An informal meeting of EU agriculture ministers is underway in the Moravian city of Brno. The main issue on the agenda is a controversy over the current division of subsidies within the block and plans for equal payments after 2013. The EU states who joined in 2004 complain that five years after EU accession they are entitled to only 60 percent of the subsidies afforded to old members. Czech farmers say their livelihood is threatened due to unequal competition within the block and together with farmers in Poland and Hungary are pushing for equal payments before 2013. The governments of newcomer states are free to top up farming subsidies by another 30 percent from state coffers, but their generosity depends on the state of individual countries’ finances.
The Czech EU presidency on Monday issued a statement calling elections in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia “illegitimate” and expressing full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia. The EU does not accept the legality of the election, nor its result, and considers this development a setback in the search for a peaceful and lasting settlement of the situation in Georgia, the statement says. Russia recognized South Ossetia as an independent state after its five-day war with Georgia in August last year and has been trying to consolidate its hold on the region. Sunday’s election is reported to have been won by parties close to the pro-Moscow leader of South Ossetia, Eduard Kokoyev.
A public funeral service for the late Czech singer and actor Waldemar Matuška is to be held on Prague’s Žofín Island on June 18th., the CTK news agency reported on Monday. The popular Czech singer, who was 76, died on Saturday in his home in Miami, Florida. Waldemar Matuška gained popularity in the 1960s and ‘70s recording a number of big hits and starring in several movies including the award-winning 1968 film All My Good Countrymen. He left communist Czechoslovakia for the United States in 1986 and settled in Miami, Florida. He last visited Prague in 2007.
A seminar on extremism in Prague has indicated that many Czech towns and
municipalities would welcome advice from experts on how to fight extremism,
the ctk news agency reported on Monday. Some of the mayors present
suggested the Interior Ministry should have an expert on extremism on its
staff who would advise them how to legally ban extremist events. Past
attempts to do so have frequently been overturned by courts of law, on the
grounds that they are poorly justified. The Interior Ministry is currently
preparing a manual to help municipalities cope with extremist activities.
The former government of Mirek Topolánek approved a strategy to fight growing extremist in early May, and the Interior Ministry is currently in the process of setting up a team of experts to fight extremism.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has introduced an Internet registration system for visa applicants intended to ensure equal access and reduce the risk of corruption. The system was introduced in Vietnam after it emerged that Vietnamese applicants were paying local agencies high bribes to get on a waiting list for a visa application. The system will now gradually be extended to other countries, starting with China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan.
People from the Czech Republic were allegedly among the users of a widespread international child pornography network that was broken up by the German police in April, the iDnes.cz web site reported Monday. In cooperation with their German colleagues, the Czech police are reported to have carried out several dozen raids confiscating 27 computers and more than 1700 CDs, DVDs, flash discs and memory cards. According to iDnes, searches were carried out across the country. Police have not revealed how many Czechs are suspected of having been involved in the child pornography network. According to the BBC, the international child pornography ring had links to Canada and the USA.
The U.S. broadcaster Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty on Monday formally handed over the keys of its former headquarters at the top end of Wenceslas Square to the building’s new tenant, the National Museum. The museum, located just across the street and in desperate need of new premises, has big plans for the imposing glass and chrome building. It will house over 3,000 square meters of exhibition rooms, a museum restaurant and shop, and a conference and multimedia room for an audience of nearly 500. The museum is planning to throw its doors open to the public on the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in November. Radio Free Europe has moved to new headquarters on the suburbs of the city for security reasons.
The leader of the right-wing Civic Democrats Mirek Topolánek has urged supporters to go to the polls in elections to the European Parliament, saying that the creation of a new right-wing faction in the EP depends on the outcome of the vote. Over the weekend Mr. Topolánek met with British Conservative Party leader David Cameron and representatives of the Polish Law and Justice Party to discuss the possibility of forming a strong centre-right faction which they say would “provide an alternative to the current federalist trend”. The three parties say they share a common vision of Europe as a dynamic, flexible alliance of individual members rather than a single European “super-state”. Mr. Topolánek said he hoped that together the three parties would win at least 50 seats in the EP, which would be sufficient to form a new faction.
Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will support the Czech Social Democrats at the close of their EP election campaign, party leader Jiří Paroubek told journalists on Monday. Mr. Schroeder is expected to make an appearance at several public rallies in Moravia in the coming days. So far the Social Democrats' election campaign has been overshadowed by the egg-war that young people waged against them in a number of Czech towns and cities.
Agriculture ministers of 17 EU countries arrived in Brno on Sunday for a three-day informal conference on the future of the bloc’s agriculture policy, held as part of the Czech EU presidency. Among other issues, the ministers will debate the system of direct payments to agriculture producers in individual EU countries. The system currently grants higher subsidies to farmers from the old EU states, which is something the Czech Republic and several other new members of the EU would like to change.