Daily news summary


PM Babiš: Czechs must expand nuclear power regardless of EU law

In the interests of “energy security”, the Czech Republic must build new nuclear units even if it contravenes European Union law, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) said on Wednesday.

Addressing MPs on the Committee on European Affairs, he said both the country’s nuclear power plants of Dukovany and Temelín should be expanded.

Mr Babiš did not specify which EU laws might be violated in the process. Previously, such efforts were scuppered due to provisions regarding state aid.

At Dukovany, in operation since 1985, there are four blocks with a total output of 2040 megawatts. Temelín, put into operation in 2000, has only two blocks, but a total output of 2164 megawatts.

Czech lower house condemns Turkish incursions into Syria

The Chamber of Deputies has passed a resolution condemning Turkey’s incursions into Syria. All 147 MPs present in the 200-seat lower house backed the resolution, under which Prime Minister Andrej Babiš is mandated to advocate within the European Union for economic and political measures aimed at forcing Turkey to halt the offensive.

Deputies also gave their backing to a government decision to freeze the export of military materials to Turkey and rejected Ankara’s threat to allow large numbers of refugees to enter Europe.

Poll: Half of Czechs would not mind an authoritarian ruler

Only half of Czechs think democracy is the best form of government, and half say they would not be bothered to live under authoritarian rule, according to a representative poll commissioned by Czech Radio.

The sociologists who conducted the poll say that view of authoritarian forms of rule is common in all layers of Czech society. The survey is part of the ‘Divided by Freedom’ project examining Czech society 30 years after the Velvet Revolution.

A separate poll by the Pew Research Center of the US finds that citizens of former Eastern Bloc countries are not fully satisfied with the political and economic situation in their countries. But few regret the fall of the Iron Curtain.

According to the Pew survey, 82 percent of Czechs and 74 percent of Slovaks praise the changes brought by events from 1989 to 1991.

MPs propose legalising euthanasia for Czech citizens, permanent residents

MPs from the ruling centre-right ANO party and the opposition Pirate Party say that by March 2020 they expect to table a draft law legalising euthanasia by doctors under certain circumstances and strict conditions.

Věra Procházková (ANO), the bill’s chief author, says it is unclear whether there is enough support in the lower house of Parliament for it to pass.

She told journalists she was compelled to legalise euthanasia after her mother deliberately overdosed on morphine in the final stage of a chronic disease.

The draft bill also aims to develop palliative care for the dying – services devoted to alleviating pain and providing psychological counselling to terminally ill patients as well as their families.

In order to avoid “euthanasia tourism” from countries where the practice is illegal, the MPs envision allowing only Czech citizens or foreigners with permanent residence to seek physician-assisted suicide.

Czech ‘bone church’ to ban selfies, citing disrespectful tourists

The 14th century “bone church” near the town of Kutná Hora plans to implement a blanket ban on photography as of January, in part due to the number of tourists snapping selfies with skeletal remains.

Up to half a million tourists visit the Sedlec Ossuary each year, one of the most macabre attractions in the Czech Republic.

Many visitors show little respect for the historical and religious significance of site, church officials said this week when announcing the ban.

The chapel contains thousands of human bones arranged in various shapes, including a chandelier, coat of arms, and pyramids formed from the skeletal remains of some 40,000 people who died in the plague and in the Hussite wars.

ADR: Most orphanages fall short of key staff levels set by law

Nearly three out of four orphanages and institutions for infants do not have the doctors, psychologists or physiotherapists on staff as required by law.

According to Asociace Dítě a rodina, an NGO that advocates for children’s rights, of the current 25 institutions for infants, seven failed to meet the minimum personnel requirements.

The Czech Republic has long been criticized by domestic and foreign institutions alike for placing a large number of children in institutions, and the conditions in them.

Asociace Dítě a rodina is lobbying to stop children under three years of age from being institutionalised.

Romani Museum invites designs for Lety concentration camp memorial

The Museum of Romani Culture has announced an international competition to design a memorial to Roma victims of the Holocaust at the site of the Lety concentration camp, where more than 300 Roma men, women and children died during WWI.

After years of negotiations, the Czech government agreed in 2017 to remove a pig farm built at the site in the 1970s and turn the site into a memorial, which should open by 2023.

Museum director Dr. Jana Horváthová said the winner of the competition should be announced in May 2020. The process of demolishing the now-defunct pig farm will depend on the winning design.

During the first phase of construction, the plan is to develop the area surrounding the current smaller memorial at Lety and create a visitors centre with a small exhibit.

According to Dr. Horváthová, the main exhibits will be located in Prague at a new Centre for Roma and Sinti peoples, which will be part of the Museum.

MPs agree to stricter rules for breeders, ‘puppy farms’

Rules for breeding dogs and commercial “puppy farms” are likely to further tighten.

An amendment to the Veterinary Act approved by MPs on Wednesday, among other measures, would require breeders of three or more dogs to report their activity, and require all puppies to have ID chips ahead of being sold.

In May, the Czech government amended the Act on the Protection of Animals against Cruelty as part of a crackdown on puppy farms and other commercial pet breeders operating under “unfavourable conditions” or on such a large scale as “to cause suffering or deny dogs and cats their needs”.

MP Monika Červíčková (ANO) had pushed for the chips requirement. Her proposal to explicitly prohibit the operation of shelters that did not cooperate with municipalities in caring for stray and abandoned animals was rejected.

Czech MoD considering initial bids in CZK 50 bn fighting vehicle tender

The Ministry of Defence has received three preliminary bids for its planned purchase of 210 infantry fighting vehicles, the largest single order in modern Czech military history, in which price will be the decisive factor.

The ministry said it will review the bids before holding talks with the three European manufacturers – BAE Systems, General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS) and Rheinmetall Landsysteme.

The companies will then be invited to submit final offers, expected to exceed 50 billion crowns.

When announcing the terms for the tender in May, the ministry had invited four bidders. Germany’s PSM Projekt & System Management decided to submit a bid for its PUMA vehicle.

Apart from price, the amount of production and servicing that will take place in conjunction with VOP CZ, a state enterprise run by the ministry, is also key.

Mortgage rates fall for eighth month in row

Average mortgage rates in the Czech Republic fell to 2.47 percent last month from 2.61 percent in August, according to an index run by consultants Fincentrum. It was the eight month in succession that mortgage rates fell. However, the availability of cheaper housing loans has not done much to revive the Czech mortgage market, analysts said.

Mortgage rates hit a low of 1.77 percent in December 2016 and since then have mainly been on an upward trajectory.

Weather outlook

Thursday should be clear to partly cloudy, with sporadic light rain likely in north-western Bohemia. Average daytime high should range between 14 to 18 degrees Celsius.