Canada’s Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has called on the Czech government to crack down on unscrupulous operators believed to be behind a massive surge in the number of refugee claimants arriving at Canadian airports. The increase, believed to emanate from the Czech Republic’s Roma community, began in late 2007 when Canada lifted the visa requirement for Czech visitors. In 2008, there were 853 Czech nationals seeking Canadian protection from alleged persecution at home, a staggering close to 1,000 per cent increase on the previous year.
A court in Pardubice, eastern Bohemia, acquitted Thursday a reporter of a neo-Nazi webzine who was accused of promoting racial hatred. The court overturned a verdict by a lower court which sentenced the man to three years in jail. The court also changed the sentence of another defendant in the case from two years in prison to a suspended sentence.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg began a two-day working visit to Belarus on Thursday. One of the main points on the agenda is the EU’s Eastern Partnership scheme which has been championed by the Czech EU presidency, and which will be formally unveiled in Prague on May 7. The project is to help forge closer links with six former Soviet republics and provide a platform for discussing visa agreements and free trade deals. Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are expected to be part of the project but the extent to which Belarus will participate is not yet certain due to criticism of the authoritarian regime of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. The European Commission has recommended that a decision on Mr Lukashenko’s attendance of the event be postponed until the last minute.
The Czech EU presidency has criticized the draft of the final declaration of a UN conference on racism, the DPA news agency reported on Thursday. Czech officials expressed discontent over the use of the terms “religion” and “occupied territories” in the final declaration of the conference which will start in Geneva on Monday. Several Muslim countries have attempted to modify the final declaration so that it condemns Israel. The EU had previously threatened to boycott the event while the US, Canada, Israel and Italy have already pulled out.
Three Czech musicians took part in Wednesday’s concert by the YouTube symphony orchestra in Carnegie Hall in New York City, the Czech News Agency reported. A Czech violinist, a violist and a cellist were among 96 musicians from 33 countries, selected by experts and YouTube viewers from more than 3,000 people who applied to join the orchestra early at the end of last year.
The Czech Republic won a case of international arbitration against the Israeli firm Phoenix Action over nearly one billion crowns, or almost 50 million US dollars, the Czech Finance Ministry said on Thursday. The Israeli company pressed charges against the Czech state at a court of arbitration in Paris for having failed to protect its 2001 investment in a Czech machinery company, ČKD Blansko. The outgoing finance minister, Miroslav Kalousek, said the court rejected the claims at the beginning of the arbitration in September but the ministry only received the final decision on Thursday.
Three Czech political parties on Thursday offered the PM of the caretaker government, Jan Fischer, their candidates for cabinet positions. The Civic Democrats nominated five ministers, including Tomáš Uvíra as the new finance minister; the Greens came up with three potential members of the new cabinet, while the Social Democrats offered their nominees for six ministries including Jan Kohout as the new foreign minister and Štefan Fule as the deputy PM for European affairs. Mr Fischer asked for a week’s time for consultations before he announces the line-up of the caretaker government to the president, Václav Klaus. The Christian Democrats rejected the opportunity to nominate their own candidates, while the Communists were left out of the nomination process.
Belgium will lift labour market restrictions in May for Czechs and citizens of other new members of the EU, the Belgian daily La Libre Belgique reported on Thursday. Belgium is one of the four old member states of the European Union that has kept work restrictions for countries that joined the EU after the fall of communism. Denmark had announced earlier it would also lift the restrictions at the beginning of May. The only two EU countries that require Czech citizens to have special work permits are now Germany and Austria.
A court in Prague will re-open the case of sexual abuse by Qatari prince Hamid bin Abdullah al-Sani, who was sentenced to 2.5 years in jail for having sex with underage girls in 2005. Czech authorities later extradited the man to his homeland on condition that his prosecution would continue but the case was halted by Qatari officials. The Prague Municipal Court requested an explanation which arrived last year but was found insufficient, a spokesman for the court said. The judge therefore requested Mr al-Sani’s presence before the court in December this year for further proceedings.