The Czech lower house on Friday approved a draft of the state budget for 2014 in the so-called first reading, sending it for debates in the house committees. The draft budget has a projected deficit of 112 billion crowns which would leave the gap in public spending below 3 percent of GDP. It is based on growth expectations of 1.3 percent, which would bring an additional four to five billion crowns in tax revenues to state coffers. The parties of the emerging government coalition – the Social Democrats, ANO and the Christian Democrats – have said they would like to see the budget approved by the end of the year.
Czech top officials have expressed condolences on the death of South African leader Nelson Mandela who passed away on Thursday. President Miloš Zeman expressed great respect for the man who spent a large part of his life in prison fighting an unfair regime; the head of the Social Democrats and the likely next prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka said Nelson Mandela was a courageous and resilient man who lived to see his ideals come true. In a statement, the Czech Foreign Ministry said that South Africa’s first democratic president, was an extraordinary personality of the 20th century, a symbol of struggle for human rights and against the apartheid.
Gale-force winds of up to 140 km/h damaged power lines around the country leaving tens of thousands of people without electricity supplies. The worst damage is reported in the north of the country where strong winds were accompanied by heavy snow in the higher altitudes. Many roads were closed to traffic on Friday morning due to fallen trees and Czech Railways reported delays in several train connections. Drivers have been warned to exercise extreme caution.
The ANO party would like to hold the transport ministry portfolio in the next government, party leader Andrej Babiš said on Friday. If approved by the other potential members of the emerging coalition, the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats, the ANO party would most likely nominate an unaffiliated expert for the post, Mr Babiš said. The ANO party has also demanded the post of finance minister which could be filled by Andrej Babiš himself. The next meeting of party leaders is scheduled for Saturday.
A total of 529 people died in traffic accidents between January and November this year which was 107 less than in the same period last year, the head of the Czech traffic police told reporters on Friday. The number of road deaths has dropped below 600 for the first time since 1970. The police registered fewer injuries but a slight increase in the actual number of accidents and the damages caused by them. Around 2,600 drivers were found to be driving under the influence of drugs which represents a 30-percent increase compared to last year.
The construction firm Metrostav on Friday began conserving the unfinished Blanka tunnel complex in Prague, in preparation for a halt of construction work. The company announced earlier it would stop working on the complex on Saturday over disputes with Prague City Hall which owes the firm more than 2.1 billion crowns. City officials, meanwhile, say the contract between Prague and the construction firm was invalid as it had not been approved by the municipal assembly. The situation will most likely have to be resolved by the courts. The Blanka complex, whose costs are estimated at around 36 billion crowns, was to open next spring.
The Wallachian frgál tart has been granted EU protection. The traditional pastry with fruit, poppy seed or curd cheese topping was included in the European Commission’s list of products with protected geographical indication; only tarts made in the eastern Czech region of Wallachia will be allowed to be sold under the name of valašský frgál. Over 30 Czech products have so far been granted EU protection including spa waffles and Pardubice gingerbread.
A Christmas tree erected on Thursday in Vatican Square in Rome as a gift from Bavaria was felled in the Czech Republic, the mayor of a Bavarian community told Radio Vaticana. The tree was a gift from the Bavarian town of Waldmünchen, located close to the German-Czech border; when searching for a suitable tree, the Czech town of Domažlice offered a giant spruce growing on the Czech side of the border. The Bavarian mayor said the tree came from the hearth of Europe; the Czech town’s mayor suggested it was a symbol of Czech-German friendship.
Czech speedskating champion Martina Sáblíková won a 3,000-metre race, part of the World Cup series, in Berlin on Friday. She beat Germany’s Claudia Pechstein and Ireen Wüst of the Netherlands. Friday’s win was the Czech skater’s third triumph on long tracks in a row; after four events, Martina Sáblíková leads the World Cup rating with 380 points.