Daily news summary Daily news summary

21-11-2018

Social Democrats to decide on position ahead of no-confidence vote

Junior coalition partners the Social Democrats are to decide on Wednesday whether to support the ANO-led government of Andrej Babiš in a no-confidence vote at the end of the week. Social Democrats’ chairman Jan Hamáček is in favour of remaining in government with ANO but has suggested Mr. Babiš could go as prime minister; he has been embroiled in scandal since his son said Mr. Babiš had wanted him to “disappear” during a criminal investigation.

The Prague branch of the Social Democrats on Tuesday called on the national party to push for the prime minister’s removal.

ANO’s leadership has given its backing to Mr. Babiš ahead of the opposition-tabled no-confidence vote. The Communists say they will continue to support the minority cabinet on key votes.

HQs of CzechTourism, Regional Development Ministry raided

Anti-corruption police officers staged raids on Wednesday morning at the headquarters of both the Ministry for Regional Development and the state agency CzechTourism.

The Prague Public Prosecutor's Office said the officers were collecting evidence related to CzechTourism contracts but declined to elaborate.

Two years ago, police investigated the agency after the Supreme Audit Office filed a criminal complaint over spending discrepancies.

Bark beetle infestation set to double in 2019

A bark beetle infestation that has affected spruce forests throughout the country – said to be the worst in the past 200 years – is likely to double in 2019, acorrding to a forest management expert at the Ministry of Agriculture.

Due to the infestation, the Czech Republic’s largely coniferous forests are facing extensive felling of trees, which could negatively impact many animal species, including hawks and white-tailed eagles.

The ministry is calling for amending the Forestry Act and implementing a crisis plan.

Army chief outlines urgent need for gear, weaponry

Czech Army Chief of Staff Aleš Opata has said the country’s armed forces urgently need to make a series purchases, ranging from protective gear for soldiers in the field to helicopters and radar systems, the daily Právo reports.

Opata said these items include bulletproof vests and helmets, hand weapons, drones, NATO-calibre artillery, infantry fighting vehicles, three-dimensional Mobile Air Defence Radars, and multipurpose helicopters.

He was speaking at a military-command meeting with President Miloš Zeman and Prime Minister Andrej Babiš on Tuesday.

According to Právo, President Zeman expressed his support for increasing the number of Czech soldiers serving in Afghanistan under NATO and that they should engage in combat against terrorism.

Ostrava customs officers seize 110kg of tablets used to make pervitin

Customs officers in Ostrava on have announced the seizure of 110 kilograms of pseudoephedrine tablets likely intended for making pervitin, a kind of crystal methamphetamine.

Officials estimate the street value of the finished product would exceed 20 million crowns.

The number of young Czechs addicted to pervitin has risen sharply over the past decade, according to National Anti-Drug Centre, from 25,000 in 2008 to some 35,000 today.

Doctors say more people are addicted to pervetin that to any other hard drug here.

Analysts: Czech currency faces continued downward pressure

Downward pressure on the Czech crown will likely continue for years to come due to gradual sell-offs by foreign investors who bought a large volume of the currency during the three-year period of intervention by the Czech National Bank to keep the domestic currency artificially weaker, analysts say.

The crown weakened to below 26 to the euro in mid-November, its lowest level been since June, when the central bank started began a series of interest rate hikes, of which there have been five in 2018.

Pressure on the crown is unlikely to ease for the rest of the year as Czech economic growth lagged behind its regional peers in the third quarter. It is also under pressure from seasonal euro buying by banks that cut crown deposits at the end of the year to reduce payments into the state-run "Resolution Fund".

However, while the crown’s expected weakness in the coming weeks would, technically, open room for a December rate increase some analysts say it now seems more likely policy makers will wait for the year-end effect to fizzle out before they act again.

Survey: Czechs borrow beyond means at Christmas

Czechs borrow most in the weeks leading up to Christmas, including by taking advantage of credit offered by retailers, according to a new survey commissioned by the Czech Consumers’ Association.

During the course of the year, on average about 27 percent have borrowed beyond their means. Twice as many do so between mid-November and early December, the survey found.

Lukáš Zeman wins Czech Press Photo with shot of orangutans

Photographer Lukáš Zeman came first in the 2018 Czech Press Photo competition with a picture of an orangutan and its dying infant. The winning photo illustrates the destruction of nature in Borneo and breaks with a tradition of politically-themed pictures winning the annual contest.

The News section of Czech Press Photo was won by Michal Čížek with an image of ANO chief Andrej Babiš giving a kiss of gratitude to his PR chief Marek Prchal after elections in October 2017.

Weather outlook

Thursday should be partly cloudy throughout the country with occasional light rain, sleet or snow showers likely especially in the Vysočina and southern Moravian regions. Daytimes highs should range between 1 to 5 degrees Celsius.

21-11-2018