Daily news summary
Czech and Hungarian presidential talks focus on economic topics and EU reform
Czech President Miloš Zeman was officially welcomed by Hungarian President János Áder at the Sándor Palace in Budapest on Wednesday morning. The Czech News Agency informs that the two heads of state talked about deepening economic integration, supporting nuclear energy and the need for a reform of the European Union. Discussions also shifted to widening Visegrad Four co-operation when it comes to combating terrorist threats and illegal migration.
In his speech, President Zeman described Hungary as a “defender of European culture” and said he considers Hungary, which does not border the Czech Republic directly, an “honourable neighbour”. He also said that the European Commission “should not play” at being a European government and that national governments should decide on question of EU budget allocations.
The Czech president is also set to meet with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán later in the day.
Drug use and gambling in the Czech Republic above EU average, says police chief
Czechs are above the EU average when it comes to drug use and are the third on its list of alcohol consumption, the Director of the National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addiction Viktor Mravčík told journalists at a press conference on Wednesday. Mr. Mravčík said problems stemming from the use of legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco cost the country tens of billions of crowns in health and social problems damages.
According to experts around 800,000 Czechs regularly drink excessive amounts of alcohol and more than a quarter of the population aged 15 and over smoke. Marihuana use among the young is the third highest in the EU after Italy and France, while intravenous drug use is on the country is only surpassed by Latvia. The amount of slot machines per 1,000 citizens is the second highest after Italy.
The 2019 – 2027 National Strategy for Combating Drug Use, which was unveiled at the press conference, is mainly focused on informing the population about the impact and risks of drugs as well as on their prevention.
Czech band Lake Malawi reach final of Eurovision with Friend of a Friend
The Czech group Lake Malawi have reached for Saturday’s final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv. Singer-songwriter Albert Cerny’s band – who performed the song Friend of a Friend – were among the artists to qualify from the first semi-final on Tuesday.
Last year Mikolas Josef achieved the best ever result for a Czech entrant in Eurovision when he came sixth in the final.
ECJ lauches hearings into migration quota case against Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland
Hearings in the infringement cases against the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary started to take place at the European Court of Justice on Wednesday. The European Commission is asking the court to confirm that the three countries failed to meet requirements regarding the temporary programme of dividing asylum applicants located in Italy and Greece according to assigned union quota following the 2015 migrant crisis.
Commission representative Zuzana Malůšková said a judgment in favour of the EC would confirm the principles of the rule of law in the European Union. The countries which stand accused say they did not fulfil the quota requirements because of the need to maintain order and security in their countries. They also say that the program did not work.
Czech economic growth slows to 2.5 percent in first quarter
Czech year-on-year economic growth reached 2.5 percent in the first quarter of 2019, losing a tenth of a percentage point compared to economic growth registered in the previous quarter, according to an estimate published by the Czech Statistics Office on Wednesday. Growth was mainly supported by foreign demand and domestic consumers. The driving sector was mainly the manufacturing industry, with construction and services also performing well.
Despite the slowdown, analysts questioned by the Czech News Agency said they were impressed by the performance of the Czech economy, but they expect overall growth in 2019 to sink to 2.5 percent as opposed to 2.9 percent achieved in 2018.
Price of mobile phone calls into other EU countries halved
A European Commission directive which defines the maximum costs of mobile phone calls and texts into other EU states went into effect on Wednesday. The directive has forced Czech telecom operators to lower their prices by about a half to CZK 5,80 per minute, with some operators taking their prices even lower.
The price limits are a continuation of the EC’s 2017 policy to end roaming charges and is a part of the union’s revision of telecommunications regulation.
Christian Democrats call on PM to sack culture minister
The Christian Democratic Party has called on Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to sack the current Minister of Culture Antonín Staňek of the Social Democrats. Staňek has come under severe criticism after firing the heads of Prague’s National Gallery and the Art Museum in Olomouc. On Tuesday, one of the National Gallery’s directors resigned in protest to what he said was the incompetence of the culture minister. Christian Democrats leader Marek Výborný also said his party has information suggesting that key individuals at the ministry are dissatisfied with Mr. Staňek’s management.
Mr. Babiš held a meeting with the culture minister last Monday and said afterwards that while the situation within the National Gallery following the sacking of its director was serious, the Ministry of Culture is the responsibility of the Social Democrats and he respects their decision.
Prague authorities to ban "street artists" in huge animal costumes
The authorities in Prague are planning to ban "street artists" wearing enormous animal costumes in the centre of the city. At present tourists can pose for photographs with 10 or so pandas, polar bears and Little Mole figures.
These attractions are governed by regulations on street art, or busking, but officials have now decided that they do not qualify for that category. The ban is due to come into effect from the autumn.
Rain across much of Bohemia and Silesia is expected to continue on Thursday, with clouds covering the sun over Moravia. Temperatures are expected to increase by around five degrees Celsius, particularly in the east of the country and will continue rising throughout the end of the week.