The foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary
on Thursday criticized Switzerland for its decision to introduce
immigration quotas for eight EU member countries of central and Eastern
Europe. The joint statement, adopted on the sidelines of a NATO
officials’ summit in Brussels, was reportedly initiated by Czech Foreign
Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. The foreign ministers of the four countries
said they hoped that Switzerland would reconsider the move.
Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU but is part of the bloc’s Schengen zone of free movement, will cap immigration from eight central and Eastern European countries beginning May 1; the country will annually grant some 2,000 residency permits to Czechs, Slovaks, Poles and citizens of other six post-communist countries.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych beat Japan’s Kei Nishikori 2:6, 6:2, 6:4 in the third round of the Monte-Carlo Masters event on Thursday, and advanced to the tournament’s quaterfinals. Berdych, ranked seventh in the world, dropped two serves to lose the first set but hit back and wrapped up the game in two hours. In the next stage, the 26-year-old Czech will face world number four Andy Murray of the UK.
Prague City Hall has toned down its campaign to attract British “Olympic avoiders” to the Czech capital during the London Summer Olympics, the Czech daily Hospodářské noviny reported on Thursday. The campaign presents Prague as a destination where Londoners can take part in the “Prague games” events such as panoramathon, heavy-weight shopping, kafkarate, free-style kissing and others. However, Prague City Hall decided to drop two motifs – synchronized drinking and morning slalom, alluding to drinking and partying – over the UK’s ban of associating alcohol with sports in advertising.
The Czech military is involved in the UN observer mission in Syria, Czech Radio said on Thursday quoting Lebanese press reports. The Czech Air Force reportedly provided three transport planes which brought nine vehicles to Beirut that are used by the observers in Syria. The UN observer team entered Syria on Monday where it is monitoring a ceasefire between the government and rebel forces in an attempt to end violence in the country.
In related news, the leader of the embattled coalition Public Affairs party, Radek John, said on Thursday his party wanted to avoid early elections. The junior coalition party split earlier this week after deputy prime minister Karolína Peake quit Public Affairs along with several MPs and said they would support the government; the rest of the party is now considering joining the opposition in the lower house. However, Mr John gave no direct answer when asked whether the rest of the party would also support the government in a possible vote of no-confidence.
An elderly couple in the village of Zbyny, some 60 kilometres north of Prague, committed suicide to avoid losing their home, the news website novinky.cz reported on Thursday. Fire fighters who arrived in the early hours of Wednesday to put out the fire discovered the bodies of a 71-year-old woman and her 68-year-old husband along with a dead dog and several gasoline cans; a spokeswoman for the local police said they probably ended their lives to avoid the foreclosure of their home over the debts of their son.
The head of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Jiří Drahoš has asked the government to change its methods of evaluation of scientific work. Speaking at an academic forum in Prague on Thursday, Mr Drahoš said the methods, which were introduced in 2009, served to justify a “deliberate, wilful and irresponsible” attempt to eliminate large sections of the Academy of Sciences. The methods serve as a basis for the distribution of government grants. Mr Drahoš also criticized efforts to turn academic institutions and universities into “servants” of the private sector.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg will be meeting with his American counterpart Hillary Clinton at a NATO meeting in Brussels on Thursday. The two officials are set to discuss the completion of the Temelín nuclear power plant; the US company Westinghouse is one of the bidders in the multi-billon crown tender. On Wednesday, Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra met with his US counterpart Leon Panetta and signed an agreement giving Czech weapons manufacturers access to US Army tenders.
Speaking after a meeting of the Civic Democrat party’s regional heads in Prague on Thursday, Prime Minister Petr Nečas set down conditions for the centre-right government to continue in office. Mr Nečas said that either at least 10 ex-Public Affairs MPs support the coalition cabinet in the lower house; if not enough ex-Public Affairs MPs are willing to do so, the country will head for snap elections. The announcement comes a day after the Civic Democrats announced they were ending cooperation with Public Affairs following a split in that party. Deputy PM Karolína Peake, who is the informal leader of the ex-Public Affairs MPs’ group, can reportedly count on seven MPs including herself.
The number of self-employment licences reached nearly two million by the end of March, up by over 40,000 compared to the same month last year, the news website tyden.cz reported quoting data from the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry. In 2012, some 11,500 new licences were issued by the authorities. Analyst stay the steady rise in the number of the self-employed is caused by lower tax rates compared to those of employees; also, many Czechs take out self-employment licences as a security provision in case they their jobs but are unlikely to actually start a business.
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