Czech politicians mobilize to save Amazon investment plans

Photo: CTK

Major foreign investments in the Czech Republic have been thin on the ground in recent years. So Czech politicians now appear to be falling over themselves to make sure that Internet commerce giant Amazon pushes ahead with its plans on the outskirts of Prague and Brno.

Photo: CTK
Czech planning laws and procedures, land purchases, and local council decision-making can be notoriously long winded. And that appeared to be the case for US based Internet commerce giant Amazon after it announced plans to site two major distribution centres on the outskirts of Prague and Brno.

Local inhabitants at the around 500-strong village of Dobrovíz near Prague voted in a local referendum against Amazon’s plans on a site already earmarked for industrial development. And prospects for the Brno distribution centre appeared threatened by the city’s council’s threats to penalize the multinational if a link road to the main Prague-Brno motorway is not built in time.

But Amazon is clearly not the sort of investor you can mess around with too much. The multinational threatened to tear up its plans for thousands of Czech jobs and investments of around 5 billion crowns and site the distribution centres in Slovakia or Poland instead unless the planning and other obstacles started to disappear. Amazon is operating to a tight schedule. It wants its new Czech centres up and running by September this year, in time for the Christmas rush to dispatch goods across the whole of Central Europe.

The prospect of further foot dragging by councils and other state institutions has mobilized top Czech politicians on Amazon’s behalf. Social Democrat prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Monday night met with Brno’s mayor to smooth the problems facing the development there. Sobotka said after the meeting that the link road to the motorway will be given top priority by the state highways agency. Brno’s city council still has to vote in favour of selling some of the land needed for the Amazon site.

Dobrovíz, photo: CTK
Minister of Industry and Trade, Jan Mládek, will be descending on Dobrovíz on Tuesday to sit in on a local council meeting which could decide whether to approve the Amazon site.

Amazon and its local developers have already sought to calm villagers’ fears of heavy lorry traffic and noise by pledging a bypass to take the maximum 100 lorries a day that will use the distribution centre.

Finance Minister and ANO leader Andrej Babiš has also intervened. He has said it is unthinkable that the Czech Republic lose out on such a big investment because of local pettifogging.

As well as the two distribution centres, each employing around 2,000 workers and at peak periods up to 5,000, Amazon is also casting around for a Central European site for its strategic services and information technology.