Allocations from the EU’s proposed recovery fund should be based on the downturn in countries’ growth due to the coronavirus crisis and not on the basis of their past economic performance, according to Czech PM Andrej Babis.
“We will see the impact of the pandemic next year and this impact will be mainly in GDP. So this should be the most, the biggest criteria,” he said on Friday on arrival for a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels to discuss a joint recovery plan.
The Czech Republic “was one of the best on unemployment, one of the best-concerning debt to GDP and also we have growth – and it is not possible to penalize successful countries because they were successful,” Reuters quoted him as saying. “Money should be distributed correctly and fairly,” the PM added.
“The approval of the agreement and the EU budget for the next period is positive news for the domestic economy, as the total amount of money allocated to the Czech Republic will be higher than proposed in the original plan,” said ING Bank’s chief economist Jakub Seidler.
According to Deloitte’s chief economist for the Czech Republic, David Marek, the adoption of the recovery fund, albeit in a compromised form, is essential for the Czech Republic.
“For the Czech economy, it is fundamental that thanks to this fund, the recovery of European economies can be faster and more sustainable,” he said.
After almost five days of often tense negotiations, EU leaders reached a “historic” deal on the bloc’s long-term budget and coronavirus recovery package to the tune of €750 billion to rebuild EU economies.
The deal earmarks huge sums for providing funds to businesses to rebound hurt by the economic collapse caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, roll out new measures to reform economies over the long haul, and invest to help protect against “future crises”.
The European Commission will borrow the money on financial markets and distribute just under half of it — €390 billion — as grants to the hardest-hit members of the bloc, with the rest, provided as loans.
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The Czech Republic is interested in having normal relations with Russia, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis told CTK on Wednesday.
“We are interested in normal relations with Russia,” he stressed. He expressed hope that the issues arising in the relations between both states would be regulated on the outcomes of mutual talks. He added that the Czech Republic approaches the organization of such talks “very responsibly.”
Babis expressed hope that the Russian-Czech talks stipulated under the 1993 Friendship and Cooperation Treaty would lead to the meeting between Russian and Czech leaders. “The fact that the Czech-Russian relations are not ideal is not surprising neither to us nor to Russians. This is why we have agreed to begin Czech-Russian consultations,” the PM noted.
During the talks, the parties will assess the state of Russian-Czech relations and regulate the existing disputes. The Czech government is interested in developing cooperation between both states, Babis added.
The Czech PM’s words came as a follow-up to the earlier statement made by Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that so far, no high-or top-level talks are planned between Russia and the Czech Republic.
When asked about the state of Russian-Czech relations due to recent events, namely the arrest of Ivan Safronov, advisor to the head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, for alleged handover of sensitive information to the Czech special services, Peskov mentioned another incident: the demolition of the monument to Soviet marshal Ivan Konev in Prague.
“Recently, our relations with the Czech Republic have been marred by certain events and certain unfriendly steps taken by the municipal and Czech government,” Peskov noted. “This has had a negative effect on the general state of our bilateral relations, however, Russia calls for good relations with all countries, including the Czech Republic,” the Kremlin spokesman said.
The border between the Czech Republic and Slovakia could be the first to reopen during the coronavirus crisis in what could end up looking a lot like former Czechoslovakia, said Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovič.
“About three weeks ago, I approached the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš about this issue, and as the situation has currently improved, we could be the first to open the borders,” said the Slovak prime minister in an interview with the pluska.sk.
Matovič also referred to the “possibility of creating something like Czechoslovakia again so that the first borders that fall within Central Europe are between Slovakia and the Czech Republic.”
At the same time, the Slovak prime minister admitted that he would like this to happen as soon as possible, but currently, there is a technical problem.
“Czechs have a rule that if someone enters their territory and spends less than 24 hours there, they do not have to get tested. What might happen is that if someone wants to get to Slovakia, the individual could go through the Czech Republic and thus avoid quarantine and testing. That could cause disaster in Slovakia very quickly,” said Matovič.
The Slovak prime minister explained that Slovaks living in, for example, Sheffield, England, could start traveling to Slovakia via the Czech Republic without being checked.
Indeed, a group of Slovak Romas living in the United Kingdom returned to the country some time ago. As they did not comply with the quarantine rules, COVID-19 has started to spread in five Roma settlements in eastern Slovakia, leading the authorities to lock down these areas.
Martin Klus, the deputy Slovak minister of foreign affairs, has previously confirmed that negotiations about easing the situation on the borders are underway between Czechia, Slovakia, and Austria.
“We can create a mini-Schengen area,” said Klus, predicting that the plan could take place as soon as this summer. A crucial prerequisite will be a positive development in the epidemiological situation in the three countries.
The state of emergency in the Czech Republic is likely to end on May 17, as the government will not request its further extension, said PM Andrej Babiš in an interview with Prima Television on Sunday.
On Monday, the government will discuss further changes in the wearing of face masks. According to the Minister of the Interior, Jan Hamáček, they could be obligatory only in closed public spaces, such as shops, offices, or public transport.
“It’s important to understand that the virus will still be here and we can tighten the measures again,” stated Hamáček.
According to the Prime Minister, the Czech Republic has managed to prevent the uncontrolled spread of the COVID-19 disease. “We were the first country to suspend flights to Italy and other countries and introduce the mandatory wearing of face masks. Moreover, we are the second country that is relaxing emergency measures,” Babiš pointed out.
According to Hamáček and Babiš, face masks could be mandatory only indoors: “It is necessary to discuss how to proceed with the face masks. They could be mandatory indoors, ie in shops, cinemas, and public transport. Outdoor, the government will only recommend continuing wearing them,” Hamáček added.
From Monday, May 11, all beauty services will be able to reopen, customers in restaurants will have to sit at least 1.5 meters from other tables, but they won’t have to wear facemasks while eating and drinking.
Cinemas and theaters can reopen on May 11 as well. Audiences attending movie screenings and theater performances will be limited to 100 people.
The Czech Republic had 8,095 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection by Sunday morning. So far 4,448 people have recovered and 276 people have died.
The first scheduled flight to be resumed from the Prague Airport will be KLM’s between Prague and Amsterdam in early May.
The carrier officially announced it on Tuesday morning.
The first KLM plane should land in Prague on May 4, at 10:40. KLM will deploy its smallest aircraft: the Embraer E-175 for 88 passengers.
From the beginning of July, the company should expand the connection up to four flights a day according to current sales.
Prague Airport spokeswoman Kateřina Pavlíková said that “as soon as the airlines show interest in flying to Prague again, we are ready to start handling almost immediately.”
KLM is an exception among carriers. Today, for example, Ryanair extended its shutdown for another week. The Irish-based company scheduled to launch a large part of the flights from Prague on May 8. The next possible date is May 15.
Today, the only scheduled flight with regular passengers in Prague has been the one to Minsk, operated by Belavia. Together with Bulgaria Air, these are the only two airlines with regular operations at Vaclav Havel Airport.
Based on a new survey by the research agency Behavio, almost two-thirds of Czechs (63 percent) intend to spend this year’s summer holiday in the Czech Republic, even if it would be possible to travel abroad.
Around a fifth of Czechs are not going on vacation this year.