Daily news summary

Válkova says she will sue news site for slander

Former justice minister and the current government commissioner for human rights, Helena Válková, has rejected allegations that she had defended laws against dissidents during the Communist regime and collaborated in her professional work with the former state prosecutor Josef Urválek, who was responsible for securing the death sentences of Milada Horáková, Rudolf Slánský and others in 1950s Communist show trials.

Válková told journalists that the claims made by the news site info.cz were untruthful and insulting and that she planned to sue the site for slander.

At the same time Ms. Válková, whom the president nominated for the position of Ombudswoman, told Czech Television she had not been aware of Urvalek’s past when she worked with him.

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček have both said the allegations are extremely serious and that they are awaiting an explanation from Mrs. Válková.

Czech and Saudi foreign ministers debate ways of diffusing tension in Middle East

It is essential to work on averting a military conflict in the Middle East and get Iran to stop supporting terrorist groups which are destabilizing the region, Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček said following a meeting with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubei in Prague on Friday.

The two officials discussed the situation in the region following the killing of Iran’s military leader in Iraq and retaliatory strikes by Iran, focussing on the possibility to start multilateral negotiations which would defuse the tensions.

The Czech foreign minister said stabilizing Iraq was also a major priority. The Czech Republic, which has soldiers and police officers in NATO's training mission in Iraq, has said it hopes to be able to continue in its work once the situation has calmed down.

Majority of Czechs do not want referendum on Czexit

The majority of Czechs do not want a referendum in which the country would vote on whether to leave the EU.

In a poll conducted by the CVVM agency 54 percent of respondents said they would be against such a referendum being held; 30 percent would welcome it.

If it were to take place 21 percent of respondents said they would vote for Czexit while 45 percent would be against.

Pirate Party to hold election conference

The Czech Pirate Party is to hold an election conference in Ostrava at the weekend.

Party leader Ivan Bartoš will be running for re-election, challenged by two other co-founders of the party, Mikuláš Ferjenčík and Vojtěch Pikal. Seven other candidates will run for the four deputy chair posts.

Party deputy Jakub Michálek, who was recently accused of bullying his subordinates, will not run for re-election.

Ivan Bartoš, who is a favourite for the top post, has said that the new chair’s main task will be to prepare the party for a successful performance in the regional and parliamentary elections.

According to a December poll by the CVVM agency the Pirate Party would win 14 percent in general elections, after the ruling ANO party which would get 29.5 percent.

Taxi fare rates to go up in Prague

The Prague City Council is to debate a rise in taxi fare rates, which are regulated on the territory of Prague.

The present ceiling on the basic charge is to rise from 40 to 60 crowns, the waiting rate should climb from 6 to 7 crowns and the maximum fare per kilometre should rise from 28 to 36 crowns.

The tariffs were last increased in 2006 and no longer cover expenditures. The hikes are to be debated by councillors on Monday.

Czech industrial growth down in November

The Czech Republic’s year-on-year industrial production figures dropped by 3.2 percent in November, the Czech Statistics Office reported on Friday. Unadjusted for working days, the decrease was 5.7 percent. The development was affected mainly by lower production of motor vehicles, other transport equipment and machinery.

The country’s external balance in good ended in a surplus of CZK 10.2 billion, which was by 6.9 billion lower than in the previous year.

Exports decreased year-on-year by 6.2% to CZK 325.5 billion, while imports fell by 4.4% to CZK 315.4 billion.

Second public bird census gets underway on Friday

The Czech Republic’s second public bird census got underway on Friday. Over the course of the next three days, people can observe birds flocking on feeders in their gardens or parks, identify the species and send the findings to the Czech Ornithological Society’s Website.

The purpose of the citizen science project is to discover more about the development of the country’s common birds.

Some 14,000 people took part in the census last year. The results showed that the most common birds in Czech gardens include blue tits and house sparrows.

Weather forecast

Saturday should bring mostly overcast skies with drizzle or snow showers and day temperatures between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius.