Daily news summary

Opponents try to prevent ombudsman entering office for first time

Opponents of the freshly appointed Czech ombudsman, Stanislav Křeček, attempted to prevent him entering his office in Brno for the first time on Thursday morning. When the protesters refused to move the police made seven arrests and cleared the way for the new public advocate.

Responding to the protest, Mr. Křeček said democratic elections must be respected, adding that at least it highlighted the presence of the Ombudsman’s Office, of which many people had previously been unaware.

Prior to his election as public advocate Mr. Křeček angered critics by saying he would serve the majority society and would not pursue a human rights agenda.

Germany’s Merkel reported to be visiting Prague in coming months

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to visit Prague in the first half of this year, meaning during the current Czech presidency of the Visegrad Four, iHned.cz said on Thursday. The news site reported that the German leader had been invited to a summit of Visegrad Four prime ministers and would most likely come to the Czech capital in May.

Chancellor Merkel’s last visit to the Czech Republic was in October 2018, shortly before events marking the centenary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia.

Two charged over collapse of Prague footbridge

The state attorney’s office has charged two people in connection with the collapse of a foot bridge in Prague. The architect of the bridge in the city’s Troja area and a former head of the bridges section at the state agency that manages communications are facing charges of reckless negligence, the Czech News Agency reported.

Four people were injured, two of them seriously, when the bridge collapsed into the Vltava River in late 2017.

Prosecutors say steel ropes on the structure were damaged by corrosion and that it crumpled following an inadequate safety review and poorly executed repairs.

Babiš and Schillerová most popular ministers, suggests poll

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and his ANO party colleague Finance Minister Alena Schillerová are the two of the most popular politicians in the country, suggests an opinion poll released on Thursday. The STEM survey of ministers and party leaders indicates that 50 percent of Czechs view Mr. Babiš favourably, while Ms. Schillerová’s approval rating has climbed to 47 percent.

The next most popular lower house politicians are the Social Democrats’ Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Jana Maláčová, on 41 percent approval, and Pirates’ chairman Ivan Bartoš on 40 percent.

Press: City Hall calls on Praguers to report Airbnb flats to municipal police

Prague City Hall is asking Prague residents to report Airbnb flats to municipal police officers and any connected problems, the Daily Hospodářské noviny reports. If the property owner is not registered with a Trade Certificate, he may be liable to a fine of up to CZK 1 million. City Hall has been trying for some time to get Airbnb to share the details on the owners of the flats who are believed to often avoid paying tax for renting out their properties.

Airbnb is one of the short-term letting platforms active in Prague, which has come under heavy scrutiny in recent years. Critics say that such platforms have moved from the original idea of a shared economy to a purely business venture, with up to 15,000 flats in Prague being rented out for this purpose, blocking flats for long-term rent as well as often causing unease for local residents who have to deal with loud tourists.

Three charged with fraud totalling over CZK 1 billion

Police have charged three people with fraud amounting to over CZK 1 billion. Using the company name J. O. Investment, the accused offered to invest clients’ money on international stock exchanges and to deliver very high returns.

Officers from the police’s organised crime unit said more than 2,000 people were allegedly duped by the three, who now face up to 10 years in jail of found guilty of serious fraud.

Injuries force footballer Václav Kadlec to retire at 27

Footballer Václav Kadlec is to retire at the age of 27 due to a series of serious injuries, Sparta Prague announced on Thursday. The striker is due to undergo another knee operation on Friday and does not plan to return to the game afterwards, his club said.

Kadlec made his league debut at 16 and at 18 years and four months became the youngest player to score for the Czech national side. Alongside separate spells at Sparta, he appeared for Eintracht Frankfurt and the Danish side Midtjylland.

Weather forecast

It should be overcast in the Czech Republic on Friday, with temperatures of up to 5 degrees Celsius. Daytime highs are expected to rise to around 9 degrees Celsius at the weekend, when there will also be some rain.