Overview of Czech news: Wednesday, March 16, 2022

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12:27 European Commission approves Czech energy offset

The European Commission has approved a partial compensation scheme for energy-intensive Czech companies suffering from rising electricity prices, for a total amount of around 34.6 billion Czech crowns. The Commission has decided that the scheme is in line with EU state aid rules. The compensation relates to higher electricity prices incurred by businesses due to the costs of emissions imposed by the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS). Compensation will be provided to eligible companies, with a maximum amount of support for a total of 75% of the indirect costs incurred by participating in the EU ETS system.

11:59 Czech police acquitted of Roma murder

Czech police committed no criminal act in an incident that resulted in the death of a Roma man in Teplice, North Bohemia last June. The absence of any culpability of the police officers present was confirmed by a police inspection today. Inspectors said it could not be proven that police actions played a role in the man’s death, while an expert report said the man’s death was caused by intoxication to methamphetamine. Police intervened to restrain the violent man by kneeling on his neck for several minutes. The man was later pronounced dead after being rushed to hospital. The case later became known as the “Czech George Floyd” incident.

10:30 A US military convoy will cross the Czech Republic tomorrow

A US military convoy that carried out exercises in Slovakia will return to Germany via the Czech Republic in the coming days. The convoy will cross the country at night and in the early morning from Thursday to Tuesday. American troops will again spend a night at Rančířov tented camp in South Moravia as a stopover point on their return trip to Germany. The convoy will cross the country in four parts, entering the Břeclav border crossing and using the D2 and D1 highways.

Ukraine Fiala underlines unity with visit to Kyiv

Czech Prime Minister Petr FIala said Europe stood with Ukraine after his talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv last night. Fiala visited the war-torn Ukrainian capital by train with the prime ministers of Poland and Slovenia.

The group was the first foreign leaders to visit kyiv since the outbreak of war in Ukraine on February 24. Zelensky said on social media that the visit sent a strong message of support. “Your visit to Kyiv at this difficult time for Ukraine is strong evidence of support. We appreciate it very much,” he said. Polish leader Mateusz Morawiecki meanwhile told Zelensky that Europe “will never give up” on Ukraine.

Economy The price chaos resulting from the war in Ukraine continues

Commodity prices fluctuate wildly in the Czech Republic due to global uncertainty about the future of the war in Ukraine. Fuel prices, which hit their highest levels on record last week, are falling again as fears of Russian supplies drying up as a result of the war ease. It is believed that the first positive signs of the negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have also lowered prices.

On the other hand, electricity and gas suppliers in the Czech Republic have not ruled out further price increases as a result of the war. Energy purchase prices are already three times higher than in the same period last year, which is already affecting end consumers: in April, Pražská energetika will increase monthly payments for electricity by 25% and for gas 30%. The European Union’s commitment to reduce its dependence on Russian gas should also influence price developments over the next few years.

Budget President Zeman approves state budget for 2022

Czech President Miloš Zeman yesterday signed the Czech state budget for 2022, with a deficit of CZK 280 billion. The budget, however, is expected to change as the situation surrounding the war in Ukraine evolves. Additional expenses due to price increases will probably have to be taken into account as well as measures to deal with the Ukrainian refugee crisis.

This is the first budget drawn up by the new coalition government led by Petr Fiala. It includes a significant reduction in the deficit proposed in the previous budget by the ANO-led government. Zeman has expressed reservations about cuts in state payments to public health insurers as well as investment cuts, but has now endorsed the spending plan.

NATO Slovakia approves deployment of Czech troops

Soldiers from six NATO countries, including the Czech Republic, will reinforce the alliance’s eastern flank in Slovakia, according to a proposal approved by the Slovak parliament. The proposal will allow up to 2,100 foreign troops to be deployed in Slovakia, including up to 600 members of the Czech Armed Forces.

Other countries likely to station soldiers in Slovakia will be Germany, the United States, Poland, Slovenia and the Netherlands. They will bring the country Patriot long-range air defense systems, and possibly also a Sentinel missile defense radar. The move comes after Russia’s difficulties in invading Ukraine demonstrated the ability of modern defense technologies to hold off an invasion force. Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Nai called the proposal a “radical strengthening of the defense of the Slovak Republic”. The Czech Senate will decide tomorrow whether to send troops to Slovakia.

Jewish community The protagonist of the story of Nicky and Vera dies at the age of 93

Vera Gissing, one of the Czechoslovak Jewish children rescued by Nicholas Winton from the Nazis in 1939, and whose story was later featured in the book Nicky & Vera by Czech artist Petr Sís, has died aged 93 years. Sís announced the news on Facebook today.

“Mrs Vera Gissing, the heroine of my book ‘Nicky & Vera’, made her last journey yesterday at the age of 93. I believe she will meet her saviour, Sir Nicholas Winton. Thanks for the inspiration” , wrote Sis. Winton saved 669 children on the eve of World War II by organizing trains to take them from Prague to London. Gissing was born Vera Diamant in Čelákovice, near Prague, in 1928. Her parents both died in Nazi concentration camps, but she escaped to Britain with her sister Eva.

Protests Protesters in Prague call for stronger support from Ukraine

Several hundred people demonstrated last night in Prague’s Old Town Square to express their support for Ukraine and to call for stronger military and technical aid to the country. Protesters called for the declaration of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which would bring NATO into conflict with Russian aircraft.

The protest, called Wings for Ukraine, featured a mix of Ukrainian and NATO flags, and its main theme was the need to “close the skies” over Ukraine. Senator Marek Hilšer (STAN), who spoke at the event, called the imposition of a no-fly zone “our moral duty”. Another speaker argued that a military operation should be launched even if there is a risk that other countries could be involved in the conflict, demanding that the West “stop being afraid of Putin”.

Financial sector Banks announce big profits for 2021

Czech banks increased their total net profits by CZK 23.1 billion year-on-year in 2021, bringing total earnings to CZK 70.58 billion. According to experts, the huge increase in profits is due to the lower operating costs of banks.

Profit from financial activities increased by CZK 3.9 billion, while interest income decreased by CZK 1.4 billion. Income from fees and commissions increased by CZK 5.5 billion. Analysts said areas that did well last year for the banking sector included making loans such as mortgages. The largest increase in profits among the country’s largest banks was a 56% increase reported by Komerční banka.

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