Hello and welcome to Radio Prague with me, Ruth Fraňková. July 5 is a public holiday in the Czech Republic and on the occasion we are bringing you a special programme, featuring in-depth interviews with two of the recipients of this year’s Gratias Agit awards for promoting the good name of the Czech Republic abroad.
Otto Jelinek (75) is in the highly unusual position of being ambassador to the city of his birth. Canada’s envoy to the Czech Republic was born in Prague during WWII but fled with his family after the Communist takeover of 1948. Fourteen years later, he returned to the city as a Canadian – winning gold with his sister Maria at the World Figure Skating Championships in front of a delighted “home crowd”.
Canada has announced its decision to lift visas for Czech nationals as of
November 14. The Canadian ambassador to Prague, Otto Jelínek, made the
announcement at a press briefing on Thursday saying the move had been
linked to the introduction of a stricter asylum law in Canada. Visa-free
travel will be possible for a period of up to six months.
Ottawa reimposed visas on Czechs in 2009 following a wave of Czech asylum seekers. It had come under increasing pressure from Prague to remove the travel restriction, with Czech officials linking the issue to the country’s approval of a key trade agreement between Canada and the EU.
The Globe and Mail has voiced reservations regarding the appointment of Czech-born Otto Jelínek as Canada’s ambassador to the Czech Republic. The paper says the communist refugee, world-champion figure skater and Mulroney era cabinet minister returned to the Czech Republic in 1994 where he spent 18 years and developed a wide range of business and personal connections which questions his ability to represent and advocate for Canada. The Globe and Mail moreover points out that Mr. Jelínek was associated with a still unresolved corruption scandal linked to the suspect acquisition of fighter jets for the Czech military.
The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has brought over 1,000 American experts in tourism to Prague this week. Their goal is to become specialists on the Czech Republic and other Central European countries with the help of sightseeing tours, seminars, and a trade fair at which Czech and Central European travel agencies are presenting their holiday packages.
The Czech Republic currently has several institutions that promote it abroad. CzechInvest and CzechTrade, for example, focus on business and economics. CzechTourism is self-explanatory, and the country's numerous Czech Centres around the world mainly concentrate on culture. But the work of these agencies has never been co-ordinated. Until now that is. On Wednesday the government announced that Czech-Canadian Otto Jelinek is to become the country's first International Co-ordinator for Economic Activities.