The European Parliament has approved a resolution calling on the European
Commission to suspend all EU subsidies to companies belonging to the
Agrofert conglomerate founded by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš until
the question of whether he de facto retains control over it is settled.
The debate in the European Parliament focussed on whether Babiš, who as prime minister can influence the disbursal of both Czech and EU subsidies, has a conflict of interest despite having placed Agrofert in trust funds.
MEPs also discussed subsidies that Slovak-born billionaire Babiš’s agribusiness group is alleged to have abused, especially to finance the so-called “Stork’s nest” project, control of which was allegedly transferred from Agrofert temporarily a decade ago solely to receive EU subsidies meant for small businesses.
Heavy snow, strong winds and icy roads have been complicating traffic
around the country. Traffic police have reported heavy congestion along the
D1 highway from Prague to Brno, where long queues have formed along several
stretches of the road from Central Bohemia to the Vysočina region.Drivers
have been warned not to set out on this route, if possible, until the
situation has improved.
Many roads in the mountain regions have not yet been cleared and drivers heading for ski resorts have been warned to exercise extreme caution.
Czech football club Viktoria Plzeň have secured a place in the Europa
League with a 2-1 victory over AS Roma in the Champions League. Former
national team coach Pavel Vrba’s charges were able to finish Group G with
third place in the victory over Roma, enough to qualify for the Europa
Tomáš Chorý scored the winner with a diving header after Cengiz Ünder had cancelled out Jan Kovařík’s opener – with all three goals coming in the second half of the match, over a 16-minute span.
For AS Roma, even before the last group match on Wednesday a spot in the European top class was clear. Meanwhile, in the second match of Group G, CSKA Moscow handed Real Madrid the Spanish club’s worst ever European home loss.
CSKA need to better Plzeň’s result in the Czech Republic in order to finish third, with both teams already out of contention for the Champions League knockout stage.
The Czech Senate has condemned Russia’s detention of Ukrainian ships in
the Black Sea this November as a “gross violation of international law”
and is calling on EU leaders to take a clear position on the matter at the
upcoming European Council.
In a resolution adopted on Wednesday with the support of 57 out of 63 members present, the upper house of Parliament said “The European Council should take a clear view of the use of force in the Kerch Strait” because the destabilization of the region threatens “the whole of the European Union”.
In late November the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate recalled the right of vessels to access the Sea of Azov, to where the Ukrainian ships had been headed. Russia claims the vessels had crossed into its waters, but that is based on its illegal claim to Crimea, which it seized in 2014.
Under a treaty ratified by Ukraine and Russia in 2004 that is still in force, the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait were defined as shared territorial waters.
The Senate resolution adopted on Wednesday said blocking access was a “gross violation of international law” and also called for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine to be respected and for the immediate release of the captured Ukrainian sailors.
The government has approved a joint recommendation by the Ministry of
Finance and Czech National Bank not to set a target date for adopting the
euro for the time being.
The decision is based on information contained in the annual assessment of the Czech Republic’s fulfilment of the Maastricht convergence criteria and economic alignment with the Euro area.
This annual assessment, which maps out the country’s economic preparedness for adopting the common European currency, has been taken every year since 2004, when the Czech Republic joined the European Union.
According to the central bank, the Czech Republic will probably be compliant this year with all the Maastricht convergence criteria except for the exchange rate criterion, as it does not yet participate in the relevant mechanism. Continued compliance with these criteria is likely in the medium term.
Police have asked the Chamber of Deputies to strip an MP of the far-right
Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party of his immunity so he can face
criminal prosecution over statements he made about a WWII-era concentration
camp for Roma in Lety near Písek.
The MP in question, Miloslav Rozner, was recorded saying at a private meeting in December 2017 that it was nonsense for the government to buy the land where the camp was situated, and pay to dismantle the pig farm built over it.
In the recording, broadcast by Czech TV’s 168 Hours program, Rozner says he would not have “thrown half a billion crowns out the window” to buy out what he called a “non-existent pseudo-concentration camp”. Roma groups argue that amounts to Holocaust denial and lodged a criminal complaint.
The lower house of Parliament’s mandate and immunity committee is due to discuss the police request on Tuesday, December 18, according to its chairman, Stanislav Grospič (Communists). He said the full plenary might then decide on the matter in January.
The pig farm is due to be demolished in the final months of 2019. A new memorial to the Roma victims who died there is due to open in 2023.
A zoo in Dvůr Králové, east Bohemia, has announced the birth of another
rare northern white rhinoceros.
The species is threatened with extinction, and the zoo is part of a global effort to breed the animals, which are native to central Africa, in captivity.
The mother of the new male cub has given birth now three times in the Czech Republic.
Meanwhile, the Dvůr Králové zoo has received another female of the species from a French zoo in Montpellier, where she did not mate. It is hoped she will find a suitable “Czech” partner.
The Czech population grew by nearly 28,000 in the first nine months of this
year to an estimated 10,637,794 people.
According to preliminary data published by the Czech Statistical Office, as in recent years, most of the increase stemmed from immigration.
Ukraine and neighbouring Slovakia were the biggest source countries, followed by Romania and Bulgaria.
The data also show a rise in the number of marriages, up 1,400 compared to a year ago. The average age of a groom was 29 and that of a bride was 27.
At the same time, there were about 1,000 fewer divorces and a slight drop in the number of births. Divorced men averaged 44.7 years, divorced women 41.8 years.
The greatest number of children were born to women aged 30 years.
The minister of agriculture, Miroslav Toman, is opposed to a plan put
forward by his own ministry to ban the training and parading of wild
animals by circuses in the Czech Republic, iDnes.cz reported. A source
close to Mr. Toman told the news website that the minister believes
circuses would lose their meaning without animals and was angry when he
found out about the proposal put forward by ministry officials.
Under a new plan being drafted by the ministry circuses would be removed from an animal welfare bill.
While animal rights activists support a ban on wild animals in circuses, the Chamber of Veterinarians last month questioned the need for a blanket prohibition.
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