The new wave of EU sanctions against Russia for its involvement in the Ukraine crisis, has caused a rift in the Czech ruling coalition. Attending the EU talks in Brussels, the Czech prime minister made it clear that he did not believe sanctions would prove effective and said his country reserved the right to reject tightened sanctions if they were to cause disproportionately high economic losses. He promptly came under fire from the leader of the coalition Christian Democrats who compared this stand to the Munich Agreement of 1938. The prime minister has now received backing from Andrej Babiš, the leader of the second strongest party in the ruling coalition, who said he too could see little point in enforcing new sanctions against Russia when the last ones had failed to have any effect. He said the way forward appeared to be through political negotiations and noted that the Czech Republic could show its solidarity with Ukraine by more practical means such as sending aid or dispatching a field hospital there. The cabinet is to debate the issue at its session on Wednesday.
Czech Railways has announced that the rail connection between the towns of Hradec Kralove and Pardubice will be out of operation for the next ten days due to maintenance. Passengers are being asked to use a replacement bus service. More information is available to Czech Railways website and its information offices.
Khaled al-Atrash is to be the new Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic. According to the daily Lidové noviny he has already received the so-called agrément from President Miloš Zeman. Khaled al-Atrash is the outgoing ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina where he has served since 2010. The last Palestinian ambassador to Prague, Jamal Muhammad Jamal, was killed in a blast at the embassy at the beginning of this year. It later emerged that he had been trying to open an old safe that contained explosives.
The Czech candidate for EU Commissioner Věra Jourová is to meet with EC President Jean Claude Junker on Wednesday to discuss her possible future portfolio. The Czech government has been striving for an economic portfolio and Ms. Jourová, who heads the Regional Development Ministry in the centre-left government, is aspiring to head the European regional development portfolio, currently run by Austria. If she makes a successful bid, Jourová would appear before the respective committee for the traditional “grilling” at the end of September and take up her post in early November.
President Miloš Zeman attended the first day of the new school year at the Charlotte Garrigue Masaryk Primary School in Lány on Monday. He wished first graders well and briefly recalled his own school years when he was forced to sit with his hands behind his back and was forced to write with his right hand, although he was left-handed. He emphasized the Jan Amos Comenius legacy that the learning process should be based on play and entertainment and told the class of first graders they were fortunate to be living and going to school in a free country. This year schools admitted 115,000 first-graders, 4,000 more than last year.
Singer Michal Hrůza, who was seriously injured in a street fight six weeks ago has been released from a rehabilitation clinic and transported home where he is to undergo further therapy. The singer suffered serious brain damage in the attack and spent some time in a coma. His manager Martina Tůmova on Monday issued a report saying Hrůza was recovering well, but still had a long way to go.
Education Minister Marcel Chládek has said he sees nothing wrong with Muslim girls wearing the hijab in class, although he would stop short of allowing a fully covered-face which might be seen as problematic for security reasons. He said the ministry was not going to issue any recommendation in the matter for the time being and it would be up to individual schools to decide what they would or would not allow. The comment comes in the midst of a heated public debate on whether students should be allowed to wear religious symbols in the classroom.
People have contributed over five million crowns in aid of the families of the five Czech soldiers killed in Afghanistan in June, according to the organizers of the fund raiser. The money comes largely from thousands of small donors who bought stickers and T-shirts reading “I am proud of our soldiers”. Czech singers supported the cause with a charity concert at Prague’s Broadway Theatre.
The prime minister has come under fire on the home front for withholding full support for new EU sanctions against Russia. Deputy-prime minister Pavel Bělobrádek, leader of the Christian Democrats, said “we cannot do to Ukraine what the Munich Agreement did to us” while opposition TOP 09 deputy chairman Miroslav Kalousek said the prime minister’s stand was “short-sighted, alibistic and cowardly”. Czech MEPs have also criticized Mr. Sobotká’s cautious approach. MEP Luděk Niedermayer said that diplomacy alone would not suffice to make Russia observe international norms and pointed out that if everyone in the EU considered their economic interests first and foremost there would be no sanctions.
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