Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka and president Miloš Zeman met for the traditional get together of head of government and state at Lány on Saturday. Sobotka and Zeman have clashed in recent months over the government’s stand on immigrants, with the president notably sharing the podium with the leader of the Anti Islamic bloc on the national holiday of November 17. The president did however give credit to the government’s economic achievements in his Christmas speech. Even Saturday’s traditional meeting was the subject of acrimony with an argument over whether wives would be invited along as well.
After an abnormally hot December, the Czech weather office is predicting temperatures in January will be well above the average as well. Daytime temperatures for the first three weeks of the month are expected to stay above zero, ranging between 1 and 3 degrees Celsius. At night they will fall to between minus 2 and minus five Celsius. Rain is expected to be higher than usual but will only turn to snow on the mountains.
The Czech town of Havlíčkuv Brod is gearing up for the 80th international singing competition for Harz canaries next week. Around 30 breeders from the Czech Republic, a dozen from neighbouring Slovakia, and half a dozen from Austria are expected to participate this year in an event which has been held without interruption since 1936. Czech breeders of the canary have dwindled from the 1960s, when there were around 3,000. The female canaries sing best after Christmas and in January with the males reaching a peak performance a few months later.
Construction of a fourth metro line in Prague, the so-called D line between Náměstí Míru in the centre and Pisníce in the southern suburbs looks like it will be delayed or even cancelled because of delays buying the required pieces of land. The city council has said only about a dozen of the around 800 plots have been purchased so far. A tender for construction of the line, expected to cost around 50 billion crowns, is expected to take place this year. Building should start around 2017 and be completed five years later.
A smog warning from the national weather office continued in place across much of the Moravia-Silesia region on Saturday. The warning applies for Ostrava, Karvina, and parts of Frýdek Místek where levels of particulate matter are up to twice the permitted limit. The forecasters see no change in sight over the next day or two. In some areas smog levels fell but in others they increased on Saturday. The region has long had the worst air quality in the country and in Europe with local industry, heat plants, and domestic heating contributing to the problem.
Czech drivers will have accustom themselves to a series of new warning signs from the start of the year. These includes warnings for horses, frogs, Segways, and the dangers of straying into a river or lake. Segways themselves might face restrictions this year if a proposed law is passed which would ban them from moving faster than pedestrians if they drive on pavements.
Wages rises of up to 4 percent in 2016 are predicted by the Czech Banking Association amid expectations that lower unemployment and labour shortages could strengthen the hand of workers. The unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent in the third quarter of 2015. Some economists say a critical point has now been reached where employees can press their wage demands with hopes of success. More rapid wage rises in some low paid sectors such as construction, the restaurants sector, and tourism could be expected, they say.
The number of deaths on the roads in the Czech Republic increased for the second year running in 2015. Altogether there were 669 fatalities, 40 more than in 2014. The worst months for deaths were June and September, which each claimed 80 lives. The trend from 2008 had been for a falling number of road fatalities in the Czech Republic but that was already reversed in 2014 when there were 46 more killed than in the previous year.
Earnings from truck and bus tolls on Czech motorways rose to a record 9.7 billion crowns in 2015. That total is an 11.7 percent advance on 2014. The increase is partly due to the increased amount of traffic on roads caused by economic recovery as well as the hike in toll charges from the start of 2015. In its 15 years of existence the Czech road tolls system has raised around 68 billion crowns in revenues.
Nine items have been added to the list of Czech national treasures from the start of 2016. The list includes the Stará Boleslav Palladium, a relief of the Madonna and Child which according to one version was brought to Bohemia by the saints Cyril and Methodius. Other items added to the list are the Madonna from Veveří, a gothic picture of the mother and child, and the Vyšší Brod cycle, a series of nine gothic religions paintings showing scenes from the Passion. There are around 300 items designated as national treasures. The latest additions were agreed by the government in mid-2015.