Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, who attended an informal meeting of European interior and justice ministers in Malta on Thursday, repeated the Czech government’s firm opposition to EU mandatory refugee quotas. Taking the opposite stand, EU Commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said he hoped the ministers would finally agree on a fair distribution of migrants. He told the AFP news agency it was time to interpret the principle of solidarity in the same way. The Czech government remains opposed to mandatory refugee quotas on the grounds that such a system would not work.
The Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh has acquired a painting by the Czech surrealist artist Toyen, the Czech News Agency reported on Thursday. The painting, called Poselství lesa or Message of the Forest, was completed in 1936 and is regarded as one of Toyen’s greatest works of art. It is the first of her paintings to enter a UK public art collection. According to the Czech art investment website Artplus.cz, it was sold for 600,000 US dollars (some 15.3 million crowns).
The Minister of Finance and ANO chief Andrej Babiš said on Thursday he would resolve his ownership of the Agrofert agro-chemical company in February. He made the statement in reaction to the new bill on conflict of interest, which places ownership restrictions on government members. The legislation, which came into force on Wednesday, prevents people with large stakes in companies from becoming ministers, while firms more than 10-percent owned by cabinet members are not allowed to compete for public tenders. Mr. Babiš, who owns one of the country’s biggest companies as well as several media outlets, repeated that he regarded the bill as unconstitutional.
Plans to expand the massive brown coal mine at Poland’s Turów is threatening water sources on the Czech side of the border, representatives of waterworks from the affected region said at a press conference on Thursday. According to the water company experts, wells and streams around the towns of Frýdlant, Hrádek nad Nisou and Chrastava in the north Bohemian region have already been drying up and the mine’s extension will make the situation even worse. An expert study suggests around one billion crowns will be needed in the coming years to provide 30,000 people from the area with drinking water.
The Temelín nuclear plant in south Bohemia is set to produce 15 TWh of electricity in 2017, which is three TWh more than last year. The plant plans to hire around 80 new employees this year, the head of the plant Bohdan Zronek told the Czech News Agency on Thursday. Around 500 of the plant’s existing employees will have to get security clearance this year due to the new nuclear power law which tightens security at the country’s nuclear stations. Temelín set an annual production record in 2012, when it generated 15.3 TWh.
The country’s special anti-corruption police unit, known as Kobra, has prevented tax evasion amounting to 7.6 billion crowns in total since its establishment in June 2014, Finance Minister Andrej Babiš announced on Thursday at a press conference of the Customs Administration of the Czech Republic. In 2016 alone, Kobra prevented tax evasion worth 3.4 billion crowns. The team, operating under the anti-corruption police, is comprised of experts from the police and the finance and customs authorities.
The ANO party of businessman Andrej Babiš would win elections to the lower house of parliament with 29.9 percent of the vote, if elections were held now, according to the results of an opinion poll conducted by the STEM agency. The Social Democrats would come second with 14.6 percent, followed by the Communist Party with 12.6 percent. The survey also suggests that the TOP 09 party, which gained slightly over five percent of votes in previous surveys, would not make it into Parliament. Other parties that would cross the five percent threshold needed to win seats in the lower house are the Civic Democrats and the Christian Democrats.
The Czech Republic’s biggest refining company, Unipetrol, announced a sharp hike in its net profit to nearly 8.0 billion crowns in 2016 in spite of a slide in sales. One reason for the boost was insurance payments following an explosion at its Litvinov plant. Overall turnover slipped to almost 88 billion in spite of an improved performance from its Benzina petrol stations which now claim around 18 percent of the Czech market. Uniptrrol is controlled by the Polish group PKN Orlen.
Czech veterinarians have confirmed the first outbreak of bird flu at a large commercial poultry farm. The farm in question is near Blatná in South Bohemia with the estimated 6500 ducks there set to be killed on Thursday. The breeder found 160 dead ducks on Tuesday and Wednesday with tests later proving the presence of the H5 virus. An investigation into how the flock, which should have been kept away from wild birds, was infected is now being carried out. It is the 11th case of bird flu in the Czech Republic in the last couple of weeks.