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.
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 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 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 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.
Meanwhile, experts are holding a two-day international conference on alternatives to right-wing extremism in Prague this weekend. The aim of the conference is to get social and environmental movements from Central Europe involved in looking for “Alternatives to right-wing extremism during social and environmental crisis”, as the conference is called. The first day involved a debate on the necessity of international cooperation among anti-fascist movements and their support across the borders of East European countries. The conference will also focus on preparations for the European Social Forum, which will be held in Istanbul on July 1-4.