Daily news summary
iRozhlas: Brussels demands return of CZK 1.6 billion in farm subsidies
The European Commission is seeking the return of CZK 1.6 billion paid out in agricultural subsidies to the Czech Republic, iRozhlas.cz reported on Thursday. The penalty is based on an audit carried out three years ago aimed at establishing whether the funding was actually being used by farmers under the “active farmer” concept.
The European Commission says the Czech Ministry of Agriculture failed to keep sufficient tabs on how the subsidies were being allocated.
The Ministry of Agriculture disputes the findings of the EU audit and wishes to contest the amount set. It will therefore request a conciliation procedure, iRozhlas.cz said.
National Security Council met over US-Iran conflict
A meeting of the National Security Council on Thursday addressed the conflict between Iran and the United States following the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani last week. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said after the meeting that Czech police officers, soldiers and civilians in Iraq were safe, adding that the Czech Republic had funds at hand for their possible evacuation from the country.
The Czech Army currently has around 40 soldiers and police officers in Iraq mainly working to train Iraqi security forces to fight against the ISIS militia.
According to the general chief of staff, they will remain stationed in Iraq but increased security measures will be taken to ensure their safety.
Five Czech police officers to temporarily return from Iraq mission
Five Czech police officers who are part of a military mission in Iraq will temporarily return to the Czech Republic due to a restricted operation of the training centre in Baghdad, Police President Jan Švejdar said on Thursday.
According to the police president’s spokeswoman, Kateřina Rendlová, the move has nothing to do with the development of the safety situation in the country. The police officers are due to return to Iraq as soon as the training resumes its operation.
Czechia to donate two million crowns to help Australia’s wildfire victims
The Czech Republic will donate two million crowns to Australia to help with the response to the devastating bushfires, which have swept large parts of Australia since October, the Foreign Ministry’s press department said on Thursday.
According to Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček, the humanitarian help will be coordinated by the Czech Embassy in Canberra and will be used mainly to help people who lost their homes as a result of the fires. Meanwhile, Prague City Hall announced it will donate 160,000 crowns to the Australian Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund, which operates Melbourne Zoo.
At least 26 people have been killed in the unprecedented bushfires and more than 10.3 million hectares of land has burned. It is estimated that nearly half a billion animals have been lost to the fire.
Unemployment up at 2.9 percent in December
Unemployment in the Czech Republic rose to 2.9 percent in December, up from 2.6 percent in November, according to data released by the Czech Labour Office on Thursday.
Despite the rise, it is the lowest figure for the period of December since 1996. According to the statistics, there are currently 215,500 people seeking employment.
The lowest unemployment rate was in Prague, with 1.9 percent, while the highest number of unemployed, 4.4 percent, was registered in the region of Moravia-Silesia.
Thursday 130th anniversary of writer Karel Čapek’s birth
Thursday is the 130th anniversary of the birth of Czech journalist, novelist and dramatist Karel Čapek. Čapek was best known for his science fiction, including the 1936 novel War with the Newts, the 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), which gave the world the word “robot”. His older brother Josef Čapek was a well-known painter and writer.
Friday is expected to be partly cloudy with daytime highs ranging between 6 to 10 degrees Celsius.