The Czech government is against binding quotas for the acceptance of Syrian refugees, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said following a meeting of the cabinet on Monday. Minister Chovanec said the Czech Republic was not prepared for an influx of thousands of refugees and he would present this stand at a meeting of EU interior ministers on Friday. He said that to his knowledge, several other EU countries would likewise make a stand against binding quotas. In response to a UN appeal, 15 countries around the world have agreed to set up special quotas for fugitives fleeing Syria’s civil war. More than two million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries since the start of the conflict, and another million, still in the country, have reportedly been displaced.
Meteorologists have extended an ice alert for Moravia to most of the Czech Republic for the remainder of Monday and most of Tuesday. Icy roads and frozen rail and tram tracks complicated traffic in Moravia since the early hours of Monday with traffic police reporting hundreds of accidents. Public transport in Brno came close to collapsing on Monday afternoon as frozen tracks brought trams to a standstill and trolleybuses had to be rerouted. Maintenance crews have been working around the clock to clear the roads of ice and traffic police have warned drivers not to set out if they can delay their journey. Meteorologists say Prague and Plzen may be similarly affected in the coming 24 hours.
Eighty-six percent of Czechs think that old-age pensions in the Czech Republic are totally inadequate and fail to cover a person’s basic needs, according to the results of a survey conducted by the STEM polling agency. Criticism regarding the size of pensions has gradually been mounting and the outcome of the latest poll is the highest figure since monitoring of people’s perception of pension’s started in 1998. Last year 80 percent of respondents said they considered old-age pensions to be grossly inadequate. The average old-age pension in the Czech Republic is 11, 276 crowns a month. As of next year pensions should be raised by an average 200 crowns.
A burst hot water pipe in Prague 10 have left most of the district without heating, the ctk news agency reports. The accident happened early on Monday and reportedly affected close to 3,000 homes in Prague’s Skalka district. Heating was renewed in some areas after mid-day and repairwork should be completed by 5pm on Monday.
Police are investigating a tragic accident in the town of Bystřice pod Hostýnem in which a fifty-year-old female driver unexpectedly swerved off the road onto the pavement and smashed into four elderly women. One died on impact, another in hospital shortly after and the remaining two are hospitalized. It is not clear why the woman lost control of the vehicle.
A hundred and fifty eight babies have been born to women infected with the HIV virus in the Czech Republic, according to figures released by the National Laboratory for HIV and AIDS. Only four of the babies were born with HIV. Seven of the pregnant women had no idea they were HIV positive. All pregnant women in the Czech Republic undergo compulsory testing for HIV in order to better protect the child. The birth is then always conducted by Caesarean section and mothers do not breastfeed. Undetected the risk of transmitting the virus is 20 percent, with precautions it can be lowered to 2 percent. Experts say that people in high risk groups often underestimate the risk of having contracted the virus and only find out about it when being tested for other diseases or in the early stages of pregnancy.
President Miloš Zeman said on Monday he would veto a proposed 14 percent hike in salaries for lawmakers and executive branch officials as of January 2015 if such a bill were approved. The proposal was put forward by the budget committee of the lower house after it won support from deputies groups across the political spectrum. However it was slammed by the government which is pushing for a significantly lower salary increase. The president, who is on a three day visit to south Moravia, said he considered the proposed 14 percent hike inconsiderate and greedy and said deputies should increase their salaries by 3.5 percent which is the salary hike they approved for workers in the public sector next year.
Around 200 people took to the streets of Brno on Monday to protest against President Miloš Zeman who is on a three-day visit to the south Moravian region. Visiting the University of Defence, the president was greeted by a hostile crowd holding up symbolic red cards and calling for his resignation. Similar protests are expected to take place in Blansko, Židlochovice and Mikulov. The president has recently come under increasing criticism over his stands on Russia, China and the crisis in Ukraine.
Viktoria Plzeň have gone into the winter break in Czech soccer’s first division as leaders after beating third-placed Jablonec 2:1 away on Sunday evening. Plzeň secured victory with a goal in the dying seconds to keep them one point ahead of reigning champions Sparta Prague, who are in second spot and had earlier defeated Jihlava 2:0 away. The top flight football season resumes on February 21.
The Czech Ministry of the Interior is planning to repatriate a group of ethnic Czechs from Ukraine, Lidové noviny reported on Monday. Officials are preparing a plan under which 30 to 50 Volhynia Czechs would be moved to the Czech Republic within a matter of weeks, the newspaper said. They are in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donets, which is controlled by pro-Russian separatists. President Miloš Zeman asked the minister of the interior, Milan Chovanec, to help the ethnic Czechs in October, after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it would not aid their repatriation.