In the UK and France, it’s Father Christmas (Santa Claus) or Père Noël who brings toys to children for Christmas. In Germany, it’s the Christkind (Christ Child) who delivers the gifts.
But across Europe, it’s really the Czech Republic who delivers most of the toys for children come Christmastime.
According to a new report issued by Unicredit Bank, the Czech Republic exported more than two billion euro (50 billion crowns) worth of toys in this year. That makes it Europe’s leading toy distributor, despite the smaller size of the country compared to some of its neighbors.
“Toys are one of the most popular Christmas gifts in Czech households,” said UniCredit spokesperson Petr Plocek.
“However, Czech manufacturers do not just deliver gifts under local Christmas trees; thanks to the export of model sets, dolls, and miniatures, we are a European toy supermarket.”
Perhaps ironically, however, it isn’t local Czech brands that are doing the most exporting from the country.
The Czech Republic has risen to the position of Europe’s leading toy manufacturer largely thanks to brands like Denmark’s LEGO, which has shifted a large portion of their production to the Czech Republic in recent years.
LEGO and similar plastic toys account for two-thirds of the Czech Republic’s toy output, though the country is also a leading producer of miniature sets and dolls.
While the Czech Republic produces the most toys in Europe, however, they don’t spend nearly as much on toys as their neighbors; the average Czech household spends 11% less on toys than the EU average.
Though major international toy brands like LEGO, Playmobil, and Ravensburger have production facilities in the Czech Republic, toy parts are typically manufactured elsewhere before being assembled, packaged, and distributed from the Czech Republic.
Some of the larger Czech toy manufacturers include ABAfactory, Abrex, Dino Toys, and Merkur, among many others.
The Czech Republic may follow Austria’s lead in pushing for an end to daylight saving time in Europe being delayed until April 2021. Czech senators have been discussing a European Union directive under which the change would come in at the start of April next year.
Jan Kněžínek, a member of the ANO senators group, told the Czech News Agency that the Czech Republic was likely to follow the lead of Austria, which currently holds the presidency of the EU.
Czech senators say ending daylight saving time in 2019 is unrealistic in view of the impact it will have on national regulations and argue for coordinating Prague’s approach with those of neighbouring states.
However, the Czech government has said it wants to maintain winter time all year round but Germany is in favour of summer time.
The vote on Friday saw only 92 opposition legislators backing the motion, well short of the 101 needed to topple Babis, an agrichemicals mogul pegged by Forbes magazine as the second-wealthiest Czech.
It followed allegations that the populist billionaire had kidnapped his own son to obstruct a high-profile fraud case, in which both of them were implicated.
The vote came just five months into the fragile government’s term and was supported by six opposition parties.
Babis faces charges of misusing $2.25m in EU subsidy for a luxury resort and farm, which he transferred to relatives, including his son, Andrej Babis Jr.
“The government should be headed by an ethical, moral, and decent person who is considered credible even by his political opponents. I do not see such a person heading it,” Ivan Bartos, chairman of the opposition Czech Pirate Party, said in Parliament during the vote.
While the opposition called for the prime minister to step aside to allow an independent investigation into the allegations, it failed to gain the support of at least one of the two coalition partners needed to win a simple majority.
The Communist Party voted in favour of Babis while MPs from the Social Democratic coalition abstained from the process, assuring a win for the ruling government.
“The government is successful and I want to say … it has our confidence. But it is obvious that the government is burdened by the circumstances surrounding the prime minister,” Interior Minister Jan Hamacek, leader of the Czech Social Democratic Party, said.
He assured a police investigation into the allegations against Babis will take place. Before the vote, he had told reporters that his party is open to an early election if required.
The Czech Republic has maintained the lowest unemployment rate in Europe over the past two years, and it keeps getting lower.
The Czech unemployment rate fell to 2.8% in October, according to data released today by the Czech Labor Office.
The number represents a new 20-year low, topping the previous 2.9% reported in June of this year, and the lowest rate of unemployment recorded in the country since 1997.
In October, there were 215,622 registered jobseekers in the Czech Republic, down nearly 10,000 from September and a whopping 55,000 year-on-year.
According to the Czech Labor Office, there is currently “massive interest” among employers to recruit new employees. The tight labor market has led many to try to fill positions by offering shorter working hours or part-time employment.
The highest unemployment rate in the Czech Republic in October was reported in the Moravian-Silesian region at 4.4%, while the lowest was in the Pardubice region at 1.8%.
The numbers released by the Czech Labor Office may differ from numbers reported by the Czech Statistical Office or Eurostat due to the methodology used to gather them. The Labor Office uses a raw calculation of registered unemployed versus the general working-age population, while other organizations may take into account additional factors.
According to the latest numbers published by Eurostat (September 2019), the unemployment rate in the Czech Republic was 2.3%, a full percentage point below next-lowest Germany and Poland.
Not only is the Czech unemployment rate a new record; job vacancies in the Czech Republic reached a record high last month, and the country features the highest job vacancy rate in the EU according to Eurostat.
Not a bad time to be on the Czech job market.
Is Strava art a thing of the past? Not in the Czech Republic, which marked the 100th anniversary of its former iteration, Czechoslovakia, on Sunday with a massive GPS doodle representing the two-tailed lion that is one of the country’s national symbols.
The project, called Lvi Stopa (which translates as Lion’s Footprint), was a collaboration between the Czech auto maker Skoda and We Love Cycling, and supported by a number of other national organizations. It involved tracking a complicated route that spanned almost the entire width of the country, using 150 cyclists.
This year’s potato harvest is expected to be one of the poorest in decades. Due to the prolonged period of drought, the total potato harvest this season will be around 20 percent lower than in the previous year.
Last year, Czech farmers harvested some 820,000 tons of potatoes, while this year, the yield is expected to stop at 645,000 tons, says the Czech Association of Potato Growers. The lowest harvest over the past ten years was that of 2016, when the yield dropped to 604,000 tons.
The total area of potato fields in the Czech Republic has gone down this year by around 2.3 percent, but the poor yield was mainly due to the unusually hot and dry season.
Adverse weather conditions have also resulted in lower potato harvests in all of Europe’s main potato-growing countries, including Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. These countries are facing a 30-percent drop in production.
According radio.cz, agrarian specialist Petr Havel says the price of potatoes is likely to double as a result of the poor harvest.
Decmn, Czech Republic: Once an ominous harbinger of hard times and even famine due to critically low water levels, a massive “hunger stone” embedded deep in the Elbe River has reappeared in the Czech Republic after Europe’s long, dry summer.
The boulder in the town of Decin, north of the capital, Prague, is roughly the size of a van and bears the foreboding inscription, “If you can see me, then weep”.
Boatman and riverside innkeeper Franz Mayer etched the words in German – “Wenn du mich siehst, dann weine” – during a period of low water in 1904 in the days when the country was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
“Over the centuries, many people earned their living on the Elbe as rafters, and when there wasn’t enough water to float their rafts, they lost their livelihoods,” Vlastimil Pazourek, head of the museum in Decin, told AFP.
“The rafters engraved the dates of those bad years on the soft sandstone boulders typical for this region, hence the name ‘hunger stone’,” Pazourek said.
About 20 such boulders, engraved with markers and dates going back centuries, can still be found on the banks of the Elbe, a major central European waterway running from the Czech Republic through Germany to the North Sea.
Marked “1616”, the hunger stone on the river’s left bank in Decin, which lies 20 kilometres from the German border, bears one of the oldest dates.
A lot of water has since flowed under the bridges on the Elbe, which is no longer the same river that Franz Mayer knew when he left his etched lament.
The riverbed has been deepened to ease navigation and its flow has also been altered by nine dams built during the 20th century on the Vltava, its main tributary.
At three metres (10 feet), its average water level in Decin today is about 1.5 metres lower than in 1904, according to Pazourek.
Parts of the hunger stone are usually visible for more than 100 days a year when the water level on the Elbe drops to 160 centimetres, he said.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš met with President Zeman at Prague Castle on Sunday to present him with the new cabinet line-up. Mr Babiš said after the meeting that his advisor and former labour and social affairs minister František Koníček will not be part of the new cabinet. However, he refused to disclose the names of ANO nominees for ministerial posts.
The appointment of the new government may be postponed due to a dispute over the Social Democrat’s choice of foreign minister, Miroslav Poche, who is opposed by the president and by the Communist Party.
The president claims that Mr. Poche, who had openly supported his opponent, Jiří Drahoš, in the recent presidential elections, is soft on migrants. Mr. Zeman said he will meet with Mr Poche next week and ask him to reconsider his nomination.
On January 12 -13 Czechs will go to the polls to elect the country’s next head of state. The incumbent president, Miloš Zeman is running for a second term in office, challenged by a host of candidates – including politicians, business leaders, and activists.
Czech law stipulates that in order to qualify for the ballot, candidates must gather 50,000 signatures from citizens, or win support from twenty deputies or ten senators. The candidates must file their applications and hand over the respective signatures in support of their candidacy to the Interior Ministry 66 days before the election in order to give the ministry time to verify a sample of the signatures.
President Miloš Zeman who is fighting for re-election as an independent candidate announced on Monday that he had collected 113, 000 signatures in his support, telling fans that he was fit and ready to challenge his rivals for the top post. His age and ailing health appear to be his main drawbacks.