News Average mortgage rates drop to all-time low
The average mortgage interest rate dropped to a historic low of 2.93 percent in January, according to an index compiled by the Fincentrum advisory firm. It is the lowest average rate since 2003 when monitoring began. In March, nearly 8,300 clients took out new mortgages, which was around 2,500 more than in the previous month. The overall volume of new mortgages grew last month to 13.8 billion crowns, some 4.3 billion more than in February. The decrease in rates has been fueled by competition among banks, and could continue for months to come, an analyst for the Fincentrum firm said.
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The first opera by Antonín Dvořák, Alfred, was performed for the first time ever with the original German libretto on Wednesday night at the Dvořák’s Prague festival, which is currently underway in the Czech capital. The Czech composer wrote the opera in 1870 at the age of 29. The piece was already performed once before, in 1938, with the libretto translated into Czech.
The Czech movie Fair Play has been chosen as the Czech Republic’s official entry for the 2015 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Written and directed by Andrea Sedláčková, Fair Play explores doping in sport in the 1980s communist Czechoslovakia.
Representatives of the government, trade unions and employers on Wednesday agreed on the draft state budget for 2015. Under the proposal, the state budget deficit for next year should not exceed 100 billion crowns and will include hikes in salaries in the public sector. Speaking after the meeting of the tripartite, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka expressed his confidence that the budget proposal will be approved by the cabinet on Monday.
The Czech Republic is to release three million crowns to the NGO Doctors without Borders to help fight the Ebola outbreak in Africa. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka discussed the situation in Africa and the possibilities of Czech help with the head of the Czech branch of Doctors without Borders Pavel Gruber on Thursday, along with several members of the government. The Czech Republic has also pledged to send material support, such as protective equipment. Final details will be specified by the interior and health ministers by the end of September.
The first shipment of Czech military aid to Kurdish forces fighting against Islamic State radicals in northern Iraq was sent from the military airport in Pardubice on Thursday. The C-17 Globemaster transport plane carried around 25 tonnes of ammunition worth 41 million crowns, including millions of rounds of ammunition for Kalashnikov assault rifles and machine guns, as well as hand grenades and ammunition for anti-tank rocket launchers.
The Czech authorities are planning a major clampdown on fraudulent taxi drivers in order to curb the wide-spread practice of resetting taximeters, the news website ihned.cz reported. The authorities believe that resetting taximeters allows taxi drivers to only tax part of their earnings. The campaign by inspectors from the Czech Trade Inspection Authority, the tax and customs administration as well as from city- and town halls, planned for October, should make sure taxi drivers are complying with new legislation that is to ban such taximeters as of January.
Czech champions Sparta Prague are preparing to face Napoli in the Italian city on Thursday, in their first group stage game of the Europa League. Sparta hope to end their nine-game winless streak in European competitions; manager Vítězslav Lavička said responsible defence was key to success but promised his side would do their best to cause the hosts problems. Sparta will also play Slovan Bratislava and Young Boys Bern in the group stage.
The British police have freed eight Czech citizens “enslaved” in Plymouth, in the southwest of the country, the news website Plymouth Herald has reported. The eight men had reportedly been forced to work for little or no money after having been trafficked into the UK by a criminal gang. Eight people, all of Eastern European origin, were arrested during the operation. The authorities were first tipped of the case in March when a Czech man who escaped his captors contacted the police, the news website said.
Cowardice is rampant in the Czech society, according to President Miloš Zeman. Speaking at a gathering of Czech WWII veterans at Prague Castle on Wednesday, Mr Zeman said there were few Czech people willing to risk their health or lives in defence of their country. The president also thanked the veterans for their service in wartime Czechoslovakia’s armed forces in exile, and said they fulfilled their lives.
The Czech military will provide training to 31 helicopter pilots from Iraq, the Czech Ministry of Defence said on Wednesday, adding that Czech and Iraqi officials signed the respective contract on Wednesday. The training programme is to begin by the end of the year at an air base in Pardubice, and will take 12 months. The ministry also said the first shipment of Czech military aid would be sent to Iraq on Thursday. The Czech government pledged last month to provide 500 million crowns worth of ammunition and grenades to the Kurdish forces fighting against the terrorist group Islamic State in northern Iraq.