News Czech GDP growth in first quarter higher than original estimate and highest since crisis
Czech gross domestic product grew by 2.9 percent year on year and 0.8 percent quarter on quarter in the first three months of this year. The revised figures, released on Tuesday, are higher than a previous estimate published four weeks ago. The growth rate was the highest since the 2008 financial crisis. It has been attributed to rising domestic and foreign demand, particularly from Germany, and a very low base last year.
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The president of European football’s governing body, Michel Platini, has officially opened the new headquarters of the Czech Football Association at Prague’s Strahov. The centre includes the Czech game’s first Hall of Fame, which features a special section dedicated to the three biggest figures in the history of Czech soccer: Josef Masopust, Josef “Pepi” Bican, and Pavel Nedvěd. Platini and other UEFA delegates were in Prague for the final of the Under 21 European Championship, in which Sweden beat Portugal on penalties.
The Czech Republic on Wednesday takes over the year-long presidency of the Visegrad Four group, which also includes Slovakia, Poland and Hungary. Among Prague’s main priorities will be to boost the internal cohesion of the regional grouping, foster increased co-operation in energy, security and defence, and help develop the four states’ digital economies. The Czech Republic will host two Visesgrad summits during its presidency while next February the quartet’s foreign ministers will mark the 25th anniversary of the existence of the regional bloc.
Hundreds of people demonstrated in Prague on Tuesday against the acceptance of refugees into the Czech Republic. Protestors spoke out against government plans to take in hundreds of asylum seekers on a voluntary basis as part of an EU scheme. The groups Bloc Against Islam and We Don’t Want Islam in the CR, which organised the demonstration, said they would field candidates in next year’s regional elections in response to the decision. Eggs were thrown at participants by opponents of the rally.
Czech leader Bohuslav Sobotka has announced plans to present his Prime Minister’s Medal to journalist Pavel Pecháček and Kevin Klose, the former president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in recognition of their contribution to democracy and freedom. The PM praised the two at a meeting on Tuesday marking the 20th anniversary of RFE/RL’s move to Prague from Munich, in which Mr. Klose – along with Václav Havel – played a major role. Mr. Pecháček worked for RFE after 1968 and in headed its Czech-language broadcasting in the early 1990s.
A court in Bratislava has upheld a verdict stating that the Czech Republic’s minister of finance, Andrej Babiš, was wrongfully listed as an agent in the files of the communist-era secret police, the StB. The Nation’s Memory Institute, which oversees Slovakia’s StB records, had appealed a previous verdict exonerating Mr. Babiš delivered last year. The ANO politician and business magnate was not in court for Tuesday’s ruling, which cannot be appealed.
Michel Platini has spoken of his emotion at presenting the 2014 UEFA President’s Award to Josef Masopust on Sunday, just one day before the Czech soccer legend died at the age of 84. The head of European football’s governing body said he had visited the one-time midfielder at his home in Prague to deliver the prize, which was previously bestowed on the likes of Bobby Charlton, Alfredo di Stefano and Johan Cruyff. Masopust was named European Player of the Year in 1962, the same year he scored in the World Cup final.
The first days of July are set to bring temperatures approaching the “tropical” 30 degrees Celsius to the Czech Republic, according to information posted on the website of the Czech Hydro-Meteorological Institute on Tuesday. The forecasters have also warned against the dangers of UV radiation caused by a marked weakening of the ozone layer expected between now and the start of next week.
There has been a large fall in the number of thefts of metal in the Czech Republic since a regulation was introduced in March barring the purchase of metal for cash, according to police statistics quoted by the Ministry of the Environment on Tuesday. The number of reported thefts from March to June this year was 55 percent down on the same period in 2014. Environment Minister Richard Brabec said he was glad that the first of a number of planned measures had produced such results.
Jakub Dovalil is stepping down as coach of the Czech Under 21 squad after the country’s football association decided not to renew his contract. The move comes after the hosts failed to get out of the group stage at the European Under 21 Championships, which were held recently in the Czech Republic. Czech FA boss Miroslav Pelta on Tuesday thanked Dovalil for his seven years at the helm of the junior team.
The Czech economy grew by 4.0 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2015, according to a revised estimate released on Tuesday by the Czech Statistics Office. A previous estimate issued at the end of May put the expansion of gross domestic product in the period at 4.2 percent. The estimate of quarter-on-quarter growth was also revised downwards, from 3.1 percent to 2.5 percent.