Daily news summary

Czech Foreign Minister: EU needs to take position on legitimacy of Venezuela’s “acting president”

Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček has called on the European Union to take a common position on whether to recognise the Venezuelan opposition leader as president of his country.

Juan Guaido proclaimed himself Venezuela’s “acting president” on Wednesday in front of tens of thousands of supporters who had gathered in the capital Caracas to protest against President Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuela has been embroiled in economic and political crisis for several years. Many citizens, including descendants of Czech immigrants, have left the country. An estimated 500 people with Czech citizenship or origins now live there.

Czech Fin Min: EET revenues reached 12.3bn last year, 0.6bn above projections

The electronic cash register system popularly known as “EET” introduced to counter the grey economy and tax fraud brought some 12.3 billion crowns into state coffers last year, Czech Finance Minister Alena Schillerová (ANO) said on Thursday.

The ministry in September had projected that receipts from the online sales-reporting system would be some 600 million crowns lower, she said. Compared to 2017, last year’s EET revenue increased by 4.4 billion crowns.

The EET system was introduced in stages, starting in December 2016, when it applied only to restaurants and accommodation facilities. As of March 2017, it also became mandatory for wholesalers and retailers.

The planned third and fourth “waves” will affect craftspeople and food producers such as farmers' markets. These are unlikely to take effect until 2020.

Eurostat: Employed young Czechs least at risk of poverty among EU peers

Young working Czechs are the least at risk of falling into poverty in the European Union, according to data from the bloc’s statistical arm, Eurostat. Youth in Romania are most at risk, it said.

According to Eurostat, the percentage of employed people in the Czech Republic aged 18-24 who are at risk of poverty stood at just 1.5 percent in 2017. By comparison, the EU average was 11 percent.

A young person is at risk of poverty if their net income is less than 60 percent of the national average, according to the methodology of the EU statistical arm.

Apart from the average salary, the average size of families also factors into the calculations. In the Czech Republic, families typically have no more than two children.

Apart from the Czech Republic, only two other EU countries had rates below 5 percent: Slovakia (3.8 percent) and Finland (4.2 percent).

The highest proportion of young people aged 18-24 in work and at risk of poverty in 2017 was in Romania (28.2 percent), followed by Luxembourg (20.0 percent), Denmark (19.1 percent), Spain (19.0 percent) and Estonia (18.4 percent).

MPs hear testimony over alleged attempts by Zeman, president's chancellor to sway judges

Former Supreme Administrative Court chairman Josef Baxa told a hearing of the lower house of Parliament justice subcommittee on Wednesday that President Miloš Zeman had urged him in private meetings last spring to arrange for certain decisions at his court.

Mr Baxa told MPs he considered the request inappropriate and that it felt as if the president were offering to appoint him as Constitutional Court chief justice in exchange for achieving certain judicial rulings. Minister of Justice Jan Kněžínek (ANO) said on Thursday that if true, that would amount to a criminal act or attempted criminal act.

The hearing on Wednesday was called over suspicions that the president’s chancellor, Vratislav Mynář, had repeatedly tried to influence the courts in cases relating to the Office of the President or ones in which President Zeman had a vested interest.

Mr Mynář said he and the president had merely acquainted Mr Baxa with their opinions on various matters. He admitted that he had “consulted” with Constitutional Court judges, including Vojtěch Šimíček, presenting the President’s objections regarding planned changes to the Labour Act.

Subcommittee chairman MP Pavel Blažek (Civic Democrats) said that the matter was serious enough to warrant a subcommittee resolution but not to launch a separate investigation.

Record number of passenger cars produced in Czechia last year

The production of passenger cars in the Czech Republic increased by 1.7 percent last year to a new record of 1.437 million vehicles, the Automotive Industry Association said Thursday. Production has now grown for a fifth straight year.

Exports of passenger cars rose 2 percent year on year while domestic purchases dropped 1.7 percent in 2018.

Leading carmaker and exporter Škoda Auto increased its production to 886,103 cars, up 3.3 percent in annual terms. The Volkswagen subsidiary said growth was due to the modernisation and expansion of its Czech manufacturing plants.

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing, on the other hand, recorded a 4.6 percent drop in production to 340,300 cars. TPCA, a joint venture of Toyota, Peugeot and Citroën, returned to production growth with a 6 percent increase to 210,993 vehicles.

ČSU: Overall confidence in Czech economy down for third straight month

Overall confidence in the Czech economy has declined for a third consecutive month, dropping by 0.6 points to 98 points, the Czech Statistical Office (ČSU) announced on Thursday.

Compared to last January, overall confidence in the economy is down, with levels lower for both business and consumers year on year.

Overall confidence in the Czech economy last dipped below 98 points in July 2017, when it stood at 97.7 points.

However, while business confidence has fallen in monthly terms, that of consumers has not, holding steady at December’s level.

Kvitová to face Osaka in Australian Open final, Plíšková out

Czech tennis star Petra Kvitová has reached the Australian Open finals, after defeating her unseeded American opponent Danielle Rose Collins by a score of 7-6, 6-0.

It is the first time Kvitová has made the finals in Melbourne and her third overall appearance in a Grand Slam tournament.

Her compatriot Karolína Plíšková lost her own semi-final match in Melbourne on Thursday to Japan's Naomi Osaka in three sets, by a score of 2-6, 6-4 and 4-6.

The final between Kvitová and Osaka takes place on Saturday.

Weather outlook

Friday should be partly cloudy in the north and overcast in the south. Snow flurries are expected in Vysočina and southern Moravia. Daytime highs should range between -5 to -1 degrees Celsius.