Daily news summary
Second EU audit confirms PM Babiš’s conflict of interest according to press, responsible ministry dismisses claims
A second European Commission audit has found Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) in conflict of interest, the news server Neovlivni.cz reports, citing an “extremely reliable” unidentified source.
The first audit, focused on EU structural funds, determined Babiš is in conflict of interest because he continues to influence the Agrofert conglomerate he founded, despite placing it into trust funds in 2017. The second was focused on the distribution of agricultural subsidies.
However, according to the Ministry of Agriculture spokesman Vojtěch Bílý, the ministry has not received the final audit report yet, but merely suporting documents for bilateral negotiations. The final version of the audit should be ready after the meeting, which will take place on January 28, he told Czech Radio.
Babiš has rejected the findings of the as-yet unpublished documents, neither of which have been officially translated into Czech.
Transparency International argues Babiš knows full well what Agrofert companies are doing and so can take decisions as head of state benefitting them. The anti-corruption watchdog also notes his wife sits on a trust fund board, and his own media report on Agrofert’s activities.
Poll: 58 pct of Czechs want single-day elections
Nearly 1 in 6 Czechs would prefer voting be held on a single day, according to a new Median poll conducted for Czech Radio. Currently, elections are held on Friday afternoons and on Saturdays until 2 pm.
Roughly half of those polled said they would prefer to vote on Saturdays, and just under 7 percent said they would prefer elections be held on Sundays.
The government is currently working on electoral reform, due to be implemented ahead of the 2021 parliamentary elections.
In addition to possibly introducing a single-day ballot, mail-in or absentee voting is also being addressed.
Defence ministry proposes sending Czech soldiers to serve in counter-terrorism operation in Sahel
Up to 60 Czech soldiers could be deployed in Mali, Niger and Chad to serve in counter-terrorist roles, the Ministry of Defence proposes, according to an unpublished report cited by the Czech News Agency on Monday. The proposal follows the offer by France to partake in the anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane in Africa’s Sahel region, which has been running since 2014. However, the proposal first has to be approved by the government and Parliament. If confirmed, the soldiers would be active in the region until 2022.
The Czech Republic currently has 120 members of the armed services in Mali and will take over the EU’s local training mission EUTM Mali later this year. Overall, there are some 600 Czech soldiers currently active in 20 foreign states, according to an earlier statement by Defence Minister Lubomír Metnar (ANO).
Regional development minister urged to withdraw controversial new Building Act
Associations representing the interests of towns and municipalities have called on Minister for Regional Development Klára Dostálová (ANO) to withdraw the current draft bill for a new Building Act. A completely new proposal needs to be created as the legislation is so bad, the Chairman of the Union of Towns and Municipalities František Lukl said in a press release issued on Monday together with the Association for Rural Renewal. Mrs Dostálová has not yet commented on the statement.
The draft Building Act has elicited criticism in the media as well. In October, it was described as a de-facto privatization of the legislative process which plays into the hand of developers, in the weekly magazine Respekt.
iHNed: Czechs spent CZK 155 billion on online shopping last year
Some CZK 155 billion were spent by Czechs while shopping online in 2019, news site iHNed.cz reports. The number shows a CZK 20 billion increase compared with the previous year and, according to the head of the Czech Association for e-commerce, Jan Vetyška, is partly down to increasingly better services, with a wide variety of delivery options. Most online purchases were conducted when Czechs shopped for electronics and house appliances.
Online shopping popularity is a growing trend in the country. In 2018, the Czech Republic took one of the top spots in Europe when it came to e-commerce, with more than 43 percent of technical or non-food goods in the country being sold online, according to data released by the research agency GfK and the Czech Confederation of Industry. The amount of online retailers has also grown substantially, reaching more than 46,000 vendors last year.
Aktuálně.cz: Mattoni and Košík.cz begin testing reusable plastic bottles in Czechia
Mineral water producer Mattoni and the online store Košík.cz are beginning to test the concept of reusable plastic bottles on the Czech market, news site Aktuálně.cz reported on Monday. Any purchase of such a bottle would see the owner receive a refund of CZK 3 once they return the item, which would then be reused by Mattoni. For now, only a limited edition of 80 percent recyclable PET bottles has been issued for this purpose.
The General Director of Košík.cz, Tomáš Jeřábek, told the news site that the idea came from the customers themselves, who have urged the establishment of ecologically sound covers for products. He says the success rate of the project will show whether implementing such a measure is realistic.
Reusable plastic bottles have long been in existence in Germany and are set to be implemented on a large scale in Slovakia from 2022. Despite calls from some pressure groups, the Czech government currently has no plans to introduce the practice in Czechia.
Arms manufacturer CZG considering share sales to fund expansion into United States
Česká zbrojovka Group (CZG) is considering selling some of its shares on the Prague Stock Exchange in order to raise funds for an expansion in the United States, where it is planning to construct a factory, the small arms manufacturer announced in a press release on Monday. It would be the first time in 12 years that the company’s shares are sold in Prague. However, the business also stresses that, at this time, it is only one of the courses of action it is considering and did not disclose the other options.
Last year, CZG announced its plans to build a manufacturing and distribution centre in Little Rock, the capital of the State of Arkansas. The company hopes not only to expand on the American private market, but sell to American federal security services, according to the press release.
Temperatures across the country on Tuesday are expected to remain largely the same, hovering between 0 to 4 degrees Celsius. Snow is likely to fall in the north west of the country, while other regions are likely to see sunny, or partly cloudy skies.