Daily news summary
Final EC audit into Czech PM’s alleged conflict of interest in Prague
The EU representative office in Prague has confirmed receiving the final EC audit on Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš‘ alleged conflict of interest stemming from the multi-billion crown agro-chemical empire Agrofert he owned and later placed in trust funds and EU subsidies to the said holding.
The audit has been sent to the Ministry for Regional Development. According to EU representatives in Prague the document is confidential.
The EC’s preliminary audit concluded that the Czech prime minister has a conflict of interest and the Czech Republic may subsequently have to return some 450 million crowns in EU subsidies paid to the Agrofert business conglomerate.
Prime Minister Babiš has dismissed the claims, saying he had fully adhered to the Czech conflict of interest law.
Czechia will increase its contribution to NATO budget
The Czech Republic will increase its contribution to the NATO budget by about ten percent as of next year, the CTK news agency reported, citing defence ministry sources.
The country is currently contributing 580 million crowns and should pay around 620 million as of 2020.
NATO member states agreed to increase their individual contributions after the US, which had been contributing the lion’s share for years, announced it would be lowering its input.
The funding of the alliance and defence spending will be the main focus of an upcoming NATO summit in London next week.
The Czech Republic will be represented by President Miloš Zeman, Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček, Defense Minister Lubomír Metnar and Czech Ambassador to NATO Jakub Landovský.
Russia blames Czech side for travel dispute citing administrative problems
The Russian Foreign Ministry says administrative mistakes were the reason why a Czech delegation led by Agriculture Minister Miroslav Toman was denied permission to fly from Moscow to Kazan this week.
The Czech delegation, which was to meet with Tatarstan officials and business leaders, cancelled the visit after waiting ten hours at Moscow airport and flew back to Prague.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Czech delegation had failed to comply with the customs regulations of the Eurasian Economic Union, adding that this was not the first time such problems had arisen.
Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček has accepted the explanation saying he would initiate talks with the Russian side to make sure such problems do not reoccur.
He added however that, with a bit of goodwill on the Russian side, the administrative hurdle could have been overcome.
Tree-lighting ceremonies taking place around Czechia this weekend
The traditional Christmas tree lighting ceremonies marking the start of Advent are taking place on town squares around the country this weekend. The event is now frequently accompanied by video-mapping and live music.
Prague’s largest Christmas market opened on Old Town Square on Saturday and will be accompanied by daily cultural events and concerts up until January 6th.
The tree-lighting ceremony on Old Town Square first took place at 4.30 pm and will be repeated at every next hour up until 9.30 pm in order to accommodate visitors.
Boží Dar post office processing Christmas mail from around Czechia
The tiny post office in the West Bohemian mountain town of Boží Dar – meaning God’s gift –has started processing huge amounts of Christmas mail from around the country and abroad.
The post office annually stamps hundreds of thousands of Christmas greetings with a special Christmas stamp, making these letters a popular collector’s item for the sender and recipient.
It is also the post office to which Czech children send letters to Baby Jesus or Ježísek telling him what they’d most like to get for Christmas. In the course of December the post with its four employees gets on average 15 kilograms of mail a day.
This year’s stamp, designed by Pavel Sivko, is a Christmas motif of floating candles in nutshells.
Prague gets first Art-o-mat vending machine
Prague has got its first Art-o-mat vending machine, within a popular art project which was first introduced in North Carolina by artist Clark Whittington in 1997 and has since spread to many cities around the world.
The organizers use old cigarette vending machines and repurpose them to dispense original works of art by up-and-coming young artists for the price of a packet of cigarettes.
The works of art are custom designed for the project and every art package contains information about the given artist.
The first Czech Art-o-mat is in Krymská street in Prague’s Vršvice district.
Sunday should be partly cloudy with day temperatures reaching 4 degrees Celsius and night time lows dropping to -3 degrees.