Daily news summary


BIS head: Russia most active country in attempting to influence elections and democratic processes

Russia is the most active country in trying to influence elections and democratic processes on the international scene, Czech BIS counter-intelligence head Michal Koudelka said at a Prague seminar on European elections and hybrid warfare.

Koudelka said the Kremlin used both governmental and non-governmental resources for this end, using means such as sending emails to selected groups of people, opening social media accounts under fake identities and the hacking and subsequent publishing of illegally gained information with the intent of harming a specific group or candidate.

It is Russia’s aim to undermine European integrity, weaken democratic institutions in EU member states and the trust of the public in these institutions, Koudelka said.

Head of Road and Motorway Directorate sacked for slow pace of road construction

The newly-appointed transport minister, Vladimír Kremlík, has sacked the head of the Road and Motorway Directorate Jan Kroupa for the slow pace of road construction and persisting problems with the reconstruction of the country’s D1 highway leading from Prague to Brno.

Kroupa has been in office since 2014. He is to be replaced by Pavol Kováčik, head of the supervisory council of the State Fund for Transport Infrastructure.

Social Democrat leader has no plans to sack embattled culture minister

The head of the Social Democratic Party Jan Hamáček has no plans to sack Culture Minister Antonín Staněk even after meeting with leading signatories of a petition calling for his dismissal over the sacking of the head of the Czech National Gallery Jiří Fajt and the head of the Olomouc Museum of Arts Michal Soukup.

Critics claim the sackings were a political decision and 5,000 people have now signed a petition for the culture minister’s dismissal.

Party leader Jan Hamáček said after the meeting he was in favour of holding an open competition for the two posts as soon as possible. Minister Staněk sacked the two heads citing the outcome of audits at their respective galleries.

Senate wants to scrap law that forces big stores to close on public holidays

The Senate has moved to scrap a law according to which large retail outlets must remain closed on selected public holidays. The proposal was included in an amendment to the law which will now go back to the Chamber of Deputies.

The lower house previously rejected a similar proposal including a proposal for the ban to be extended to all public holidays. The law, which went into force in 2016 bans outlets bigger than 200 square metres from selling goods on eight public holidays of the year, among the October 28, Christmas, Easter Monday and May 8.

It is still vehemently opposed by the Czech Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Trade and Tourism which says it discriminates large sales outlets.

The head of the Czech Business and Trade Association Marta Nováková says large retail stores lose billions of crowns in profits on each public holiday on which they are forced to close their doors.

Czech National Bank lowers its forecast on public finances and GDP growth

The Czech National Bank has lowered its forecast for the development of public finances in 2019 and 2020, in its Inflation Reports summary published on Friday. The bank now expects a surplus of 0.3 percent of GDP in 2019, as opposed to February’s more optimistic estimate of 1.2 percent. The new expectations for 2020 have gone down even more sharply from February’s 1.3 percent to the current forecast of 0.2 percent. This year, public debt is expected to sink from 32.7 percent of GDP to 30.9 percent. Next year, a further decrease to 29.3 percent forecast.

In a prognosis released on Thursday, the bank also lowered the country’s economic growth projection to 2.5 percent in 2019 and 2.8 percent in 2020. A further decrease in the Czech crown’s exchange rate is also expected.

Prague ranked best student city in the world, according to AppJobs

Prague has come out on top in a world-wide study conducted by AppJobs.com, a popular website and app that focuses on helping students find part-time work. The Czech capital beat Moscow and Berlin to the top spot.

AppJobs created the ranking based on five indicators – the average monthly rent, the ease of finding part time jobs, the cost of a pint as well as the number of concerts and shows in the city, and the amount of universities the city has. Prague scored particularly highly in the low cost of rent and of beer.

Weather forecast

Saturday should be partly cloudy to overcast with rain in places and day temperatures between 8 and 12 degrees Celsius.