Daily news summary
PM says he has no information pointing to heightened security threat
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has assured Czechs that the Cabinet has no information indicating a heightened security threat to the country. Following a meeting with Interior Minister Milan Chovanec and the head of the intelligence services on Thursday, the prime minister said the security measures in place were adequate to the circumstances. The assurances came just a day after President Zeman revealed in an interview for Czech Radio that, according to intelligence reports, a person from North Africa, who is suspected of being linked to an Islamic terrorist organisation, was presently in the Czech Republic.
The head of state has since come under fire from all sides for disclosing classified information. The prime minister said that politicians who have access to classified information are expected to behave responsibly. He said the president’s revelation undermined the work of Czech and foreign intelligence services and could result in information not being shared with Czech intelligence in the future. Several MPs have accused the president of scaremongering.
Savchenko tells Zeman to get realistic take on security threats
Ukrainian politician and former military pilot, Nadia Savchenko, has advised President Miloš Zeman to get a more realistic take on potential security threats, so that the Czech Republic may never experience a scenario similar to that in her homeland when Russia annexed Crimea and started a military conflict in the east of the country. Savchenko, who is on a three-day visit to the Czech Republic, made the statement at a press briefing in Prague on Thursday. The Ukrainian politician has been meeting with Czech NGOs to express her thanks for their support at the time when she was jailed in Russia. Savchenko served as a pilot in eastern Ukraine when she was captured by pro-Russian separatists in June 2014 and convicted of directing artillery fire which killed two Russian journalists. She was freed two years later within a prisoner swap.
Zeman tells Washington Post: I am no Russian agent
In an interview for the Washington Post, President Milos Zeman strongly rejected the pro-Russian label that is frequently attached to him. In the article, titled “Meet the pro-Russian, anti-Muslim European leader who was just invited to Trump’s White House” Mr. Zeman said the pro-Russian label was the standard slogan used by his opponents. I am not financed by Russia, no vodka from Russia, no money from Russia. They say that I am even paid by Russians, but in fact I am only an agent of Czechia, the Czech Republic, Mr. Zeman said. He also defended his statement that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim, drawing a parallel with Nazi Germany, saying that it had only taken three years for a nation of decent people, the nation of Goethe and Schiller, to become fanatic Nazis. In the interview Mr. Zeman said he admired Donald Trump for his courage, lack of political correctness and noted that they had similar views on the fight against Islamic terrorism and illegal migration.
British architectural historian receives award for helping save Czech chateaux
British architectural historian Barbara Peacock has received a Ray of Light award from Prime Minister Theresa May for her work in helping to preserve the Czech Republic’s architectural legacy, Jiří Šebek from the British Embassy in Prague told the ctk news agency. In 2007 Barbara Peacock co-founded the Friends of Czech Heritage charity that raises money to help Czech architectural treasures at risk. The charity has worked on 23 reconstruction projects in the Czech Republic and is currently planning seven more. Among the chateaux it helped restore are the chateau in Červený Dvůr and Uherčice.
Record number of foreigners residing in Czech Republic
A total of 464,700 foreigners resided in the Czech Republic legally in 2015, the highest number since the Czech Republic was established in 1993, the Czech Statistics Office reported on Thursday. The number of foreigners with permanent residence, that is people who remain in the country for more than five years, is also on the rise. The majority of them came from EU countries. Ukrainians are the biggest group of foreigners in the Czech Republic, making up 23 percent of all foreign residents, followed by Slovaks, 22 percent, and Vietnamese nationals, who account for 12 percent. Eight percent come from Russia, five from Germany and four from Poland. Since 2004, the number of foreigners residing in the country has almost doubled.
Czechs spend on average 24 years in retirement
The time Czechs spend in retirement has increased by an average of four years since the year 2000, according to data from the statistical yearbook of the Czech Social Security Administration released on Wednesday. In 2015, the average time spent in retirement was 24 years. This is connected with growing life expectancy. According to the Czech Statistics Office, the lifespan has increased by more than four years in Czech men and three years in women since the beginning of the millennium. At present, women spend an average of 27.5 years in retirement and men around 19 years. According to the pension commitee of the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry, a person should spend about a quarter of their lives in retirement.
Friday should be partly cloudy to overcast, with some drizzle and day temperatures between 1 and 5 degrees Celsius. Night time lows should hover around zero. Heavy snow and strong winds are expected in the mountain areas. The coming days should bring more snow and another bout of cold weather at the start of next week.