Czech news in brief for December 5: Tuesday’s top headlines

education Czech schoolchildren’s math skills worsen since 2018

The latest worldwide Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) that tests mathematics, science, and reading literacy skills has shown that Czech primary and secondary school pupils’ math skills have dipped since 2018. Although they have reached their lowest level since 2003, the Czech schoolchildren’s math levels are still above average globally.

While East Asian nations excelled in math, Czech students also performed well in science and reading compared to the international average. Czechia’s chief school inspector Tomas Zatloukal noted this afternoon that, within Czechia, there were stark disparities in the results based on socio-economic backgrounds, impacted by Covid-19-driven school closures. Compared to 2018, the last PISA testing cycle before the pandemic, all surveyed countries worsened in their results except for Japan, South Korea, and Turkey.

weather Prague records warmest-ever autumn

The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute has confirmed that this year’s autumn in Prague 1’s Klementinum weather station marked the warmest since 1775 (when records began), with an average temperature of 13.6 degrees Celsius from September to November, 2.6 degrees above the 1991-2020 average. November’s average temperature was 7.1 degrees, surpassing the norm by 1 degree. October saw an average of 14.1 degrees Celsius, and September recorded 19.6 degrees Celsius – both were record-warm months. 

The second-warmest autumn was in 2006, when the temperature averaged 13.2 degrees Celsius. Autumn 2014 finished was the third warmest, with an average temperature of 12.8 degrees Celsius.

migration Czech interior minister rejects EU refugee quotas

The Czech Republic firmly rejects mandatory refugee quotas set by the EU, emphasized Interior Minister Vít Rakušan at the EU interior ministers’ meeting in Brussels this afternoon. In early October, representatives of the EU member states agreed on the last part of the pact, which is to reform migration and asylum policy.

The negotiations are now taking place in “trilogues,” i.e. between representatives of the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU. Rakušan insists on a stringent border procedure before entry to the EU. He previously said that the EU needs to tighten its policy on returning failed asylum seekers to their countries of origin.

statistics Prague’s population fluctuates throughout the week

An analysis of geolocation data from mobile operators reveals that approximately 200,000 more people live in Prague and 60,000 more in Brno than data from the Czech Statistical Office show. The Interior Ministry attributes these discrepancies to commuting patterns and residents failing to report changes of residence. The ministry intends to utilize this data for better planning of public services and office locations.

The data also show significant variations in population numbers throughout different days and times. For instance, in Prague there are 1,436,000 people at noon on Thursday, 1,070,000 on Sunday morning, and 1,227,000 on Sunday evening.

EU Czechia is against mandatory refugee quotas, Rakušan says

The Czech Republic’s Interior Minister Vit Rakušan has reiterated the country’s opposition to mandatory quotas for the redistribution of refugees. Rakušan made this statement at a meeting of EU countries’ interior ministers in Brussels, where they were discussing a new pact on migration and asylum.

The negotiations are currently in progress, and Rakušan emphasized the need for a clear and strict border procedure. The EU interior ministers previously reached an agreement on two key aspects of the migration reform, including the issue of solidarity, at their June meeting.

politics PM Fiala to address citizens on Dec. 26

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala will give an address to citizens on Dec. 26, instead of Jan. 1. This change will allow President Petr Pavel to return to the tradition of New Year’s speeches. Fiala stated that he is preparing a speech but will step aside to prioritize the president.

The tradition of New Year speeches began with the first Czechoslovak president, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. Previous presidents, including Václav Havel and Václav Klaus, also delivered speeches. Former president Miloš Zeman broke the tradition by giving his address on Dec. 26.

Healthcare Czech doctor’s protest could end Friday

Minister of Health Vlastimil Válek announced a potential end to doctors’ protests in the Czech Republic on Friday, stating an agreed-upon offer with the Czech Medical Chamber and health unions. The proposal includes salary increases for doctors ranging from CZK 5,000 to 15,000 per month based on education level.

Other hospital employees, including non-medical staff, would see a five percent increase. The agreement aims to be finalized on Friday, leading to the cessation of protests and withdrawal of overtime dismissals. Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s offer of CZK 9.8 billion, coupled with a special bonus from the General Health Insurance Company, facilitated the breakthrough in negotiations.

Hate speech Czech mayor under fire for ‘monkey’ slur

Prague’s police are investigating Řeporyje Mayor Pavel Novotný (ODS) for calling Palestinians “monkeys” on social media and suggesting their bombing. The now delected 100-word post on the X platform referenced a Jerusalem attack and came a day after Defense Minister Jana Černochová “liked” a similar post by Novotný, who has faced similar prosecutions in the past.

While Novotný’s father is Jewish, the ODS spokesperson called such statements unacceptable. Legal experts say each alleged hate crime requires assessing freedom of expression limits and incident context. Incitement bringing over two years imprisonment under the Criminal Code.

Tradition Today marks St. Nicholas festivities in Czechia

Children in the Czech Republic eagerly await visits today from St. Nicholas, the devil and an angel who will hand out sweets, fruit and small gifts on St. Nicholas’s Day. Traditionally, good children receive treats while naughty ones may find potatoes or coal. In some homes, the trio will read children their deeds and sins for the past year.

Organized events like concerts and gatherings celebrating the tradition will be held in towns and villages. One of the largest is a two-hour performance in Prague’s Old Town Square featuring competitions and surprises starting at 4 p.m.

culture Rapper Sheen most-listened to Czech artist on Spotify

Czech rapper Viktor Sheen claims the title of the most-listened artist of 2023 on Spotify in the Czech Republic, with his joint album “Roadtrip” alongside rapper Calin ranking as the most listened-to album. Globally, American singer Taylor Swift emerges as the most streamed performer on Spotify for the year.

Spotify data reveals a surge in the popularity of Czech and Slovak artists, with domestic music usage increasing by 37 percent compared to the previous year. Viktor Sheen, also known as Viktor Dundič, solidifies his position with five albums among the top-streamed in the Czech Republic, showcasing his enduring success on the local music scene.

Crime Czech football fans accused of rape released on bail

The last Czech citizen detained in Scotland following Sparta Prague’s Europa League match against Glasgow Rangers has been released on bail, confirmed Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman Daniel Drake. Earlier, three individuals, including Martin Pánek, husband of Miss Czech Republic director Tatana Makarenko, faced charges related to the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl after the match.

Pánek was released last Wednesday and returned to Czechia on Thursday. All four detainees are now free on bail, with two released last week and one previously for health reasons. The circumstances surrounding the arrests during the football event continue to unfold.

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