Daily news summary

Net gain of CZK 55.4 billion for CR from EU in 2017

The Czech Republic gained CZK 55.4 billion more from the European Union budget than it paid in last year. The figure stems from data released by the Czech Ministry of Finance on Wednesday.

In 2016 the country made a net gain of CZK 80.6 billion from the EU’s coffers. Ministry officials said this was because that year and in 2015 there was a cluster of payments from the 2007 to 2013 budget period.

The Czech Republic has been a net beneficiary in terms of funding every year since it joined the EU in 2004.

Babiš: Czech state should mine lithium

Andrej Babiš, the prime minister in resignation and ANO leader, says the Czech state should exploit the country’s lithium deposits. He told journalists on Wednesday that the government wished to task the state enterprise Diamo with ascertaining how much of the mineral the country possesses.

Mr. Babiš says a memorandum signed by a previous Czech government and European Metals Holdings on the mining of lithium is nonsensical and invalid. However, he says the government’s lawyers will have to decide on how to proceed on the matter.

Mr. Babiš says that his minister of industry, Tomáš Hüner, acted wrongly by saying he would sign an addendum to the memorandum with the Australian firm without first informing the government.

Babiš pours cold water on Trump comparison

The Czech prime minister in resignation, Andrej Babiš, says the only thing he has in common with US leader Donald Trump is that they have had Czech wives. Mr. Babiš, who has frequently been dubbed a “Czech Trump” in the international media, made the comment in an interview published in the German daily Die Welt on Wednesday.

The ANO chief also said he had virtually nothing in common with the freshly re-elected Czech president, Miloš Zeman. He said he did not always agree with the head of state but that the pair had supported one another.

Mr. Babiš said Mr. Zeman’s problem was that Western journalists copied every piece of nonsense written about him by his enemies.

Okamura denies connection to firm to which party paid millions

Tomio Okamura has revealed the name of a company to which his Freedom and Direct Democracy party paid CZK 7.4 million for PR and analyses, iDnes.cz reported. Mr. Okamura had previously declined to reveal the name of the firm but on Wednesday said it was Play Net, an agency that had turnover of a total of just over CZK 1 million in three years, the news site said.

Mr. Okamura’s previous grouping Dawn broke up after colleagues accused him of asset-stripping the party, iDnes.cz wrote. The politician said, however, this had never been proved; he also said that he had no personal connection with the agency to which Freedom and Direct Democracy paid the money.

Report: Price of new flats in Prague jumped by almost fifth in 2017

The average price of new apartments in Prague grew by 19 percent year on year in 2017, according to a study produced by the property development companies Trigema, Skanska Reality and Central Group. The number of new flats sold last year declined by 17 percent, the report found.

The volume of new properties on the market in the capital last year was half the figure for mid-2015.

Critics say excessive red tape is preventing the construction of sufficient numbers of new apartments, creating a bottleneck and pushing up prices.

Jágr signs contract with Kladno after arriving from US

Czech ice hockey legend Jaromír Jágr has signed a new contract with his hometown club Kladno after arriving on a plane from the US. Jágr’s glittering career in the NHL came to a close after his last club Calgary Flames placed him on waivers.

The forward, who turns 46 next month, did not speak to the media on his arrival but is due to appear in a news conference after a Kladno training session on Thursday. He is expected to take to the ice in the club’s colours on Saturday.

Hnilička named government sport commissioner

Former ice hockey player Milan Hnilička has been named government commissioner for sport. The ex-goaltender, who was elected an MP on the ANO ticket, will take up the post at the start of March. He will be responsible for creating a strategy for financing sport.

Mr. Hnilička told journalists on Wednesday that he planned to draft new legislation on support for sport in the Czech Republic.

He was part of the Czech national team that won gold at the Winter Olympics in Japan 20 years ago.

Weather forecast

There should be bright spells with snow in places in the Czech Republic on Thursday. Temperatures are expected to reach up to 4 degrees Celsius. The remainder of the week should see more snow.