Daily news summary
Constitutional Court rejects proposal to annul ‘Lex Babiš’ conflict of interest law
The Constitutional Court has rejected proposals put forward by President Miloš Zeman and others to annul part of a conflict of interest law popularly known as “Lex Babiš”.
The 2017 legislation was so nicknamed as it seemed to specifically target Andrej Babiš, the then finance minister and current prime minister, who controlled a number of major Czech media. He has since placed those and other assets in two trusts.
Despite a presidential veto, the bill was pushed through Parliament, leading Zeman to file a petition arguing that it was unconstitutional because it violates a prohibition on discrimination on the basis of property. Members of Babiš
“Lex Babiš” prohibits members of the government from owning and operating radio and television stations and publishing periodicals. At the same time, it prevents companies in which cabinet members have at least a 25 percent share from bidding for public contracts.
Zeman said on Tuesday through his spokesman that he respects the Constitutional Court decision.
Czech PM in Estonia to discuss post-Brexit EU cohesion fund budget, bilateral issues
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) was in the Estonian capital on Tuesday for an official visit at which he discussed a host of European and bilateral issues with his counterpart, Jüri Ratas, and other government members.
Topping the agenda was the post-Brexit EU budget, which plans on cutting cohesion policy funding in 2021 to 2027, which would negatively impact both the Czech and Estonian economies.
Mr Babiš also visited NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. He announced on Tuesday that Prague will host another international conference on cyber security in May.
Work to erect replica of Marian column underway on Old Town Square
Work started on Monday aimed at erecting a replica of the Marian column removed from Prague’s Old Town Square over a century ago, the ctk news agency reported.
The sculptor who designed the new column, Petr Váňa, said archaeologists would first work on the site to unearth the original founding stone from 1650 under which he hoped to find a founding charter. The installation of the replica should be concluded by September.
The original 17th century Marian column was regarded by some as a symbol of Austrian rule and was torn down by protestors in 1918, shortly after Czechoslovakia was founded. There has been heated debate over whether to replace it.
Median poll: Civic Dems now polling ahead of Pirates
The Civic Democrats are now polling ahead of the Pirate Party and would finish second if parliamentary elections were held in January, according to the Median agency.
The ANO party of PM Andrej Babiš retains a commanding lead in the polls, and would capture 30 percent of the vote, the agency says. The Civic Democrats would gain 14 percent of the vote and the Pirates 11.5 percent.
That represents a 1.5 percentage point rise in support for the Civic Democrats since November and a 1 pp drop for the Pirates, according to Median’s projections.
The Communists would place fourth (at 8 percent), the Freedom and Direct Democracy fifth (at 7.5 percent), the Social Democrats sixth (at 7 percent), the Independents and Mayors seventh (at 6 percent), and the Christian Democrats eighth (at 5 percent).
TOP 09 (at 4.5 percent) would fall 0.5 pp shy of the threshold to enter parliament. The Greens and new Tricolour party are both polling at 2 percent.
Vets start clean-up operation on farm with bird flu
Vets and firemen have started putting down 140,000 birds at a commercial poultry farm in the Pardubice region.
They are working in 12-hour shifts in protective gear with the aim of concluding the clean-up by Friday when the farm will be disinfected and placed in quarantine for a fortnight.
It is the second outbreak of bird flu in the country after a three year period. Birds in private farms in the area are being tested within a three kilometre distance.
Tests at another commercial farm in the region have ruled out the H5N8 virus.
Insurers: Czech prescriptions for antidepressants triple since 2012
Czech doctors prescribed antidepressants for roughly 600,000 patients last year, three times as many as in 2012, according to the national Association of Health Insurance Companies.
According to the association, one in five Czechs experience some form of mental illness, including mild forms such as stress and anxiety, but only half seek professional care.
Czech Senate to elect new speaker on Wednesday by secret ballot
The Czech Senate is due to elect by secret ballot a new speaker of the upper house on Wednesday to replace Jaroslav Kubera, who died of a heart attack a month ago.
Civic Democrat Miloš Vystrčil is expected to win the vote, as his party is the largest in the Senate and he has also been endorsed by the Christian Democrats, Social Democrats and ANO party of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.
The only other candidate is current Senate first vice-chairman Jiří Růžička, an independent aligned with TOP 09 and the Party of Independents and Mayors.
House martin named Czech ‘Bird of the Year’
The house martin has been named ‘Bird of the Year’ by the Czech Ornithological Society (ČSO). The choice aims to draw public attention to the loss of suitable habitats for birds due to projects that limit nesting sites.
House martins are found throughout most of Europe, especially in built-up areas near open country with low vegetation, such as pastures, meadows and farmland. They usually spend the winter in Africa.
According to scientists, intensive agricultural practices and the use of insecticides most impact their habitats.
Prague police search for tram “hairdresser” who cut women’s locks
Prague police are searching for an unidentified man who has been cutting locks of hair from unsuspecting women as they ride city trams.
There have been five reported cases so far. One victim said she felt a man touching her hair as she rode a tram in Prague 1 heading towards Újezd on February 10.
She later discovered a lock of hair had been cut and filed a complaint. Police have published a photo of a suspect after reviewing CCTV footage.
Football: Sparta Prague replace coach Václav Jílek
Football club Sparta Prague announced on Tuesday morning that they have sacked coach Václav Jílek. He has been replaced by Václav Kotal, who previously led the club’s reserve team.
Jílek, 43, was less than nine months into a three-year contract with Sparta, historically the most successful in the country. His sacking came three days after the team suffered a defeat (0-2) at home against Slovan Liberec.
Sparta are currently in fifth place, and trailing 21 points behind league leader, Slavia Prague, their biggest rival. They have not won a title since taking the double championship in 2014.
Prague Airport handles record 1.05 million passengers in January
Prague’s Václav Havel Airport handled a record 1.05 million passengers in January, almost 80,000 more in annual terms for the month.
However, the coronavirus outbreak in China and local major storm Sabine is likely to negatively impact February figures.
Passenger numbers have been growing steadily since 2013. Last year, Václav Havel Airport handled a record 17.8 million passengers, up 6 percent year on year.
The growth was due to more direct links to exotic holiday destinations as well as more connections to the most frequented European cities. The top destination was London.
Wednesday should be cloudy with occasional light rain expected in the afternoon. Daytime highs should hover between 2 to 5 degrees Celsius.