Czech Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Petr Šimerka and his Syrian counterpart, Diala El-Haj Aref, singed a social security agreement between the two countries in Prague on Monday. The deal will grant pensions to Czech nationals working in Syria and to Syrian citizens working in the Czech Republic. The agreement provides for equal treatment for nationals of both countries, adding up insurance periods, pension payments in the other country and prevents double taxation. The Czech-Syrian treaty is the first such agreement the Czech Republic has with an Arab country, the ministry said, noting it will affect some 350 persons in each country.
NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Admiral James Stavridis, met
the chief of Czech general staff, General Vlastimil Picek, on Monday to
discuss ways the Czech Republic can participate in the training of Afghan
security forces even if the Czech Parliament does not approve a planned
increase of Czech troops in that country. Admiral Stavridis said NATO
needed more Czech instructors to train the Afghan army and police as part
of NATO’s ISAF mission. During his two-day visit to the Czech Republic,
Admiral Stavridis will also meet President Václav Klaus and Prime
The Czech Republic has over 500 soldiers serving in Afghanistan, while this year the government is planning to send an additional 55 Czech troops. However, these plans have been opposed by the left-wing majority in Parliament.
The Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, has condemned Monday’s attacks in
Moscow’s metro. In a letter of condolence to his Russian counterpart,
Vladimir Putin, Mr Fischer said the two suicide bomb attacks were “a
deplorable act of hate”. The Czech prime minister noted that the
government of the Czech Republic, its citizens as well as himself
personally condemn all terrorist acts as unacceptable.
The Czech embassy in Moscow said no Czech citizens were among the victims of the attacks that killed at least 37 people at two metro stations in the Russian capital on Monday morning. The Czech chargé d’affaires in Moscow said they were checking all available lists of Czech nationals in Moscow, but no Czech victim had been reported.
The corruption watchdog Transparency International filed a lawsuit on Monday against the controversial mayor of the Prague 5 district, Milan Jančík, over contracts the town hall signed with debt recovery agencies. Transparency International said the contracts were concluded in breach of the law; the group also believes that contracts were disadvantageous for the district of Prague 5 which lost several dozen million crowns as a result. The police had already investigated the contracts, but found no law was breached.
The Czech government agreed on Monday to provide 1.5 billion crowns, or nearly 80 million US dollars, for strategic investment in health care, Prime Minister Jan Fischer told a news conference in Prague on Monday. Nine hospitals, including teaching hospitals in Prague, Brno, Olomouc and Ostrava, are supposed to receive the earmarked funds after the deal is agreed by the regions’ governors in early April, Mr Fischer added. The prime minister said the investment projects to be supported by the government were “central priorities” and that some of them were extremely urgent.
The European Commission is for now not going to ask EU member states to
impose visas on EU-bound Canadian diplomats in a bid to make Ottawa drop
visas for Czech citizens, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Celicia
Malmström said on Monday.
The news comes as a disappointment for Czech officials who were hoping that a summit of EU interior ministers would deal with the issue, and eventually recommend EU member states to pressure Canada into dropping the visa requirement for Czechs. Canada re-introduced visas for Czech citizens last year over increasing numbers of Czechs who sought asylum in that country. Earlier this month, a group of experts from the European Commission, Canada and the Czech Republic met in Prague to discuss the situation; Canadian officials said that Ottawa will consider lifting the visa requirement for Czechs only after streamlining its immigration system which might take years.
In related news, five hospitals run by the Central Bohemian Region filed a joint lawsuit against the Czech Health Ministry on Monday over the ministry’s refusal to allow their transformation into a non-for-profit holding. The region’s governor, David Rath, told reporters the hospitals have applied twice for permission to transform, but were rejected each time on the grounds of procedural faults. Mr Rath criticized the ministry for having failed to address the applications, and said the lawsuit should force the ministry to act. Meanwhile, the Czech Health Ministry rejected the criticism on Monday, saying the applications lacked the necessary paperwork.
The state of the Czech public finances is the factor in determining any possible date for the adoption of the euro, Governor of the Czech National Bank Oldřich Tůma said on Monday. Speaking at a conference on euro adoption in Prague, Mt Tůma also suggested 2015 as the earliest possible date the Czech Republic could adopt the common European currency. According to the Finance Ministry, the Czech Republic failed to fulfil two out of four criteria for euro adoption laid down in the Maastricht treaty; it exceeded the 3 percent limit of the state budget deficit, and it also failed to join the European exchange rate mechanism ERM II.
Human Rights and Minorities Minister Michael Kocáb stepped down on
Monday, a week after the Greens, who nominated him for the post, withdrew
support for the caretaker government. Mr Kocáb said he did not step down
immediately to make sure his resignation would not trigger a government
crisis. The Green Party withdrew its support for the cabinet after
Environment Minister Jan Dusík, stepped down last week over pressure
concerning controversial plans to modernize a major Czech coal power
Mr Kocáb, who announced his resignation on Friday, served as human rights and minorities minister since January 2009. His major efforts focused on improving the situation of Romanies as well as on equal opportunities for gays and other minorities. Prime Minister Jan Fischer said he would talk to the two strongest parties about the future of the post; he might also take over Mr Kocáb’s agenda himself until May’s general elections.
The chairman of the Green Party, Ondřej Liška, says his party will only return to the government if the Prime Minister requests that the state energy company submit a cleaner proposal for modernising the Prunéřov coal plant and amends the mining act. Mr Liška said Sunday that Green participation in the interim cabinet is only possible if the government is not “arm in arm with ČEZ”, and he added that he does not believe that Prime Minister Fischer is willing to meet his party’s conditions. The Green Party’s two nominees to the cabinet have resigned in the last two weeks. Environment minister Jan Dusík left his post because he said he was being pressured by the PM to approve the Prunéřov plant’s modernisation in spite of shortcomings in the plan. When Mr Dusík was replaced with a candidate they deemed unsuitable, the Greens then withdrew their other cabinet representative, Human Rights Minister Michael Kocáb. That post will now apparently be filled by Prime Minister Fischer himself. The Civic Democratic Party has also said that they will withdraw their ministers from the government if they or the Greens are not given the available cabinet seats.
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