets of individual banks. The highest rate of 0.3 percent would be levied on banks with assets of CZK 300 billion or more. Mr. Sobotka said the move would generate increased revenues for the state of CZK 11 billion a year. He said 15 other EU states had bank taxes, including Germany and the UK.
Czech economic growth slowed to 2.3 percent in 2016, down from 4.6 percent the previous year. The preliminary figure for GDP expansion last year was published by the Czech Statistics Office on Tuesday. It was the lowest growth rate recorded for three years. Analysts attribute the deceleration to a reduction in investment activities. The growth was driven by domestic and foreign demand in most sectors of the economy with the exception of construction, where output was far lower than in 2015.
The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, has filed a petition against legislation nicknamed Lex Babiš at the Constitutional Court. The president argues that the conflict of interest bill is unconstitutional as it violates a prohibition on discrimination on the basis of property. The legislation is widely seen as being targeted against ANO chief Andrej Babiš, who is minister of finance and controls large companies and media outlets. The bill was pushed through Parliament despite a presidential veto and Mr. Zeman had previously said he would take the matter to the country’s highest court.
Prague’s Nusle district has declared war on the ever-present cigarette butts strewn around streets and tram stops. Following the example of Paris and London, Nusle has invested in pocket ashtrays which are being distributed to smokers for free. The initial 20,000 crown investment will cover the first batch of 200 ashtrays and the local council says it will proceed depending on how effective the move proves to be.
Czech war veteran and journalist Bedřich Utitz has died at the age of 96. Utitz fought at Tobruk and later at Dunkirk with the Czechoslovak independent armoured brigade. In January of 1945 he was taken prisoner but rejoined his unit two months later after getting released thanks to a prisoner swap. After the war Utitz worked for the Czechoslovak News Agency and Czechoslovak Radio, where he headed the foreign broadcasts service. In 1998 he was presented with the Order of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk and three years ago he was awarded the Arnost Lustig Prize for "courage, bravery, humanity and justice."
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