Daily news summary

Petříček tells Chinese ambassador publicising private meeting content inappropriate

The Czech minister of foreign affairs, Tomáš Petříček, on Thursday told the Chinese ambassador to Prague, Zhang Jianmin, that publicising the content of a private meeting was inappropriate. This was a reference to talks between Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Mr. Zhang before Christmas. Afterwards the Chinese envoy said on social media that the Czech leader had climbed down over banning Chinese-made Huawei mobile phones at the Office of the Government. Mr. Babiš later said this was a lie.

Mr. Petříček said he believed Thursday's discussion would ensure similar misunderstandings did not occur again.

The Czech prime minister this week ordered 160 key Czech organisations to look into whether they were at risk from using products made by Huawei or another Chinese firm, ZTE.

Central bank chief: Government all talk, no action on housing

The governor of the Czech National Bank, Jiří Rusnok, has accused the government of speaking emptily about making housing more accessible in the Czech Republic but not doing anything in practice. He told the weekly Ekonom the central bank was the only organisation taking steps to deal with the housing market.

Mr. Rusnok said the main problem was that new apartments were not being built in sufficient numbers. He also said property tax in the Czech Republic – which he described as “crazily low” – should be increased and short-term rentals should be regulated more.

The Czech National Bank has tightened mortgage rules in recent years. However, Mr. Rusnok says it is not its job to regulate the offer of apartments.

Critics say excessive red tape is preventing the construction of flats, leading to a shortage and a marked rise in prices.

Prisoners used to deal with snow emergency in Jablonec

Prisoners were deployed to help deal with a snow calamity declared in the town of Jablonec nad Nisou in North Bohemia on Thursday. Streets and pavements are blocked and maintenance workers are struggling to cope.

Over half a metre of snow had fallen in the town, which is in an upland area, over the last two days and it was still snowing on Thursday morning.

Heavy snow has caused power blackouts in some parts of North Bohemia and around 9,000 customers were without electricity overnight.

Train carrying 60 derails in Liberec station

A train carrying 60 passengers derailed in the train station in Liberec, north Bohemia on Thursday morning. The train was due to stop at the station but did not halt at stop lights and crashed into buffers before jumping the tracks, an inspector said. There were no injuries.

The causes of the accident are being investigated. Damages have been put at around CZK 650,000.

Archaeologists: well found in eastern Bohemia “oldest wooden structure” unearthed in Europe

Czech archaeologists have unearthed remnants of what may be the oldest wooden structure ever discovered in Europe – a water well made of oak trees felled some 7,000 years ago.

According to the head of the Archaeological Centre in Olomouc, the well was discovered outside in the eastern Bohemian town of Ostrov in the early stages of a motorways project.

Scientists were able to determine that the tree trunks for the wood were felled in the years 5255 and 5256 BC, said the centre’s director, Jaroslav Peška.

Activists refuse to quit Prague’s Klinika social centre

Activists at an independent social centre in Prague refused to vacate the building on Thursday. The operators of the Klinika centre in the Žižkov district had been ordered by bailiffs to leave by 11:30.

When they failed to do bailiffs and representatives of owners the Railway Infrastructure Administration moved in and the police were called. A number of activists then climbed onto the roof of the building.

Weather forecast

Friday should see more snow in the Czech Republic, with temperatures reaching no higher than -2 degrees Celsius. From the weekend daytime highs should be above freezing point for at least a week.