In his New Year's speech, Senate chairman Jaroslav Kubera (ODS) has called on Czechs to show more grace, humility and respect for the work of others, as well as to have greater confidence in their own abilities.
Kubera, the second-highest constitutional official, expressed his view that the state should be as uninvolved in the private lives of the people as possible, so that freedom flows naturally, while calling on Czechs to take to heart the “live and let live” ethos.
He spoke against efforts by lawmakers to “over-regulate” citizens, whether that be by imposing bans on smoking or on consuming a small amount of alcohol before cycling. Kubera also criticized the new EU privacy rules (GDPR) and tendencies to erase differences between men and women.
Chairman of the Czech lower house of Parliament, Radek Vondráček (Ano), has warned in a New Year’s Day address against abusing the freedom of speech to attack others.
Threats and insults should not be part of debate in a functioning democracy, Vondráček said, adding that as chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, he felt partly responsible for widening divisions in society.
“Democracy is not a boxing ring. We can remain decent people in the streets and squares. Vulgarity, personal insults, racism, threats, do not belong to democracy. Today we have freedom of speech, and no one can take it away, but we abuse it when we attack others and spread hatred,” he said.
On the upside, Vondráček said the Czech economy was performing well, and increases in average wages and pensions were coming due to the efforts of millions of diligent citizens.
The first newborn baby of the year in the Czech Republic is a boy named Tomáš from South Bohemia. He was born one minute after midnight at a hospital in Písek.
The first baby girl born came into the world 12 minutes later, at Na Bulovce Hospital in Prague; her mother did not want to make public her name or other details.
Tomáš weighed 3.7 kg at birth and measured 51 centimetres. He was delivered by natural childbirth, and is the first child of his 26-year-old mother.
A number of Czech regions, including Prague, traditionally give gifts to children born on New Year’s Day. In some cases, they are cash payments of 10,000 to 15,000 crowns.
The start of the New Year has kicked off the largest and most successful fund-raiser in the country – the now traditional “Three Kings Collection”, organised by the Catholic charity Caritas.
Since the year 2000, the collection, which lasts for about a fortnight, has raised more than 1.1 billion crowns in aid of the needy.
Three Kings Collection involves thousands of volunteers, mostly children, who take to the streets dressed as the Three Wise Men, singing carols and asking people to give to charity.
The funds are then redistributed to all regions in the Czech Republic to help people in need, including the disabled, people with long-term illnesses and the elderly.
In 2018, a record sum of more than 112 million crowns was collected. This collection this year will go until January 14.
Scarcity of drinking water due to prolonged drought, attacks by the Islamic state in Europe, and mass migration of people across the continent – there are among the biggest perceived threats among Czechs, according to a survey by Median Agency conducted for Czech Radio.
In the first half of December, researchers asked more than 1,000 randomly selected respondents to rank their concerns relating to a dozen possible threats, including those of a military, political, socio-cultural or environmental nature.
The survey shows increasing concern among Czechs about threats related to climate change, most notably drought and immigration due to food insecurity, is growing. Respondents showed less concern about terrorism than in previous polls.
Median sociologist Daniel Prokop told the Czech Radio station Radiožurnál “the perception of environmental threats – that is, climate change and its impact on food harvests and the migration of people across the continents and the like” had risen.
In the previous survey, 38 percent of respondents considered environmental threats a serious problem while in the current poll 52 percent said they did.
The percentage who considered attacks by Islamic state in Europe a serious threat dropped from 70 percent last year to about 50 percent now.
New Year’s Eve celebrations passed without major incident in the Czech Republic, but firefighters noted an increase in calls, most related to store-bought fireworks set off in private celebrations.
Firefighters responded to 176 fires nationwide, 27 more than last year. Most resulted from smoldering used fireworks discarded in trash bins and containers. In Prague, firefighters responded to 46 fires, 44 of which involved pyrotechnics.
In Mladá Boleslav, north Bohemia, police broke up skirmishes on Old Town Square between intoxicated Polish and Slovak revellers. Elsewhere, several people lost or severely damaged fingers when setting off fireworks.
An official New Year’s Day fireworks celebration traditionally take place in Prague at 6pm on Letná Park and may best be observed from the Vltava River embankments and nearby Prague bridges. The theme this year is linked to the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, which saw the fall of communism.
An estimated 571 people died in traffic accidents on Czech roads in 2018, 69 more than in 2017, traffic police head Tomáš Lerch told the ČTK news agency.
The greatest number of fatalities were recorded in August and September this year, when 64 people in total died in traffic accidents.
The number of motorcycle fatalities in the Czech Republic ranks among the highest per capita in Europe. Final figures on traffic deaths will be released at a January 8 news conference.
Czech stocks fell 9 percent in 2018 according to the main PX index of the Prague Stock Exchange, with the biggest drop coming in December. By comparison, the aggregate index of European stock exchanges (Stoxx Europe 600) depreciated around 14 percent.
According to the news site Novinky.cz, the most profitable titles listed on the Prague bourse were software company Avast, which rose 16 percent since its May debut, and state-controlled utility ČEZ, which added 8 percent; appreciation for investors, taking into account a dividend payment, exceeded 13 percent.
The biggest loser on the Prague exchange was regional media group CME, whose shares lost 38 percent of their value. The poor performance of flagship Czech station Nova TV was a major factor.
Soft-drinks maker Kofola also ended down over 30 percent despite improved earnings. The decline was primarily related to the departure of a Polish minority shareholder and pressure associated with the sale of his shares under accelerated subscription, Novinky.cz reported.
Wednesday should be cloudy with freezing rain or light snowfall likely throughout the Czech Republic. Daytime highs should range between-1 to 3 degrees Celsius. The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute is warning of strong winds in the mountains of Bohemia and Moravia with gusts of over 100 kilometres per hours possible.