Polish Foreign Affairs Minister Radoslaw Sikorski is to visit the Czech Republic in mid-April, according to Czech government sources. Talks with his Czech counterpart Jan Kohout are expected to focus on bilateral relations, security concerns and energy security. Czech-Polish ties are traditionally good and the two countries cooperate closely within the Višegrad group of states, a loose economic alliance of Central and East European countries.
The Czech Foreign Ministry this week put to work an extensive cost-cutting plan, and closed down the embassy in Angola, the consulate in Montreal and the cultural Czech Centre in the German city of Dresden. Later this year, the ministry is also planning to close more embassies in several other countries. Earlier I spoke to deputy foreign minister Hynek Kmoníček and asked him which embassies will be affected by the ministry’s saving measures.
In two weeks’ time, news crews from around the world are set to descend on the Czech capital for the signing of an important deal between the United States and Russia on reducing their nuclear arsenals. The planned summit comes a year after America’s president, Barack Obama, outlined his policy on arms control in a major speech at Prague Castle.
The year 2009 was an eventful time for President Václav Klaus. He chaired several EU summits during the country’s presidency of the bloc, and he was the last man standing against the EU’s Lisbon treaty. On Monday, Václav Klaus launched a new book entitled Year Seven, reflecting his views of the events of that year.
Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer began a two-day tour to the US state of California on Tuesday. The first day includes a visit to the US high technology hub, Silicon Valley, where he is due to meet with investors and business leaders. The headquarters of the internet search company Google will be one of the stops. The Prime Minister is due later to speak at Stanford University and meet with former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, who now lectures at the university. Wednesday’s programme in Los Angeles includes a visit to the Czech community in the city.
The recently appointed first president of the European Union, Herman Van Rompuy, visited Prague on Friday. His first stop was the Office of the Government, where he held talks with the Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer. The meeting was dominated by economic issues, though the two men also discussed climate change and the situation in Haiti.
At a press conference in Prague on Thursday, Czech President Vaclav Klaus and visiting Polish President Lech Kaczynsky warned against a greater centralization of power in the European Union and argued that the Lisbon Treaty should not turn it into a federation ruled by a few heavyweights. The two leaders, who share Eurosceptic views, criticized the EU for allegedly being slow and inefficient in dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Haiti, which they blamed on the new working structure of the EU, where it was still not clear who was responsible for what. Both expressed themselves in favour of further enlargement saying the EU should not become a closed club.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Kohout says he will not be attending the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver due to the visa restrictions Canada imposed on Czech citizens last year. Speaking to Czech Television on Sunday, Mr Kohout stressed that the ministry was by no means unsupportive of the games, but that he had no reason to visit Canada as a minister – having been assured there would not be an opportunity for official meetings – and that as a private citizen it was unacceptable that he would apply for a visa. Czech President Václav Klaus has also said he will not be attending the Olympics due to the visa restrictions.
Czech ambassador in Ukraine, Jaroslav Bašta, will be relieved of his position on health grounds, Foreign Minister Jan Kohout confirmed on Sunday. The ambassador had made the request to leave after three years in Kiev and four in Moscow. Mr Bašta was accused in the Czech press of being involved in a scandal over the hand out of visas in the non-EU country. Part of the scandal concerned the choice of a private company to help with the visa process at the Lvov consulate. Mr Bašta denied any guilt.
The post of US ambassador to Prague has been unoccupied for almost a year, longer than it has ever been vacant before. American media outlets have reported that a previously tipped candidate, billionaire Marc Nathanson, will not now be taking up the position. The Washington Post reported that Mr Nathanson, who is a media tycoon, had had problems passing a security screening.