Daily news summary
Huawei threatens court case if Czech agency does not withdraw warning
Chinese tech giant Huawei has threatened to go to court if the Czech National Cyber and Information Security Agency does not cancel or adjust its warning against incorporating Huawei technology, the daily Deník N reports. The company has apparently stated this in letters sent to Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Dušan Navrátil, the agency’s director. Huawei has demanded an answer by February 14. The government discussed the matter on Friday and decided that Huawei's letter will be answered by the cybersecurity agency and not by government.
The threat of international arbitration follows the withdrawal by various government ministries from contracts with Huawei after the Czech cyber watchdog issued a warning in December against using Huawei technology in the state’s critical infrastructure.
Labour Ministry wants tougher measures for those exploiting foreign workers
The Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs is considering more regulation of agency employment. It also wants the Labour Office to have more powers to combat the exploitation of foreign workers, Minister Jana Maláčová told the Czech News Agency on Friday. She said these measures were part of a larger set that will be included in an employment bill due to be published in the second quarter of this year.
The minister also reacted to an investigative article published by German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, which reported on miserable conditions for migrant workers employed at a Czech company owned by Agrofert, a conglomerate founded by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. Ms. Maláčová said the article could act as an incentive for an investigation by labour inspectors. Mr. Babiš has said the Deutsche Welle story was ‘made up’.
Social Democrats against government district in Prague
Junior coalition partners the Social Democrats have come out against a plan by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš of ANO for the creation of a government district in Prague’s Letňany district, Novinky.cz reported on Friday. The idea would involve moving state officials out of city centre buildings. The Social Democrats have joined opposition parties in opposing the plan, with senior members saying it could threaten the historical locations currently housing ministries and needed to be analysed in more depth.
The idea’s chances were recently boosted after a meeting between the prime minister and Prague Mayor Zdeňek Hřib, where the latter said he would be willing to give such a project the green light if the government paid for some crucial investments in the city’s infrastructure. While no agreement has yet been reached, Mr. Babiš has said that he wants to continue with the negotiations.
Unemployment continues to rise
While January’s unemployment rates were still the lowest since 1997, the Labour Office reports that the number of people without work has increased to 3.3 percent.
Analysts expected this increase due to seasonal factors. However, the numbers are higher by one decimal point than their projections indicated.
Economists do not expect another major decrease in unemployment like that seen in 2018. Furthermore, the growth in vacancies is also projected to go down this year.
Despite increases in the past two months, unemployment levels in 2019 are expected to continue being very low and to fall below 3.0 percent with the onset of spring. This trend is also expected to put further pressure on employers to increase wages.
Czech National Bank lowers surplus projections for next two years
The Czech National Bank has lowered its surplus predictions for the public finances in 2019 and 2020. In November officials said the surplus should reach 1.3 percent this year. However, they have now revised that figure to 1.2 percent. Meanwhile, the central bank has reduced its surplus estimate for next year by two percentage points.
Overall growth predictions for the Czech economy in 2019 have also been cut to 2.9 percent, four decimal points lower than the November forecast.
Government debt is still very low in the Czech Republic compared to among its Visegrad Four neighbours. In 2017 it stood at 34.6%, more than 15 percent lower than in Slovakia and nearly 40 percent behind that of Hungary.
Sáblíková wins 3,000 event at World Speed-Skating Championhsip
Three times Olympics winner Martina Sáblíková triumphed at the women's 3,000 meters race at the World Speed Skating Championship in Inzell, Germany. It is the fifth world title for Sáblíková in the 3,000 event. The 31-year-old Czech finished with a time of 3 minutes 58.91 seconds, coming ahead of Antoinette de Jong of the Netherlands and Russia’s Natalia Voronina.
Davidová takes silver in biathlon World Cup
Twenty-two-year-old Czech hopeful Markéta Davidová took the silver at the World Cup Biathlon event in Canmore, Canada on Friday. The gold went to Trill Eckhoff of Norway who crossed the line in 36:32.9 minutes, 9.8 seconds ahead of Davidová. Italy's Lisa Vittozzi took the bronze. Davidová is currently leading the overall World Cup ranking in the women's individual competition.
The sudden rush of warmer weather will continue this weekend, with temperatures on Saturday set to lie around 7 degrees and Sunday reaching as high as 10 degrees Celsius in central Bohemia. Rain is expected in eastern and western Bohemia.