Daily news summary


Chief Prosecutor: Still no decision in Stork's Nest case against PM Babiš

Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman says no decision has been taken regarding whether to prosecute Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) over the so-called Stork’s Nest case, regarding an alleged EU subsidy fraud a decade ago.

On Monday, the news portal DeníkN reported that State attorney Jaroslav Šaroch had halted the prosecution against Mr Babiš and others. That was only an interim step that must be approved by higher authorities in order to come into force, Mr Zeman said.

As Supreme State Attorney, Mr Zeman has the right to invalidate the decision. He declined on Wednesday to say what the likely outcome would be but expressed regret that a preliminary decision had been made public.

Jourová reportedly offered Commission post focused on rule of law and democracy issues

European Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen has offered the Czech Republic’s Věra Jourová a portfolio focused on democracy issues, Politico reported. The post would concern the rule of law and connected issues, such as disinformation and hate speech, the news site said.

Ms. Jourová has hitherto been European commissioner for justice, gender equality and consumers. The Prague government has been hoping she receives an economic or trade portfolio during her second stint. Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček (Social Democrats) reiterated that preference on Wednesday in response to the article.

Politico said the offer on the table could be part of an effort by Ms. von der Leyen to reach out to Central European states, whose leaders have accused the outgoing commission of overly concentrating on the region with regard to rule of law probes.

Czech MPs: Pregnant inmates should not be released automatically to care for babies

The Criminal Code may be amended to prevent women prisoners who become pregnant in jail from being automatically released to care for their babies, as is now the case.

MPs from the ANO party of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš aim to change the law so that courts will decide on a case by case basis whether to release such inmates. They plan to submit the draft proposal to the lower house of Parliament in October.

The move comes in reaction to the recent case of one Petra Janáková, who was sentenced to prison for 30 years for shooting a man and attempting to murder three others.

The 29-year-old was released into civilian life for about 15 months in accordance with current law, which allows pregnant convicts to suspend their sentences until their child’s first birthday.

The Prison Service director said a special facility for pregnant inmates and mothers with children under one year could be established in Světlá nad Sázavou within months of a change in the law.

Czech railways to install cameras at crossings in wake of deaths, impose fines

The Railway Infrastructure Administration (SŽDC) plans to install a new CCTV system at selected railway crossings in a bid to reduce traffic fatalities. Drivers filmed making dangerous crossings will face fines, the Administration said.

The move comes following a spate of lethal train accidents involving motorists this summer. More than 740 collisions and other extraordinary events were recorded on the Czech rail network from January through end July. Those crashes left 130 people dead.

Apart from looking to encourage responsible driving at railway crossings, plans are also afoot to install barriers at most of the country’s first-class roads by 2023.

Ex-top cop fighting organised crime steps down as head of Customs investigative branch

Robert Šlachta, one of the Czech Republic’s most prominent law enforcement officials for nearly three decades, has resigned from office.

Mr Šlachta headed a specialised police unit combatting organised crime (ÚOOZ) before leading the investigative branch of the General Directorate of Customs for three years.

He resigned as head of that unit in June 2016 in protest at what he described as a politically motivated shake up aimed at curbing his force’s effectiveness by merging it with another anti-corruption one.

A General Directorate of Customs spokesperson said Mr Šlachta has declined to comment on his decision but that it was not linked to his service at the Directorate.

ČSÚ: Average Czech monthly salary at CZK 34,000, 24 pct less than in Prague

The average monthly salary in the Czech Republic, which has risen steadily in recent months, has just passed the 34,000 crown mark, equivalent to 1,313 euros or 1,439 US dollars.

According to the Czech Statistical Office (ČSÚ), that represents a 7.2 percent increase in annual terms. In real terms, the average monthly salary grew by 4.3 percent compared to the second quarter of 2018.

However, two-thirds of full-time employees make less than 34,000 crowns, and the median salary is just 29,127 crowns, an increase of 6.9 percent.

As for salaries in the capital, Prague, the average monthly salary reached of 42,297 crowns in the second quarter of this year.

Marhoul’s Painted Bird receives long ovations after Venice world premiere

The world premiere of The Painted Bird by Czech director Václav Marhoul received long ovations at the Venice International Film Festival, where it is in the main competition, on Tuesday evening. The premiere was attended by several of its stars, including Julian Sands, Stellan Skarsgard, Udo Kier and Barry Pepper. Its Czech lead Petr Kotlár appeared on the red carpet but did not watch the gruelling film in view of his young age.

While some critics reportedly walked out of a press screening, The Painted Bird has received positive reviews from such outlets as The Guardian and Variety.

Signal Festival to present 18 light and video-mapping installations under ‘Revolution’ theme

This year’s edition of the Signal Festival, which features 18 artistic light installations and video-mappings at indoor and outdoor locations in Prague, will be held under the theme ‘Revolution’.

Like last year, the art will be displayed on three routes, namely in Karlín, Staré Město and Malá Strana. Half of the artists are Czech and half from various foreign countries.

A third of the works will be located in the so-called gallery zone, for example at the Museum of Music or the Ministry of Transport. The largest laser display, by Czech artist Jakub Pešek, will span from the Smetana Embankment across and across Střelecký Island.

Organisers say they except the four-day Signal Festival, which begins on 10 October, will draw some 600,000 spectators. The theme was chosen as part of celebrations ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.

Weather outlook

Tuesday should be relatively cool and cloudy throughout most of the country. Rain is likely in northern and southern Bohemia, while clear skies are forecast for south-eastern Moravia. Daytime highs should range from 18 to 26 degrees Celsius.