Democracy Digest: Votes, Visas and Voltage in Czechia
EU foreign ministers met in Prague this week, under the auspices of Czechia's presidency of the EU Council, to discuss calls from CEE and Nordic member states to close the bloc's door to Russians. Most have already stopped issuing travel documents to Russians and Belarusians, and are now seeking to convince their partners that Schengen visas are not only an undeserved privilege but also a major security risk, given the infiltration of Russian intelligence across Europe. Yet the likes of Germany and France reiterated warnings against collective punishment and the ill-effects on opponents of Vladimir Putin. The ministers did not agree on a ban, but the right of member states to apply restrictions was approved, as well as a request to re-examine already issued long-term visas. A plan put forward by Brussels to make the visa application process for Russians longer and more expensive was also endorsed. Ukraine's foreign minister slammed the "half-hearted" effort.
Despite a thriving export business, Czechia now has the highest electricity costs in Europe in purchasing power parity terms (PPS), a survey showed. The Household Energy Prices Index for July shows the average price in Prague at 52.15 cents per kilowatt-hour, ahead of London (51.85) and Rome (46.85). Neighbouring Poland (31.83), Slovakia (23.51) and Hungary (16.20) all enjoy far lower prices. In unadjusted terms, households in Prague are paying the fifth highest price in Europe of 21.74 cents. The country's gas prices sit in a similar spot in PPS terms.
The numbers shine a spotlight on Czechia's large electricity exports, which also rank fifth in Europe. That will only increase the pressure on the centre-right government to stick a windfall tax on energy companies, as well as accelerate a push to...
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