Czech Cities are Bypassing the Ban on Christmas Markets. “It’s Stupid,” Says One Lawyer

Cities are looking for a way around the government’s ban on Christmas markets. One trick, already in use by the city of Most, is to rename the traditional event; in their case, the Christmas market is now the Winter Farmers Market. 

Lawyers say government measures allow for different loops. However, they consider the ban on Advent markets to be meaningless.

According to the daily Echo24, the cabinet of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) issued the ban before it was assessed by experts from the government’s legislative council.

The stalls were already standing in the squares, the merchants had bought goods, and last Thursday a government decree banning the Christmas markets came.

Some town halls immediately started counting losses. However, they did not give up in Most. Similarly, Prague 1 has transformed the Advent tradition into a cultural event, in which the government now allows the participation of hundreds of people. Both are likely to provide a way to circumvent government anti-pandemic measures.

“The measure is so stupidly written that this procedure is really possible,” lawyer Ondřej Dostál, who has successfully challenged some anti-pandemic measures in court in the past.

“For an incomprehensible reason, the measure is only aimed at the Christmas markets. The government should not have asked itself what it would ban, but what is the risk in comparison with, for example, traveling by tram or shopping in a shopping center,” Dostál added.

The government didn’t let the measures be judged by experts. “We did not receive the measures,” Petr Bezouška, a lawyer who sits on the government’s legislative council and teaches at the Faculty of Law of Palacký University, told Echo24.

“I understood from the fact that a kind of relaxed Christmas atmosphere connected with meeting friends, drinking and eating is problematic for the authors,” said Bezouška. At the same time, he wonders whether the Ministry of Health could not intervene in another way, for example by ordering curtains for stall customers.

Cities are now wondering how to proceed. “The new regulation makes no sense to us. We do not want to circumvent it, but at the same time we want to believe that we will be able to find some legal way not to leave self-employed people in the lurch,” said the mayor of Olomouc Miroslav Žbánek (ANO).

According to lawyer Ondřej Dostál, there is only one way to preserve the markets and not circumvent the measures. “The ban is unfounded. I don’t want to agree that he should get around. It must be canceled,” said Dostál.

Its abolition is unlikely. Due to the growing number of positively tested, the ban passed the Chamber of Deputies, and members of the future governing coalition abstained.

Due to the state of emergency, it cannot be assessed by the competent courts. Lawmakers would have to challenge the ban on Advent markets before the Constitutional Court. The government could reconsider the ban on Christmas markets but did not plan to do so on Monday.

“I am sorry we had to close the Advent markets. But other countries have done the same. We are no exception. It is a meeting place for a large number of people. The restriction of contacts is recommended by Czech experts as well as the Robert Koch Institute. We have a lot of infected and busy paramedics. Markets are a big risk,” wrote Health Minister Adam Vojtěch (for YES) on Twitter.

City halls that decide to circumvent the regulations, such as Most or Prague 1, do not seem to face major risks. According to lawyer Bezouška, they should just look after the details.

“If the markets were just renamed, the measures would be circumvented. But if the content of the market also changed and something else was sold than in the past, it probably wouldn’t be possible to object,” said Petr Bezouška.

New restrictions also apply to farmers’ markets. The organizers must ensure the spacing between the stands. Food for immediate consumption should only be given to vaccinated and vaccinated people. Farmers’ markets are also banned from drinking alcohol in public.

 

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