The European Union would like to develop a political dialogue with Cuba, depending on how Havana behaves in the area of human rights, the Czech foreign minister, Jan Kohout, said at a meeting in Prague on Thursday of EU foreign ministers and the Rio Group, of which Cuba is a member. The Czech Republic, currently presiding over the EU, is a strong critic of the Cuban regime, and was opposed to the bloc’s dropping of sanctions against the country last year. The EU is set to re-examine its policy on Cuba next month. Representatives of the Rio Group, which is made up of 23 Latin American and Caribbean states, attended a summit with the EU in Prague on Wednesday and Thursday.
A key European Union summit in Brussels next month will be chaired by the
prime minister of the Czech Republic, Jan Fischer, not the country’s
Eurosceptic president, Václav Klaus. The two men reached agreement on the
matter in a meeting at Prague Castle, quashing fears in Brussels that Mr
Klaus would helm June’s gathering of EU leaders. One of the main items on
the agenda will be completing ratification of the Lisbon treaty, a document
to which the Czech president is firmly opposed.
The question of who would chair the summit arose after the Czech government collapsed half-way through its presidency of the EU.
The Oscar winning Czech musician Markéta Irglová is planning to perform in the Czech Republic at the start of June as the special guest of the Irish singer Liam O’Maonlai. The two will play six dates in towns and cities around the country, including Irglová’s home-town of Valašské Meziříčí. She and another Irish musician, Glen Hansard, took the prize for best song at last year’s Academy Awards with Falling Slowly.
The volume of mortgages granted in the Czech Republic between January and April this year was one third down on the same period in 2008, according to figures released by the regional development ministry on Thursday. The fall has been attributed to caution on the side of lenders, and the fact potential home-owners are waiting to see if prices and interest rates fall further and are concerned about their ability to repay loans.
Austria will not remove restrictions on workers from the countries that
have joined the EU since 2004 during the current financial crisis, the
country’s president, Heinz Fischer, said on a visit to Prague on
Thursday. His host, Czech President Václav Klaus, said Austria’s current
bar on workers from new EU states was more symbolic than a real restriction
on Czechs who would like to work there. Austria and Germany are the only
old EU states who have maintained such a restriction on the free movement
of labour. The exception is set to come to an end in 2011.
Mr Fischer, who is in the Czech Republic on a two-day state visit, exchanged state honours with Mr Klaus. Austria’s head of state presented his Czech counterpart with an award for services to his country, while Mr Klaus gave his guest an Order of the White Lion. The far-right Austrian Freedom Party complained about the bestowing of the honour on the Czech president, who they said was anti-Austrian and anti-German.
The annual Bookworld Prague trade fair has got underway at the city’s Výstaviště centre. The theme of the 15th Bookworld is European literature, with writers from all 27 EU member states expected to appear between Thursday and the event’s close on Sunday. In 2008, 35,000 people attended the trade fair.
A demonstration planned for Saturday is not aimed at the recently appointed caretaker government, the head of the Czech confederation of trade unions told the interim prime minister on Thursday. Milan Štěch told Prime Minister Jan Fischer his members actually had issues with the previous government, specifically its plans to change the labour code and reform the pension system. Mr Štěch said the unions did not want any future Czech government to pursue such policies. Saturday’s demonstration will take place on the main square at Prague Castle.
The leader of the Green Party, Martin Bursík, says the Czech constitution should be amended to allow for the dismissal of the president. Speaking to the news website aktualne.cz, Mr Bursík said the Greens were preparing a constitutional amendment that would allow the removal of the head of state. The move comes in response to Mr Klaus’s current refusal to put his signature to the Czech Parliament’s ratification of the Lisbon treaty. After the Senate approved it last week, the president hinted he wouldn’t sign ratification until the document had been sent to the Constitutional Court by a group of Eurosceptic senators. He also said as long as Ireland had not ratified it, the Lisbon treaty was dead.
Czech footballer Tomáš Rosický resumed training with the Arsenal first team on Thursday. The midfielder has been out of the game for nearly a year and a half after suffering a tendon problem that required two operations. Rosický, who is 28, signed with the English club three years ago. He was also Czech captain before his long lay-off and has scored 19 goals in 68 appearances as an international.
Czech Television has to pay a tax bill of CZK 300 million (USD 15 million) by the end of next week, the news website ihned.cz reported. The tax authorities say the public broadcaster failed to pay the required tax on license fees received from viewers. For its part, the station has taken the Prague 2 tax office to court, saying checks it carried out were unlawful.
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