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Czech MPs approve Communist proposal to tax Church restitution money

The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday approved a controversial Communist proposal to tax churches on monies they receive in line with a property restitution law enacted in 2012. The proposal will now go to the Senate for further debate.

Opponents of the proposal argue that it is unjust to tax money paid in to the churches in compensation for properties confiscated by the Communist regime. They argue it is akin to punishing the victim of a theft and also unconstitutional, as in their view it violates earlier treaties.

The coalition government comprised of the ANO and Social Democrat parties backed the proposal by the Communists, who had threated to withdraw their tolerance of the minority government if they had rejected it.

According to the Communists, the state stands to recover about 380 million crowns annually from the roughly 2 billion crowns it now transfers to 16 churches under bilateral agreements.

In total, the churches should receive 75 billion crowns worth of land and property confiscated by the Communist regime and get 59 billion crowns worth of compensation money for the rest, to be paid out over a 30-year period.

Czech spa towns join united European bid for Unesco World Heritage status

The western Bohemian spa towns of Karlovy Vary, Františkovy Lázně and Mariánské Lázně have entered a wider joint bid for inclusion on the Unesco World Heritage List.

In total 11 European towns known for their healing thermal waters have joined the bid, filed in Paris on Tuesday, under the heading the “Great Spas of Europe”.

The concept behind the joint Unesco application in part highlights the role of spa towns during the 18th century through the 1930s as intellectual hotbeds that helped spread the idea of a united, democratic Europe.

The other European locales are in Germany (Bad Ems, Baden-Baden and Bad Kissingen), Austria (Baden bei Wien), Italy (Montecatini Terme), France (Vichy), Belgium (Spa), and the United Kingdom (the City of Bath).

Gov’t to promote apprenticeships within wider educational system reform

The government is looking to introduce changes to the educational system to place greater emphasis on apprenticeships, the daily Hospodářské noviny reports.

The move is part of a long-term strategic plan to increase the Czech Republic’s overall competitiveness and bolster innovation.

Among those working on the plan are experts from the Confederation of Industry, Chamber of Commerce, Association of Small and Medium Enterprises and Tradesmen, and representatives of schools and the ministries of education and industry.

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO), as chair of the government’s R&D council, will oversee implementation of the strategic plan, which identifies 10 key areas requiring fundamental change.

These include creating half a dozen development centres for making breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, laser technology and nanotechnology.

All-Czech final in Melbourne possible after Plíšková beats Serena in semis

Karolína Plíšková has reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open for the first time. The Czech was losing 1-5 in the third set but saved four match points to eventually overcome Serena Williams of the US 6-4 4-6 7-5. Plíšková will now face Naomi Osaka for a place in the final. She has never won a Grand Slam tournament.

Wednesday’s result makes an all-Czech final in Melbourne possible as two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitová will face Danielle Rose Collins of the US in the other semi-final.

Poll: Most Czechs say terrorism “serious threat” to national security

Six out of ten Czechs consider terrorism to be a “serious threat” to the peace and security in the country, a new opinion survey by the Centre for Public Opinion Research (CVVM) finds.

At 61 percent, that figure is down 10 percentage points from a 2016 survey and 20 percentage points from a survey the year before, when the European “refugee crisis” began.

However, after terrorism, respondents cited international organised crime and refugees as the next biggest possible threats to national security. Just over half (54 percent) said these were “serious threats”.

Less than one-quarter of those polled said they thought left- or right-wing extremism posed a “serious threat”.

The CVVM survey of 1,104 Czechs aged 15 or older took place from November 3 –15, 2018.

Armenia asks Czechs to extradite ex-president and PM Serzh Sargsyan’s nephew

Armenia’s prosecutor general has asked the Czech Republic to extradite the nephew of former president and prime minister Serzh Sargsyan to face drug trafficking and other charges.

The politician’s nephew, Narek Sargsyan, was detained in Prague in early December. An international warrant for his arrest was issued in July 2018 for alleged drug trafficking and illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Czech authorities have already begun a preliminary investigation in anticipation of an extradition request. The final decision will be made by the Minister of Justice.

Pilsen Steel files insolvency petition, lay-offs expected to follow

Plzeň’s main steelworks company has filed an insolvency petition and accrued 5 billion crowns in debt, the daily E15 reports. Pilsen Steel saw its funding from a Russian bank cut off last year.

The steelworks’ largest creditors are both majority controlled by Russian entities – VEB Kapital and Vemex – while ČEZ Prodej, part of the Czech state-controlled utility, is also a major creditor.

Pilsen Steel trade unions say they expect a significant number of the more than 1,000 employees to be laid off and fear salaries may go unpaid.

Czech air traffic rose to record 912,000 flights in 2018

Air traffic over the Czech Republic set a new record in 2018.

The number of take-offs, landings, and flyover flights increased by 6.9 percent year on year, to 912,815 in total. An average of 2,500 aircraft used domestic airspace in a given day.

The busiest traffic was also at Václav Havel International Airport in Prague, where the number of take-offs and landings grew year on year by 4.8 percent to 155,216.

Total traffic at Czech airports rose by 3.5 percent in annual terms.

Average price of new Prague home rose 18.6 percent in 2018

The average price of new homes sold in Prague reached 101,091 crowns per square metre by the end of 2018, an increase of 18.6 percent year on year, a group of developers said on Wednesday.

The number of residential dwellings sold dropped by 9 percent to 5,000 last year, the lowest since 2012, according to data compiled by the developers Trigema, Skanska Reality and Central Group.

The most expensive flats are traditionally in Prague 1 (currently at 198,000 crowns per sqm on average) and in Prague 2 (164,000 crowns per sqm). The most affordable apartments are in Prague 4 and Prague 10, where the average price is 89,000 crowns per sqm.

In terms of price per square metre, smaller flats are more expensive than larger ones, regardless of location, the developers said.

Czech advocacy group want deposits on PET bottles

Campaigners are pushing the introduction of deposits on PET plastic bottles in the Czech Republic. The group Zálohujme (Let’s Use Deposits) say Czechs are presently recycling less than 60 percent of PET bottles. They want to increase that figure to 90 percent.

Under the proposal, consumers would pay a deposit of CZK 3 on every plastic bottle. Zálohujme is comprised of representatives of the Institute of Circular Economy, the University of Chemistry and Technology’s Faculty of Environmental Technology and bottled water producers Karlovarských minerální vod.

Weather outlook

Thursday should be cool and cloudy throughout the country. Daytime temperatures should range between -3 and 1 degrees Celsius.