Daily news summary
European Parliament approves von der Leyen’s new commission with Jourová as vice-president
The European Parliament approved the new European Commission with an overwhelming majority on Wednesday. The vote means not only that the team in charge of the European executive branch has been established for the next five years, but it is also the first time that one of its vice-presidents, Věra Jourová, will be Czech. Ms Jourová, who is in charge of the values and transparency portfolio, tweeted shortly after the vote that this was “a strong signal that Europe is ready to take a leadership role in the current challenges”.
Her tweet echoed the speech by future commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who said that Europe can shape the global order in a speech that put climate change and migration at the heart of her strategy.
Řeporyje mayor refuses to negotiate with Russian Embassy on Vlasov Army memorial, delivers reply by cleaning truck while holding district flag
The mayor of Prague’s Řeporyje district Pavel Novotný has rebuffed the Russian Embassy’s criticism of his plans to build a monument to the so-called Vlasov Army. The Russian Embassy argued on Monday that such a monument would be in violation of Czechia’s international agreements based around the Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity. However, in a reply delivered personally after driving to the embassy in a cleaning truck while holding his district's flag, Mr. Novotný wrote that Řeporyje sees the Vlasov Army as liberators.
The Řeporyje mayor also expressed thanks to the Office of the President, whose spokesman Jiří Ovčáček expressed support for toe building of the monument.
The Vlasov Army (Russian Liberation Army) was made up of Soviet POWs and defectors which fought on the side of the Germans during World War II. However, during the final days of the war the force turned on the Nazis and was involved in eliminating German control of Prague as its soldiers attempted to escape Soviet captivity by surrendering to the Western allies.
The question of whether to construct the monument will be discussed by the district council on December 16.
Auditors: Digitisation of public administration below EU average, progressing too slowly
The digitisation of the Czech Republic’s public administration is progressing too slowly and is still well below the EU average, according to a new report by the Supreme Audit Office, published on Wednesday. Auditors see slow progress in legal changes and the overall fractured nature of related legislation as the main reasons, but problems related to a lack of experts and out of date information systems have also been highlighted.
Successive Czech governments spent CZK 75 billion on eGovernment from 2012 to 2018 and the digitisation of public administration is one of the key targets set out by the current government manifesto. However, last year only 26 percent of people used such online services.
Ruling coalition leaders agree to raise minimum wage up to CZK 14,600
The leaders of parties in the coalition government have agreed to raise the Czech minimum wage by CZK 1,250 to a total of CZK 14,600 starting from January, Czech Television reported on Wednesday. The deal is yet to be approved by the government.
Unions have been pushing for the raise to be as high as CZK 1,640, while employers say they are willing to agree to a maximum increase of CZK 700.
The last minimum wage increase occurred in January this year. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš says that financial resources are high enough for the coalition to go ahead with the raise.
Petříček: Country achieved post-1989 aims fast but now faces question of what now
The Czech Republic achieved its main aims after the Velvet Revolution relatively quickly by joining NATO and the EU, the country’s minister of foreign affairs, Tomáš Petříček, said at a public debate in Prague. However, the country is now facing a challenge as to how to handle its full-fledged membership of those international organisations, he said.
Mr. Petříček said the Czech Republic needed to define the “small steps” by which it would proceed further within the Western community and to learn to defend its views in Europe and not be frustrated by having to make compromises.
Health minister proposes ban on “living beings” in alcohol ads
Czech Minister of Health Adam Vojtěch has come out with a proposal that alcohol advertisements should not feature “living beings”. Speaking at a conference on alcohol and tobacco on Wednesday he said that advertisements should not create the impression that alcohol is “a good friend“. The ministry is currently preparing new legislation which aims to regulate such advertisements as well as limiting their broadcasting time.
Current laws state that advertisements cannot encourage irresponsible drinking, nor describe abstinence in a negative or ironic fashion.
The Czech Republic ranks among countries with the highest level of alcohol consumption in the world, with up to 1.5 million Czechs drinking at risk levels according to experts.
Lower house approves simplification of taxi service rules which could favour alternate carriers
Taxi service rules in the Czech Republic are likely to change in favour of alternative carriers after the Chamber of Deputies voted in favour of an amendment to the Road Transport Act, despite strong lobbying by the Czech Association of Taxi Drivers against the change, the Czech News Agency reported on Wednesday.
The legislation counts on abolishing the requirement of every taxi having a taximeter, with a simple app sufficing instead. In addition such cars will not be required to have a taxi designation fitted on their roofs. Districts will lose their right to set colour and size rules on the service providers’ vehicles.
The legislation is yet to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president.
Wednesday 30th anniversary of general strike during Velvet Revolution
Wednesday is the 30th anniversary of a general strike that represented a significant turning point in the Velvet Revolution. Between noon and 2 pm on November 27, 1989 a reported 75 percent of Czechoslovakia’s workforce took part in the symbolic action, which helped confirm the legitimacy of the Civic Forum opposition grouping and was another nail in the coffin of Communist Party rule. Just over a month later dissident writer Václav Havel was elected president.
Temperatures will rise slightly on Thursday, reaching as high as 12 degrees Celsius in Prague and Eastern Bohemia. Skies are also set to clear slightly, with rains only expected in the western region of Karlovy Vary.