Daily news summary

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Czech foreign minister begins visit to India – boost in economic relations top priority

Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček begins his three-day visit to India this Monday. Apart from meeting his Indian counterpart, Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, he will also speak at the multilateral Raisina Dialogue 2020 conference on Wednesday, attended by senior government members and officials from across the world.

On Monday morning the Czech foreign minister tweeted that the main goal of his trip is “the development of relations, especially in the economic field”. Mr Petříček will be accompanied by a special Czech business delegation.

He was originally supposed to visit Kuwait as well. However, the official visit was cancelled by Kuwait due to the current heating up of the security situation in the Middle East.

Slovak truckers effect border blockade at Czech crossings

Slovak truckers blocked three border crossings with the Czech Republic on Sunday night within wider protests around the country in support of road toll cuts.

The crossings Brodské-Břeclav, Holíč-Hodonín a Skalica-Sudomeřice are closed to trucks although passenger cars are being allowed through.

The blockade is expected to extend to a number of other crossings with the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary in the course of the day.

The Union of Slovak Truckers wants the government to lower the road tax truckers have to pay to do business by 50% and to suspend the highway toll system until the dispute is resolved.

The government has said it is willing to cut the road toll by 12.5%.

Czech traffic police have advised drivers to avoid the blocked crossings if at all possible.

Hamáček backs Valachová for ombudswoman following president’s suggestion

Deputy Prime Minister and chairman of the Social Democrats Jan Hamáček says he is ready to recommend fellow party member Kateřina Valachová for the position of ombudswoman to President Miloš Zeman, although he says that the nomination is ultimately up to the president, the Czech News Agency reported on Monday. The President Zeman first suggested Mrs Valachová for the position on Sunday, but he said he would only nominate her if Mr. Hamáček agreed.

The news comes after the president’s previous candidate, Helena Válková of the ANO party, announced she will no longer be running for the position after it emerged that she had co-authored an article on “protective surveillance” during the Communist era with an infamous show trial prosecutor from the 1950s.

Regional Development Ministry announces it will amend proposed Building Act

The Ministry for Regional Development will amend its proposal for a new Building Act, Minister Klára Dostálova told Czech Television on Monday after a meeting with the head of the Association of Towns and Districts. The decision comes after heavy criticism from the association, which primarily represents regional officials, as well as remarks from courts which studied the proposed legislation.

The ministry says it now intends to cut down on the level of centralisation it originally envisaged. Local building authorities at the district level will be preserved, while public works and large construction programmes will be decided on the state level.

Czech Army set to go on largest spending spree yet in 2020

The Czech Army is likely to spend more on military technology purchases this year than at any time in its history. Some CZK 73 billion, double the money spent last year, is set to be spent on modern armaments and equipment, Czech Television reports. By far the largest of the strategic contracts, worth CZK 50 billion, concerns the purchase of new armoured personnel carriers.

Currently the Ministry of Defence is considering three options when it comes to the new armoured vehicles: Swedish made VC-90, the Austro-Spanish ASCOD tracked vehicle and the Lynx manufactured by Germany’s Rheinmetall. The Ministry of Defence will call for final offers in its tender in February.

Prague taxi prices to go up after City Hall approves new rates

Councillors at Prague City Hall have voted in favour of raising taxi riding prices from CZK 28 to CZK 36 per kilometre, the Czech News Agency reported on Monday. Waiting costs and the starting rate will also be increased. A new electro-taxi price list will also be set up, with a top rate of a maximum of CZK 39 per kilometre.

Taxi drivers have been protesting for an increase in rates for some time already. The current maximum rates were established in 2006.

Statisticians: Nearly 20 percent of companies in Czechia faced cyberattack in 2018

Close to one in five companies was exposed to a cyberattack in 2018, a year on year increase of around 20 percent, according to new data released by the Czech Statistics Agency. The most common form of attack was denial-of-service, wherein the perpetrator floods the targeted resource with superfluous requests in an attempt to overload systems and prevent legitimate requests from being fulfilled.

The most endangered entities are the state administration, banks, energy companies and, increasingly, universities. Experts say that the threats that companies face are not only external but sometimes from the businesses’ own employees too.

Last year saw consumer price inflation at highest rates since 2012

Consumer prices rose on average by 2.8 percent last year, the highest annual increase since 2012, according to data released by the Czech Statistics Agency on Monday. The most influential factor on the rise of inflation was the growth in housing prices, the head of the agency’s Consumer Prices Statistics Unit Pavla Šedivá told news site iHNed.cz. Another factor was the rise in food prices, and rents. Meanwhile, clothing and shoe prices had a downward trend.

Czech ski resorts packed despite mild weather

Thousands of people descended on Czech ski resorts at the weekend, despite the mild weather and lack of natural snow. Technical snow has enabled resorts to operate their main slopes, especially in higher altitudes, and in some places trails were also available to cross-country skiers.

The Ski resort Černá hora - Pec hosted about 15,000 skiers at the weekend, Špindleruv Mlýn welcomed 11,000 people.

Meteorologists expect mild weather throughout the week and even long-term forecasts predict above zero temperatures during daytime hours until mid-February.

Weather

Temperatures will rise slightly on Tuesday, reaching 9 degrees Celsius in Prague and parts of Western Bohemia. In Moravia temperatures will range around 2 to 5 degrees. While skies are likely to be only partly cloudy in the west of the country, in the east very little sunlight is expected.