Daily news summary
Civic Democrats’ Miloš Vystrčil becomes new Senate chair
Miloš Vystrčil of the Civic Democratic Party was voted in as the new Speaker of the Senate of the Czech Republic on Wednesday, after receiving 52 of the 76 votes. He ran against Jiří Růžička of the TOP 09 party, who took over the position as acting leader of the upper-house following the death of the previous senate chair Jaroslav Kubera, who died of a heart attack in January.
Mr Vystrčil, who has been a senator since 2010, was the favourite ahead of the election after ANO party and Christian Democrat senators promised to support him during the vote. Before becoming a member of the upper house he served as the governor of the Vysočina region and mayor of Telč.
Reuters: China threatened to harm Škoda Auto, other big Czech firms over Taiwan visit of late senator
China’s Embassy in Prague had threatened to retaliate against leading Czech companies if a prominent senator went ahead as planned to visit Taiwan, according to a letter dated 10 January reviewed by Reuters.
The letter, written in Czech and sent to President Miloš Zeman’s office, suggested that Škoda Auto, PPF’s consumer lending arm Home Credit Group, and instrument maker Petrof Pianos would all suffer.
The debate was made moot when Czech senate chairman and speaker Jaroslav Kubera, died on 20 January of heart failure ahead of the planned trip.
“Czech companies whose representatives visit Taiwan with Chairman Kubera will not be welcome in China or with the Chinese people,” the letter says, according to Reuters.
Communist Party chairman remains in intensive care after suffering suspected heart attack
The Chairman of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia Vojtěch Filip was taken to the General University Hospital in Prague due to a suspected heart attack on Wednesday morning. After undergoing cardiological surgery, he reamins in the hospital's intensive care unit, but says that he is feeling fine and is looking forward to going to work on Friday.
As Deputy Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies he was set to swear in the newly elected Czech Ombudsman Stanislav Křeček, but had to be substituted by deputy speaker Tomio Okamura of the Freedom and Direct Democracy Party.
Mr Filip has been a member of the Czech lower-house since 1996 and was elected Communist Party leader in 2005, a post he has held ever since.
Senate chair Vystrčil says he is not opposed to Taiwan visit
The freshly appointed leader of the Czech upper house Miloš Vystrčil says that he is not opposed to a visit to Taiwan, but stressed that such a trip would first have to be discussed with experts. Answering questions ahead of his election, Mr Vystrčil said that as the leader of the Civic Democrats’ senate club and chair of the upper house, his priority will always be to defend the status of the Czech Republic as a country that defends human rights and freedoms, news site Aktuálně.cz reports.
The question was put to the candidates after Aktuálně.cz published excerpts of a letter sent by the Chinese Embassy to the previous senate chair, Jaroslav Kubera, ahead of his planned trip to Taiwan. In it, China warns that leading Czech companies’ business interests would suffer if the visit went ahead.
Czech PM says he will leave politics if his party does not win next election
If his ANO party does not win the next general elections, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš will leave politics. Mr. Babiš made the statement in an interview with news site Blesk.cz on Wednesday. The next general elections are to take place in October 2021.
Mr Babiš’s party is currently firmly in the lead, poling regularly around 30 percent, with the opposition Pirate Party and Civic Democrats vying for second place at around 16 percent.
Defence minister reaffirms vow to reach 2 percent NATO GDP spending cap by 2024
Czech Defence Minister Lubomír Metnar has reaffirmed his country’s promise to reach the 2 percent of GDP defence spending threshold agreed during the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales.
The ability of the Czech Republic to stay true to the pledge was recently questioned by Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Jan Hamáček, who said the country would either have to enact major changes to its budget or a serious debate on the state’s sources of income would have to take place.
In an interview with Czech Television on Tuesday evening, Mr Metnar said that he had no idea how the deputy premier came to this conclusion and stressed that no other government ministers had brought up the point. He said he is counting on the Czech Republic to reach the 2 percent threshold by 2024.
However, in a recent Facebook post, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš the Czech Republic could contribute 2 percent of GDP to defence by 2024 “if all goes according to plan” and there is “stable economic growth”
Seznam: Russian paedophile web uploads thousands of photos of Czech children
Thousands of images of Czech children are circulating on a Russian website for paedophiles, the news server Seznam Zprávy reports, following an in-depth investigation of the so called dark web.
Many of the images were taken from social media accounts of the children’s parents, as well as from school and summer camp events, and Scout camps.
In some cases, particular individual forums have arisen around specific Czech youths, whose full names and other data are listed or easily found.
Seznam Zprávy reports that the Russian site is also frequented by Czech-based paedophiles, and local police are investigating.
Showers and episodes of snowing are expected to stop on Thursday, with temperatures staying largely the same around 6 degrees Celsius. The sky above Bohemia is likely to be covered by thick clouds. Meanwhile, in Moravia there could be brief episodes of sunshine.