Corporate interests are crushing democracy and the planet

Editors: Magdaléna Šipka, Tomáš Tožička

Authors: Maja Vusilović, Radek Kubala, Petr Gočev, Jiří Šteg, Peter Tkáč, Vít Kozák, Tomáš Tožička

Social Watch Czech Republic

At the vanguard

Working from home, a lifestyle forced upon many Czech citizens by the pandemic for a prolonged period of time, naturally brings certain advantages, but also negatives that have negative impact on women in particular. The notion of women as primary caretakers is still quite prominent in the CR, which means that women perform a disproportionate amount of housework compared to their partners.1 Such activities include all the unpaid, yet necessary work including care for the household, children and other family members. The situation was made worse by the closure of schools and pre-schools during the state of emergency, which meant that parents were forced to rely on their own resources and capacities.

Outside the private sphere, the crisis in social reproduction may be observed in the field of social services and health care, where women account for 85 % of all health-related jobs.2 The research conducted by the Academy of Sciences has shown that women, besides exhaustion from work, have encountered lack of support in terms of taking care of their families after the closure of schools and pre-schools, as using the services of special care institutions proved to be complicated.3 Reimbursement of care and health workers for their excessive workload during the pandemic has been carried out solely via bonuses.

The preference of accumulation and maintenance of profit over care, securing minimal health care and protection of human life was well seen on the example of workers, whose lives were not sufficiently protected during the pandemic. The Czech government focused on maintaining the economy instead of taking care of the employees in hazardous jobs. It has given up on securing decent working and living conditions needed for the workers to continue working and regain their strength or health.

Another unsurprising development during the coronavirus crisis has been the sharp increase in domestic violence,4 which, despite being one of the most alarming and disturbing features of the crisis, has been largely ignored. Homes, to which responsible female citizens had to retreat, and which became symbols of compliance with the rules of social distancing, have thus turned into sites of abuse and domestic violence. Similar difficulties were encountered by LGBTQI+ people that had to return to their homes, where they often experienced abuse due to their sexual orientation or identity.5

The CR is adapting mere cosmetic measures and refuses to consider the causes of the climate catastrophe

The Czech state applied for 200 bn. CZK from the European recovery fund for recovery after the pandemic.6 The Green Recovery Tracker organisation proved that the Czech government intends to invest only 22 % of the required budget for climate protection.7 That is 15 % less than the EU requires. BankWatch reached a similar conclusion in their analysis.8 The Czech government aims to overcome this flaw by adding funds from the state budget and, at the last minute, added projects focusing on revitalisation of brownfields, flood-prevention measures in Brno and the Capturing Rainwater programme. These programmes don't deal with the causes of the climate crisis.

The government has long been unable to fulfil the goals of the documents Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change in the Czech Republic (2015) and The outline of protection from the effects of drought, both passed by the previous government led by Social Democrats. The government has even failed to adapt an anti-erosion regulation or an amendment to the law on water that should have helped in tackling the effects of drought. Works on renewal of land, such as revitalization of streams or renewal of marshlands, have been progressing very slowly.9 The ministers focus on the programme for capturing rainwater as the primary solution, but that is not enough by any means. The Ministry of Agriculture also used the situation for expanding the number of locations considered for building dams by 21. However, with the coming of rains and the end of the most pressing phase of drought, the issue of reconstruction of land vanished from the political agenda and the debate on the future of Czech landscape was lacking for the rest of the year. It is by all means a short-sighted approach. All the more so since the ministries might actually find examples of good practice within the Czech Republic. In the municipality of Zdoňov near Náchod, the organization Živá voda’s project of holding water in the landscape was nominated for the prestigious international award, the Stockholm Water Prize.10

Living costs: unavailable and overpriced

In the last years, the Czech Republic has been in the forefront of the hypothetical competition for least available living. According to Deloitte, the acquisition of a 70m2 flat requires the savings of 11.4 average yearly incomes, while in Poland, Hungary and the United Kingdom, the number is 6 to 7.11 The burden of living costs on wages cannot keep rising forever. But the quality of living can still fall – be it in terms of longer commuting from the more distant, but relatively cheaper locations or the decrease in living space per person. There is no guarantee that people in less lucrative professions won’t be forced into permanent flat sharing, multi-generation living or cage-like mini-flats we know from Hong Kong, with all the following negative effect of starting families at a later date. All the profits from such unavailable living in the form of labour-less rent goes to the owners, often people who had either directly or via inheritance benefited from the social engineering of the post-1989 right, which had conducted an unprecedented transfer of property by selling municipal flats for a fraction of their market price.

In the World Bank list of countries12 in terms of the complexity of obtaining working permit, the Czech Republic ranks at 157th place of 186. This narrative has been ramped up by the developers, who have lobbied for the amendment of the construction law in favour of less respect to public interest in evaluation of construction projects.

Since the financial crisis that started in 2007, the market has been characterized by low, sometimes even negative interest rates by the central banks, and therefore uncommonly cheap commercial loans. The costs of holding land, the acquisition of which is funded by a loan, are therefore low. On the other hand, we expect a fast-paced rise in prices of flat units. The reason is that developers count on slow pace of construction, which, in the big cities, has led to an ongoing trend of rising prices – a trend that was not halted even by the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, since the beginning of which flats became more expensive by 8 %.13 The drive for maximum profit therefore makes developers postpone construction works – the later their project enters the market, the more can they expect to profit. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy: the expected rise in prices makes developers postpone construction and the lack of construction brings about the rise in prices. Such oligopolistic coordination among developers needs not take place in smoking rooms – socially damaging coordination of developers is a result of their similar expectations in the future and a unified (low) interest rate.

We propose to change the motivation of developers further towards an increase in construction. This could be done by state-led construction of flats, a tax on unused properties that were assigned for construction in regional planning.

It would also help to increase the share of property tax in the CR’s tax mix. Such a tax should be constructed at a progressive rate so that it wouldn’t affect poorer households and, on the contrary, so that it would affect luxurious properties in the big cities. Since the offer of such properties hasn’t been very elastic in comparison, the burden of the new tax would mostly fall on the shoulders of the owners of properties and lands, not the tenants and future buyers.

Militarization within the Czech society

Although the Czech Republic does not display some of the signs that we usually associate with militarized societies (wide spread of arms in the public, massive promotion of armed services in the public space, etc.), we may observe certain attributes of a militarized society.

One of the pieces of indirect evidence is the manner in which the Czech media report on the successes of the Czech arms industry. The recent acquisition of the Colt Holding Company by the Česká zbrojovka Group is an example. The transaction has been repeatedly depicted as a great success of the Czech company. The latest official data we have regarding export of Czech arms material consider 2019. The official statistics of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, published on July 21, 2020, make it clear that this “success” is to some extent due to export into authoritarian countries that violate human rights. As before, the beneficiaries include Mexico, Brazil, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, the Russian Federation, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.

According to the press release by the Česká zbrojovka, the company had record sales in the first 9 months of 2020. The figure in question amounts to 235 mil. USD, which is a 10.2 % year-on-year increase.14 After two year-to-year falls after 2016, when the export of Czech arms material hit its record high of 854 mil. USD, the 2019 export surged by nearly 93 mil. USD (from 657 mil. USD in 2018 to 750 mil. USD in 2019).15 The 2019 growth and the record sales of Česká zbrojovka in the first 9 months of the following year reflect the more general tendency of the Czech arms export. The 2017 and 2018 falls notwithstanding, the export shows a rising tendency – from 98 mil. in 2001, the first year of the steep surge, to 750 mil. in 2019.16

One of the major scandals of the past year was the quiet lift of the arms embargo previously imposed on Turkey. Following the Turkish invasion of Northern Syria, the CR and the EU first decided to halt all arms exports into Turkey. Soon afterwards, in February 2020, the Association of Defence and Security Industry started a campaign, which included medialized claims of its president Jiří Hynek that the rejection of export licenses (including export into Turkey) robbed Czech arms companies of “billions in sales”.17 The ministry actually bowed down to pressure and in April 2020, according to the statistics of the government of Netherlands, more than 10 mil. units of ammunition were exported to Turkey via Rotterdam.18 The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs then provided a weak excuse that the exports went to the areas, where “there are no longer clashes between the Turkish and the Kurdish forces”.19 It completely ignored the human rights situation in the regions occupied by the Turkish forces and the Turkish-supported militias.

We therefore recommend cutting down arms expenses, putting exports of arms and military material under parliamentary control and to re-evaluate our security goals so that they are in accord with the challenges of the 21st Century.

International partnership as a business for tax havens

A key indicator of partnership is the willingness to cooperate with poor countries and regions in their inclusive development. The key instrument is development aid, yet the Czech Republic has been lagging in this respect, failing to meet its obligations based on its joining the European Union, i.e. giving at least 0.33 % of the gross national income. This has not been the case and the Czech Republic has been providing the second lowest contribution of the OECD DAC countries: 0.13 % of the GNI.20 According to the latest official data, the Czech Republic contributed 306 mil. USD in 2019, which is a 2.6 % increase from 2018.

The Czech Republic has also been hardly cooperating with the poorest of developing countries. Although it should be contributing 0.15–0.2 of the GNI to the poorest countries (which would account for approx. 50 % of development aid), it has contributed only 0.03 of the GNI (23 % of the ODA).

The largest beneficiaries of Czech support is Bosnia and Herzegovina, followed by Turkey, due to its suppression of migration at the EU borders. The list continues with Ethiopia, Moldova, Georgia, Iraq and Afghanistan. The largest multilateral beneficiary is the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency).

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has clearly no concept of international affairs other than economic. The majority of Czech foreign ministers’ travels abroad has been conducted with the intention of promoting selected manufacturers and service providers on foreign markets. We might mention the mission of deputy minister Martin Tlapa to Myanmar, where the meeting took place “in the spirit of mutual interest in increasing the economic-commercial cooperation and identification of the main sectors for its further development.”21 The official Thai delegation at the IDET arms fair in Brno, organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence with the intention of promoting arms trade, took place in a similar vein.22 The visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ethiopia was depicted on the web page of the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic with unusual boldness as a “business mission with the Minister of Foreign Affairs”.23 The words of minister Petříček from February 25, 2020 indicate that the Czech so-called economic diplomacy would also include companies that reside in tax havens and have some facilities on our territory.24


1 POSPÍŠILOVÁ, Marie. Dopad pandemie na ženy ve zdravotnictví. [online]. 2020 [cit. 26. 05. 2021]. Available at:

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 NYKLOVÁ, Blanka. Domácí násilí za COVID-19: Když z pasti není úniku (a pomoc funguje jen někdy) [online]. 2020 [quoted 26. 05. 2021]. Available at:

5 RAMBOUSKOVÁ, Bohdana. Co dělají LGBT spolky během pandemie COVID-19? Je toho hodně, přesvědčte se sami. [online]. 2020 [quoted 31. 05. 2021]. Available at:

6 ČEJKOVÁ, Lucie. Řeší plán obnovy změny klimatu? Podle ekologů i opozice spíš jen na papíře. [online]. 2021 [quoted 16.05.2021]. Available at:

7 GREEN RECOVERY TRACKER. Czech republic. [online]. 2021 [quoted 16.05.2021]. Available at:

8 BANKWATCH. Assessment of the Czech Republic’s recovery and resilience plan. [online]. 2021 [quoted 16.05.2021]. Available at:

9 As for the ministers‘ failures in dealing with drought see KUBALA, Radek. Vláda v řešení sucha selhává, shodují se odborníci, ekologové i opozice. [online]. 2021 [quoted 16.05.2021]. Available at:

10 SLADKÁ, Michaela. Český projekt na záchranu vody v krajině je mezi finalisty „vodní Nobelovy ceny“. [online]. 2021 [quoted 17.05.2021]. Available at:

12 The World Bank Databank. Doing Business. Available at:

13 Ceny bytů. Český statistický úřad. Available at:

14 ČESKÁ ZBROJOVKA. CZG –Česká zbrojovka Group SE dosáhla za prvních devět měsíců roku 2020 rekordních výnosů 5,0 mld. Kč [online]. 2020 (quoted 26. 5. 2021). Available at:

15 ČTK. Export zbraní a vojenského materiálu loni stoupl na 15,9 mld. Kč [online]. 2020 (quoted 20. 5. 2021). Available at:

16 MINISTERSTVO PRŮMYSLU A OBCHODU. Výroční zpráva o kontrole vývozu vojenského materiálu, ručních zbraní pro civilní použití a zboží a technologií dvojího užití v ČR za rok 2019 [online]. 2020 (quoted 27. 5. 2021). Available at:

17 DANDA, Oldřich. Zbrojaři proti Petříčkovi: Česko vyklízí pole konkurenci [online]. 2020 (quoted 15. 5. 2021). Available at:

18 STOP WAPENHANDEL. Munitiedoorvoer naar Turkije via Nederland ondanks aangescherpt wapenexportbeleid [online]. 2020 (quoted 24. 5. 2021). Available at:

19 ŽÍDEK, Bohumír. Česko zrušilo embargo na vývoz zbraní do Turecka, které podporuje Ázerbájdžán v Náhorním Karabachu [online]. 2020 (quoted 29. 4. 2021). Available at:

20 OECD (2021). Available at:

21 MZV ČR. Návštěva náměstka ministra zahraničních věcí ČR Martina Tlapy v Myanmaru [Online]. 2019 [quoted 03.02.2020]. Available at:

22 MZV ČR. Delegace thajského ministerstva obrany navštívila veletrh IDET 2019 [Online]. 2019

23 Svaz průmyslu a dopravy. Podnikatelská mise s ministrem zahraničí do Keni a Etiopie [Online]. 2019 [quoted 2. 10. 2019]. Available at:

24 MZV ČR. Ministr Petříček ve Středočeském kraji navštívil firmu Linet, Centrum SVĚT i Vysokou školu Škoda Auto [Online]. 2019 [quoted 25. 2. 2020]. Available at: