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MEPs to discuss Babiš’s relationship to Agrofert

Possible conflict of interest involving the Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, will be discussed at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday evening. MEPs are due to vote on a resolution on the matter on Thursday. The motion was submitted by the European Greens with the support of the European People’s Party.

A leaked European Commission report found that the Czech PM was in conflict of interest over EU moneys handed out to his Agrofert conglomerate.

Critics say that although Mr. Babiš placed Agrofert in a trust fund he remains the beneficial owner, in breach of Czech and EU law. He denies any wrongdoing.

Czech population reaches 10.64 million, driven by immigration

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.

Police want to charge far-right MP for Lety concentration camp remarks

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.

Czech Senate calls for firm EU Council stance on Russian seizure of Ukrainian ships

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.

Media: Minister against own officials' plan to ban animals from circuses

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.

Czech gov’t agrees with FinMin, central bank to not yet set target date for adopting Euro

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.

Extremely rare white rhino born in Dvůr Králové zoo

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.

Weather outlook

Thursday should be cool and cloudy throughout the country, with occasional light snowfall expected. Daytime highs should hover between -3 to 1 degrees Celsius.