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Czech PM bans use of Huawei mobile phones by Government Office

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) has banned the use of mobile phones by Chinese telecoms company Huawei by Government Office (Úřad vlády) employees.

The decision announced on Tuesday came in the wake of a report released by the National Bureau for Cyber Security and Information (NÚKIB) arguing that phones marketed by Chinese groups Huawei and ZTE could undermine state security.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade had already said it would immediately stop using Huawei products and other ministries are expected to follow suit.

Huawei has become the target of U.S. security concerns because of its ties to China’s government. Washington has warned countries could be exposing themselves to surveillance and data theft if they use Huawei products.

Former Czech Defence Minister Karla Šlechtová (unaffiliated ) said these concerns are nothing new but are only now going public. As minister, she already had Chinese mobile phones exchanged for her personal protection, she said.

Prague Castle buys works by Kamil Lhoták, president’s favourite painter

The Prague Castle Administration (SPH) has paid 11 million crowns for two works by the late Kamil Lhoták, said to be President Miloš Zeman’s favourite painter.

Prague Castle and the Office of the President of the Czech Republic have been steadily adding to a collection of works by Czech painters to adorn the seat of the presidency.

Kamil Lhoták, who died in 1990, had no formal artistic education. He was a member of Group 42, whose members focused on everyday life in cities He also illustrated some 400 books for children and adults.

The two works obtained for the Prague Castle collection, entitled Two Balloons (1939) and Landscape Animated By a Machine (1944) will be on display in January and in February at the Picture Gallery of Prague Castle.

Events held in Havel’s honour on seventh anniversary of death

Tributes were paid to the late Václav Havel in Prague on Tuesday evening on the seventh anniversary of his death. People lit candles and read from his writings at an event entitled A Candle for Václav Havel on the city’s Jungmannovo náměstí. A march in his honour from náměstí Václava Havla (Václav Havel Square) by the National Theatre to Prague Castle was also held, followed by speeches at the Castle.

The playwright and dissident led the Velvet Revolution in 1989 and served as president of Czechoslovakia and later the Czech Republic for 13 years.

Developer Amádeus fights to keep no-tender Prague Dejvice railway land deal

Property developer Amádeus Real has refused without explanation to cancel a controversial no-tender contract with the Railway Infrastructure Administration (SŽDC) on the future sale of land connected to a railway station in Prague 6.

In early December, the head of the state organisation said the contract had been concluded prematurely and should be cancelled by mutual agreement at no cost to either side. The Czech news agency ČTK reports that Amádeus Real sent a brief letter rejecting the proposal.

The purchase agreement, signed by previous management at the Railway Infrastructure Administration, calls for the future sale of land at the rail station Praha-Dejvice nádraží to Amádeus Real by 2030 at the latest.

The land is reportedly key to current plans to develop a rail route from Prague to Kladno, in western Bohemia. The Administration wants to build a tunnel under the Prague 6 station to the metro station Nádraží Veleslavín.

Wild boar consumption ban partly lifted as African swine fever fears wane

A ban on the consumption of wild boar hunted in an area of Moravia where cases of African swine fever were detected will be partly lifted as of January. The decision was announced by the Czech Veterinary Administration (SVS).

Following consultations with the European Commission, the authority in October reversed its order for imported pork products to undergo tests for African swine fever, which had not been detected in commercial pig farms within the EU, but had been found among wild boar.

The authority said it would pay hunters 3,000 crowns for each boar killed, regardless of the animal’s weight. Until now, hunters were entitled to a premium of 4,000 crowns per wild boar under 50 kilograms and 8,000 crowns for heavier ones.

Czech Airlines to cancel Prague flights to Ostrava, Bratislava

Czech Airlines (ČSA) will cancel its flights from Prague to Ostrava and Bratislava as of January 11 and also discontinue service between the Slovak capital and Košice.

The Czech carrier currently operates flights between Prague and Bratislava in both directions three times a week. Upon arrival in Bratislava, the flights continue on to Košice and back. It plans to have direct Prague to Košice flights in 2019.

In February, the company Travel Service, now operating under the name Smartwings, became the majority owner of Czech Airlines.

Average mortgage rate rose to 2.78% in November, volume drops

The average interest rate on a residential mortgage rose in November to 2.78 percent up from 2.66 percent the previous month, according to the Fincentrum Hypoindex, which also noted a sizeable drop in the total value of mortgage loans.

The average in November 2017 was 1.8 percent. The number of loans from banks included in the index fell in November by 2,000 compared to October 2018, to 8,617.

The number of applicants had surged in September as people sought to get mortgages before tougher lending guidelines set by the Czech National Bank came into effect on October 1.

Under the new central bank guidelines, a borrower should not be eligible for a loan greater than nine times their annual net income or need to spend over 45 percent of their monthly net income to service the debt.

Weather outlook

Thursday should be cool and cloudy with occasional light snowfall in most regions, apart from western and southern Bohemia. Daily highs should range between -2 and 2 degrees Celsius.