This year's Christmas holidays were the quietest in 20 years regarding thefts and break-ins, the police revealed, saying - tongue-in-cheek - that even crooks had respected the 'spirit' of the holidays, writes Czech news website Novinky. According to officials, break-ins were registered in apartment buildings in bigger cities but less in the countryside, where owners are more likely to be home over the Christmas break. Overall, the police had to respond to fewer 158 calls. In one incident, officers arrested a 24-year-old car thief who had driven only a few metres in a stolen vehicle before falling asleep.
Paramedics in Prague treated around 50 people for life-threatening conditions over the three-day Christmas holiday. Four people, including two children younger than two years of age, had to be treated for throat obstruction due to fish bones. One woman had to undergo surgery for a head injury after falling while ice skating. Overall, emergency services responded to 885 calls during the three days, which approximately the same as the number of visits made during a single weekday.
President Miloš Zeman’s end-of-year address, which aired on Czech Television and the commercial TV Nova on 26 December, attracted the least viewers of all the presidential New Year’s addresses in the past 6 years. Approximately 1,266,000 people over the age of 15 watched the pre-taped program, almost 700 thousand viewers fewer that last year’s address by Václav Klaus. Television producers said that one of the reasons for the low viewership is that the President’s Office did not announce the change of the date of the address until quite late, and many people did not find out about it in time. Mr. Zeman haddecided to give his address to the nation over Christmas, instead of on New Year’s Day, as his predecessors have done since 1948.
Czech internet shops saw an increase in sales this Christmas season. Some online stores registered a year-on-year growth for the holiday season of around 40 percent. Others saw a weaker increase, but all the biggest e-shops confirmed that this Christmas was more successful than last year, and holiday shopping began earlier, due to the central bank’s intervention against the crown, which began in November. The biggest internet retailer in electronics, Alza.cz, announced that the three strongest days, in terms of sales, were between December 16 and 18. Total daily sales were approximately the same for Alza each of those days, reaching way above 100 million crowns.
Czechs sent a record number of SMS messages over the Christmas holidays. Operators report 75.2 million messages sent which is 6.7 million more than last year and is an all-time record. People also made 42 million calls to friends and family – four million more than last year. This is being put down to lower tariffs introduced earlier this year and the fact that Czechs are fast abandoning the practice of sending each other hand-written greetings and New Years’ wishes.
In a Christmas message to the nation, President Miloš Zeman reflected on how he had fulfilled his election promises to voters. In a short address broadcast live by Czech public radio and television, Mr. Zeman highlighted five areas in which he had promised action, including improving relations with the EU and stabilizing the situation at the Constitutional Court. The president pointed out that the EU flag was now flying at Prague Castle and the Constitutional Court, which had come close to paralysis for lack of judges, was now complete and functioning. Mr. Zeman said that the most problematic of his promises was that to unite Czech society rather than dividing it, but argued that in preventing the return of a centre-government to office and opening the way for early general elections he had addressed that matter as well. In parting the president wished Czechs health and happiness in the coming year and thanked the outgoing Rusnok government for its work.
After the Christmas holidays President Zeman is due to meet with Social Democrat leader and the country’s likely next prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka for talks on the line-up of a new centre-left government which has been taking shape. Mr. Sobotka is to present the president with a list of proposed cabinet ministers as agreed on by the three parties of the emerging coalition government. The meeting is not expected to be without controversy since Mr. Zeman has indicated he is not ready to accept the government line-up without reservations.
The reactions to President Zeman’s first Christmas message in office are muted. Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka described it as “self-reflecting and conciliatory” saying it was understandable that the head of state had used the opportunity to assess his first year in office and explain some of his decisions to the public. Christian Democrat leader Pavel Belobradek described the address as “non-conflicting and suited to the occasion” while ANO deputy chair Vera Jourova and Communist Party leader Vojtech Filip both pointed out that the speech lacked vision and fresh goals for the future.
A spell of warm weather broke several temperature records across the Czech Republic on Christmas Eve. In Bohumín, in the northeast of the country, the temperature of 13.2 degrees Celsius was reported, beating a record from 1973. Unusually high temperatures were also recorded in Ostrava, the Šumava mountains, and other places.