The most likely next prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, will meet with President Miloš Zeman in the new year, to discuss ministerial candidates for the future cabinet. The Social Democratic chairman was expected to meet with the president right after the Christmas holiday, but the meeting was postponed to a yet unknown date in early January. The three future coalition partners – Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and ANO – are expected to sign the coalition agreement on 6 January. President Zeman has already said that he might not confirm some of the members of the future cabinet. On Friday, members of the forming coalition announced that once representatives of the three parties will agree on a list of ministers, the coalition will support the cabinet as a whole, no matter what the president’s opinion may be.
Jiří Lendl, the father of the former world number one tennis player Ivan Lendl, has died at the age of 89. He was also the former and the honorary chairman of the Czech tennis association. Mr. Lendl was a junior chess champion of Bohemia and Moravia and received a law degree. Later he also excelled at tennis and became the chairman of the Czechoslovak tennis association in 1990. His son Ivan was one of the top tennis players in the world throughout the 1980’s, having competed in 19 Grand Slam singles finals, winning eight of them.
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.
Public health insurance providers are finishing the year with approximately 10 billion crowns in losses. Insurance providers should receive around 10 billion crowns more next year, but healthcare providers are also likely to loose around four billion due to the weakening of the crown and the increased Value Added Tax for medicine. The Constitutional Court recently struck down the law that imposed the 100-crown daily fees for hospital stays and the 30-crown co-payments at the doctors’ offices, which will decrease the yearly fee income of healthcare providers from 5.5 billion to 180 million crowns. Jiří Rusnok’s caretaker government gave 800 million crowns extra to health insurance providers this year, but doctors and hospitals are warning that if the new government does not find a solution to the situation, health care may need to be limited and some hospitals may even close next year.
A fire completely destroyed a plastics factory in Alojzov, in the Prostejov region, in the early hours of Friday. There were no reports of casualties but people were advised to stay indoors as a dense curtain of black smoke spread across the area. Due to a brisk wind citizens have not had to be evacuated. The cause of the fire is being investigated. Preliminary estimates put the damage at 80 million crowns.
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.
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.
A record number of people – 285 – took part in the 67th Alfréd Nikodém Memorial event, an annual swim in the Vltava River on Thursday. The Polar bear dip, which takes place near the National Theatre building in the centre of Prague, has a long tradition; It was established in 1923 by Prague hardy-man Alfréd Nikodém who propagated winter swimming as part of a healthy lifestyle. The annual event is attended by members of the local Polar Bears club and enthusiasts from neighbouring states. This year the temperature of the water was 4 degrees Celsius which many consider to be mild.
Meteorologists are warning of strong winds over the weekend, primarily in Moravia and parts of eastern Bohemia. On Saturday, winds of around 110 kilometers an hour are expected in the Jeseníky and Beskydy mountains in northern Moravia. In the lowlands, people are being warned of squalls of up to 75 kilometers an hour. The Czech Republic has seen high winds in the past few days, which have caused considerable damage in parts of the country.
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.