Daily news summary

Government ministers attending bilateral talks in Warsaw

The Czech and Polish governments are holding a joint session in Warsaw on Wednesday. The talks are centred around EU topics and climate protection, but will also include more focused discussions between the two states’ individual ministers.

Speaking to journalists ahead of his flight, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš described Poland as one of the Czech Republic’s most important partners, with whom his country has above standard relations. He said that he would propose that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and representatives from Western Balkan states are invited to the September summit of the Visegrad Four.

While in Warsaw, Czech Defence Minister Lubomír Metnar is expected to sign an agreement on military aviation cooperation with his Polish counterpart Mariusz Błaszczak.

Babiš: Johnson offered assurances over Czechs in post-Brexit UK

The Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, says his UK counterpart Boris Johnson has assured him that there is nothing to worry about regarding the status of Czech citizens and firms in Great Britain with regard to Brexit. Mr. Babiš said on Twitter on Tuesday that he had invited Mr. Johnson to Prague for a meeting that could also be attended by the other Visegrad Four heads of government.

The Czech PM said the British leader told him his country and the Czech Republic were allies, he knew the country and had relationships with people there.

Mr. Johnson insists the UK will leave the European Union by the end of October, regardless of whether or not a Brexit deal is in place.

President calls on Czech ambassadors to focus on economic diplomacy at Prague Castle meeting

President Miloš Zeman called on Czech ambassadors to focus on economic diplomacy during a meeting with the country’s representatives abroad at Prague Castle on Wednesday. In his opinion, the country’s small, export focused economy needs to succeed in foreign markets, while at the same time, foreign investment need to be brought into the Czech Republic.

The president also said that he does not like reproaching foreign officials for human rights abuses, because this can cause unnecessary damages in areas such as tourism. Rather, he said that concrete help in the area of human rights is more effective. The country’s ambassadors have gathered for their annual meeting in the Czech capital this week to debate foreign policy, economic diplomacy, security and consular topics. Meeting the president is a traditional part of the annual meeting.

Communist Party likely to support Finance Minister’s CZK 40 billion budget deficit plan

Miloslava Vostrá, the negotiator for the Communist Party, which is currently supporting Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s minority government, will recommend her party supports Finance Minister Alena Šchillerová’s 2020 budget plan. The plan, which will be presented by the finance minister to the government before it is sent to the Chamber of Deputies in September, counts on a budget deficit of CZK 40 billion crowns in 2020.

The Communists originally wanted the government to reduce the planned deficit to CZK 30 billion crowns. However, following her meeting with the finance minister on Wednesday morning, Ms. Vostrá, who also chairs the Budget Committee in the lower house, agreed with Mrs. Šchillerová’s plan.

Communist Party Chairman Vojtěch Filip told the Czech News Agency that the party will decide on whether to support the budget after he meets with Ms. Vostrá.

Development Ministry to send much anticipated reply to preliminary EC audit on Wednesday

Regional Development Minister Klára Dostálová has said that her department will send the much anticipated reply the European Commission’s preliminary audit on the suspected conflict of interests of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, on Wednesday. In an interview with Czech newspaper Deník N, Mrs. Dostálová said the reply contains contradictions to every sentence on every page of the audit.

According to the preliminary audit report, Mr. Babiš still has influence on his former company Agrofert, which is drawing money from European funds, and is therefore in a conflict of interest. As a result, the Czech Republic may be forced to return about CZK 450 million to the EU budget.

The reply is being sent to the Czech Republic’s Permanent Representation at the European Union in Brussels, which subsequently has to supply it to the European Commission by Monday, when the deadline runs out.

Nexen Tire opens first European factory near Žatec

The major South Korean manufacturer Nexen Tire opened its new factory, the first in Europe, near the Czech city of Žatec this Wednesday. The CZK 22 billion factory, which will eventually employ 1,300 workers, is the third largest investment project in the country that was mediated by CzechInvest.

The company plans to export three million tires by the end of the year and will have a total production capacity of 11 million when construction fully complete.

Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Petr Očko highlighted the fact that the facility also includes a research centre aimed at testing new technologies.

Lesy ČR profits down by 90 percent due to bark beetle infestation

The state enterprise Lesy České republiky, which administers nearly a half of the country’s forests, has reported a 90 percent fall in gross profits during the first half of 2019. The decrease in profits is largely due to the ongoing bark beetle infestation, company spokeswoman Eva Jouklová told the Czech News Agency on Wednesday.

The company increased felling of bark beetle infested trees by 112 percent compared to the same period last year. However, according to Ms. Jouklová, the resulting excessive amount of wood on the market has in turn brought down the price of the commodity.

This phenomenon has been negatively affecting the company’s profits already for some time. Last year the result was that Lesy České republiky’s net profits plummeted down to CZK 70 million compared to the CZK 3.08 billion it made in 2017.

Slavia face Cluj for place in Champions League

Slavia Prague will face the Romanian side Cluj in the Czech capital on Wednesday night with a lucrative place in the group stage of football’s Champions League at stake. Slavia can reach Europe’s top club competition even if the game ends in a draw, thanks to a valuable 1:0 away victory in the first leg of the qualifying tie last week.

However, coach Jindřich Trpišovský says the Czech league champions cannot afford to play for a draw and most go for victory at their Eden stadium.