Daily news summary Daily news summary

Opposition pile pressure on Babiš over son kidnap claim

Czech opposition parties are piling pressure on ANO’s Andrej Babiš after his son claimed to have been forcibly sent abroad so he would not be able to testify in a corruption case against the prime minister. The leaders of six parties – who together have 92 votes in the 200-seat lower chamber – have called a no-confidence vote in Mr. Babiš government.

On Czech Television on Tuesday Vít Rakušan of the Mayors and Independents accused the prime minister of obstruction of justice in connection with the affair. For his part, the Christian Democrats’ Marian Jurečka called on MPs with a “conscience” from the governing ANO-Social Democrats coalition to support the no-confidence vote.

Seznam Zprávy on Monday carried an interview with Andrej Babiš Jr. in which he said he had been forcibly moved to the Crimea as his father wanted him to “disappear” out of the way of a corruption investigation.

Mr. Babiš says his son, who is now in Switzerland, is mentally ill and left the Czech Republic voluntarily.

The ANO chief is facing a criminal investigation into allegations he wrongfully acquired CZK 50 million in EU subsidies for the Stork’s Nest complex near Prague. He says the case is fabricated and that he is the victim of a witchhunt.

Jaroslav Kubera (ODS) elected Senate chairman in secret ballot

Jaroslav Kubera, a Civic Democratic (ODS) politician who has been Senator from Teplice since 2000, was elected chairman of the upper house of Parliament on Wednesday in the final round of a secret ballot.

He received 46 votes out of 80 while second-place finisher Václav Hampl (for the Christian Democrats) received 24 votes.

Kubera, 70, was a member of the Communist Party at the turn of 1967 / 1968. He studied mathematics at university but did not graduate.

He joined the centre-right ODS in 1992 and served as mayor of Teplice before being elected to the Senate, where he rose to the position of deputy chairman.

While an avid proponent of the free market and critical of the European Union, pointing to an alleged “democratic deficit”, Kubera does not support the Czech Republic leaving the union.

PM confirms Czech non-participation in UN migration treaty

The Czech government has, as anticipated, refused to participate in the United Nations Global Compact for Migration. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš confirmed this on Wednesday morning, a week after he and the foreign minister, Tomáš Petříček, said Prague would not sign up to the treaty, which is due to be approved in the middle of next month.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying Czech priorities, such as differentiating between legal and illegal migrants, had not been included in the document.

Czech Foreign Minister visits Israel, Palestine ahead of President’s trip

Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček is set to wrap up a two-day visit to Israel and Palestine on Wednesday laying the ground for an official visit by Czech President Miloš Zeman in two weeks.

While in Israel, Petříček is due to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and attend the Czech-Israeli Forum, and visit the new Czech House cultural centre in Jerusalem ahead of its inauguration on 27 November.

He started his trip with a visit to the Yad Vashem Memorial to victims of the Holocaust and those who fought against the Nazis.

In Ramallah, Petříček is to meet his Palestinian counterpart Riyadh Al-Maliki to discuss bilateral relations and the prospect of a new peace process in the Middle East.

MPs vote to allow refunds on foreign exchange transactions within 3 hours

MPs have approved an amendment to the Exchange Act that will allow customers up to three hours to cancel a currency exchange transaction at bureaux de change and get their money back.

The aim is to protect tourists from unfair bait-and-switch practices, such as promising “zero commission” but offering favourable exchange rates that in fact only apply to large transactions.

Bureaux de change set their rates independently of the official exchange rates announced by the Czech National Bank. Under current law, they are obliged to publish on their exchange rate list only the least favourable exchange rate it offers.

The amendment also tightens rules for advertising a more advantageous offer of exchange rates, registering exchange obligations, and defining the boundary between currency exchange and payment services.

Cabinet approves increase in public sector wages as of January

The Cabinet has confirmed plans to increase public sector wages as of January, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Jana Maláčová (Social Democrats) said on Wednesday.

Wages are set to rise most in the sectors of education (by 10 percent on average) and healthcare (by seven percent on average). Most government employees will see their wages rise by five percent, while police, firefighters and soldiers will get a two percent raise.

The wage increases were set in the 2019 draft budget, which the lower house of Parliament approved in its first reading in late October.

Apart from the increase in public sector salaries, government spending next year should prioritise the social sphere and investments into infrastructure.

Czech economic growth slows to 2.3 pct y/y in third quarter

The Czech economy grew at a rate of 2.3 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2018, according to data published by the Czech Statistical Office (ČSÚ) on Wednesday.

In quarterly terms, GDP increased by 0.4 percentage points in July through September.

In 2017, the Czech economy grew 4.4 percent in annual terms, up from 2.6 percent growth in 2016. Analysts predict more sluggish growth in 2018, of below 3 percent.

Unemployment dropped to a 21-year low of 2.8 percent in October and some analysts say the economy was at full capacity last year.

Helena Třeštíková guest of honour at Amsterdam documentary film fest (IDFA)

Czech director Helena Třeštíková is the main guest of honour at International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the largest documentary film festival in the world, which got underway on Wednesday.

The IDFA, which runs until November 25, is featuring a retrospective of Třeštíková’s work along with 10 feature films that influenced her career, including works by the late Věra Chytilová and Miloš Forman, icons of the Czechoslovak New Wave.

Among the other Czech works screening at the festival is director Jan Gebert’s documentary about Slovak paramilitary groups called “When the War Comes”, which won the Silver Eye prize for best feature length documentary at Jihlava this year.

Weather outlook

Thursday should be partly cloudy to sunny throughout the country with daytime highs of 6 to 10 degrees Celsius. The outlook is much the same for Friday.