Adopting the euro is not among the goals of the new Czech government, Finance Minister Andrej Babiš told the lower house of Parliament on Thursday. Reacting to Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek’ remarks that the coalition government should pave the way for adopting the single European currency as soon as possible, Mr Babiš said the Czech economy was not ready for the move, suggesting the country could adopt the euro in six years’ time at the earliest.
The Czech National Bank on Thursday improved its forecast for the Czech economy for this and next year. It now predicts the country’s gross national product will grow by 2.2 percent this year, up from 2.1 percent predicted in November. Next year, the bank expects the economy to grow by 2.8 percent, 0.3 percent up from its previous forecast, the bank said in a statement. The bank’s governor, Miroslav Singer, said its interventions aimed at weakening the Czech crown, would continue until the start of 2015.
The volume of Czech exports last year reached a record 3.157 trillion crowns, or more than 155 billion US dollars, the Czech Exporters’ Associations said on Thursday quoting figures by the Czech Statistics Office. Year on year, exports increased by 2.8 percent while imports rose by 1.6 percent. In December alone, exports of Czech firms grew by over 18 percent, the association said. The machinery and transportation vehicles sector was particularly strong, with an annual increase of nearly 22 percent. Analysts say the Czech central bank’s foreign currency interventions contributed to the record numbers.
One of the last key figures of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, Vasil Bil’ak has died at the age of 96 in Bratislava. Bil’ak was the last surviving of the five leading communist party hardliners who sent a notorious letter to Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev expressing concern about the ‘counter revolutionary’ reforms in their homeland and calling for a military intervention. The letter served as a pretext for the invasion by Soviet and other Warsaw Pact countries at the end of August, 1968. Bil’ak later played a leading role in the post invasion clampdown, or so-called normalisation.
In related news, leader of the Czech Communist Party and lower house deputy chair Vojtěch Filip said the late Vasil Biľak’s role in the build-up to the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia could not be denied. However, today’s views of the letter asking the Soviet Union to interfere were “varied”, according to the Communist leader. Mr Vojtěch’s comments sparked controversy among Czech politicians; the opposition Civic Democrats said they would initiate a motion to vote Mr Filip out of office in the lower house.
Christian Democrat Jan Bartošek was elected deputy chairman of the lower house of Parliament on Thursday. Mr Bartošek, who faced no contestant for the post, replaces party leader Pavel Bělobrádek who was recently appointed deputy prime minister and stepped down as lower house deputy chairman. Jan Bartošek joins lower house deputy chairs Jaroslava Jermanová of the ANO party, Communist chair Vojtěch Filip and Petr Gazdík of the TOP 09 party. Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies is Social Democrat Jan Hamáček.
The police last year apprehended 4315 illegal immigrants in the Czech Republic, which was 550 more than in the previous year, the head of the Czech Foreigner Police told reporters on Thursday. The three top source countries of illegal immigration are Ukraine, Russia and Vietnam; the police also found citizens of Libya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Slovakia staying in the Czech Republic without legal permits. The number of illegal crossings of the Schengen border at Czech airports increased by 60 to 179 cases last year. The police believe the Czech Republic is a destination mainly for Eastern European immigrants while migrants from elsewhere tend to transit to other countries.
Czech President Miloš Zeman has arrived in Sochi on Thursday, a day before the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Mr Zeman is scheduled to have dinner with members of the Czech Olympic team on Thursday night. On Friday, the Czech head of state will take part in a reception held by Russian President Vladimir Putin before attending the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Mr Zeman will meet with several foreign officials during his visit including the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, the Czech president’s office said. On Saturday, Miloš Zeman will inaugurate the Czech Olympic House while on Sunday, he would like to attend a 1,500 speed skating event to root for the Czech medal hopeful, Martina Sablíková. The president is accompanied by head of the Czech Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Dominik Duka, and other officials, on his trip to Sochi.
With an average 1.136 million readers a day, the tabloid Blesk remained the most-read Czech daily newspaper last year, according to a survey by the Czech Publishers’ Association and the STEM/MARK and Median agencies. Mladá fronta Dnes came second with 787,000 daily readers, followed by Deník whose regional editions were on average read by 774,000 people each day. The survey also found that 74 percent of people aged between 12 and 79 read at least one daily newspaper over a two-week period.
The Orff Brothers were awarded the Apollo music award for the best album of 2013 at an awards ceremony in Prague on Wednesday night. Their album Šero landed the award, which is perhaps analogous to the Mercury Prize in the UK, voted on by a panel of music critics and is this year being presented for the third time. Among other contenders were Dan Bárta & Illustratosphere, Never Sol and Prago Union.
Czech ornithologists on Thursday named the black and white stork species Bird of the Year 2014. The Czech Society for Ornithology said the choice was partly motivated by the fact that a Europe-wide census of the white stork is to be held later this year along with a national census of the black stork; experts hope the decision to name the stork Bird of the Year will increase public participation in the project.
There are around 244,000 couples of the white stork living in Europe according to the latest estimates. However, their population faces threats in the form of high voltage power lines as well as climate change.
Czech snowboarder Šárka Pančochová finished fifth in slope style qualification at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Thursday, failing to qualify directly for the event’s finals. Instead, the 23-year-old Czech athlete will have to compete in the semi-finals on Saturday to book a place in the finals.
The end of the week will be warmer, with mostly overcast skies, rain in places and daytime highs ranging between 3 and 7 degrees Celsius.