Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said that the European Union should in future work to secure the security of its citizens but not erect any barriers to the functioning of the single market. It should also attempt to bridge the gulf in the living standards of those in different countries, he added. Government leaders and heads of state at an EU summit in Malta discussed how a document reformulating and restating the EU’s future should look. Members of the Central European Visegrad group, including the Czech Republic, will work jointly on preparations. Leaders also dealt with the immigration issue and agreed that cooperation with Libya to boost its policing of its coastline and land borders is now more important than ever. While immigration flows through Turkey were down by a third in 2016, those through the so-called Central route targeting Italy still came to around 180,000 last year. Sobotka told journalists that the EU could not expect multilateral treaties from the new US president Donald Trump and should expect increased pressure from Washington to increase their defense spending.
Minister of Justice Robert Pelikan has said he will drop proposals focused on a reform of the state prosecution service. The reforms have been prepared after two years of discussions and consultations with attorneys. They included the intention to create a special team of prosecutors to deal with complicated corruption cases. Pelikan said his move follows what he claims are lower house moves to push in the opposite direction and weaken prosecutors’ powers by preventing their involvement in criminal investigations and having a say in choosing the police officers piloting them. The minister added that he feared the final result if the proposed reform was tabled now.
A war of words between Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and ANO leader and finance minister Andrej Babiš escalated on Friday when the prime minister used a vulgar term to describe Babiš’ use of an alleged tax dodge. Sobotka added that Babiš was guilty of hypocrisy by taking advantage of so-called one crown bonds from his agro-chemical company Agrofert to avoid paying taxes. The Social Democrat leader added that at the same time Babiš portrayed himself as leading the fight against tax evasion and threw Babiš’ own words back at him by describing it as a farce. Babiš’ argues that the financial instrument was perfectly legal when he took advantage of it. He added that Sobotka was showing a new style in his communication. Media reports say the financial instrument could save Babiš an estimated 150 million crowns in tax payments. Babiš later announced that he had moved his Agrofert assets to a sovereign fund which will be overseen by a three person committee including his partner. The move should comply with new conflict of interest rules for ministers.
In tennis, the Czech Republic is facing Davis Cup playoffs to avoid demotion after going down 2:0 after the first two singles matches against Australia. Jiří Vesely lost in straight sets in his opener against Jordan Thompson. And there was little surprise when world number 15 Nick Kyrgios beat Jan Šátral. The weakened Czech team is without Tomáš Berdych and Lukáš Rosol. A loss in the first round would mean that the Czechs would face play offs to remain in the top 16 country World Group.
The former presidential office head of protocol, Jindřich Forejt, has reportedly found a new job at the institute of former president, Václav Klaus, according to the news server, Aktualne.cz. Forejt resigned from his post in December last year after a video was released apparently showing him in a compromising position. Forejt, who had earlier been pushing to be appointed as ambassador to the Vatican, later stepped down from his post on health grounds. Current president Miloš Zeman, and Václav Klaus, for whom he was also head of protocol, continued to back Forejt. He has been employed at the presidential office since 2002.
The head of Czech electricity giant ČEZ Daniel Beneš has suggest the company could be split into separate parts where the state was the sole shareholder and where it only had a minority share. The suggestion was made in an interview with daily Lidové Noviny with Beneš suggesting that it could solve problems where the state and private investors do not agree. ČEZ is around 70 percent owned by the state with the remaining shares in the hand of pension funds, investment companies, and ordinary shareholders. ČEZ has faced problems in the past with plans to build new nuclear reactors because private investors could well protest what could be perceived as a state inspired projects. Beneš said the idea should spark debate and did not elaborate on how the split might look.
The Czech Republic’s Vietnamese community is still largely closed in spite of integration efforts, according to a study by the Ethnological Academy of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. One reason for the around 100,000 strong community’s closed nature is the fact that it is largely economically self sufficient with many families running small grocery store, according to ethnologist Stanislav Broučka. Many Vietnamese are also first generation immigrants and changes can be expected when the second generation, born in the Czech Republic, start to predominate. The Vietnamese are the third biggest group of foreigners in the Czech Republic after Ukrainians and Slovaks.
The lower house of Parliament has called on ANO leader Andrej Babiš to apologize for calling the work of a parliamentary committee set up to investigate a controversial police reform “a farce”. Babiš caused outrage in the house when he openly scoffed at the outcome of the investigation calling it a joke and “a victory of the Palermo clique” in Czech politics. The speaker of the lower house, Jan Hamáček, slammed Babis for being disrespectful to a democratically elected body, telling him to watch his words. The investigation failed to confirm Babiš’claims that the police reorganization was undertaken in order to paralyze investigations of sensitive cases.
Cooperation with Libya is key to curbing the flow of illegal migrants from North Africa to Europe, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said ahead of the EUs informal summit in Malta starting on Friday. The prime minister said the EU finally had a partner in Libya and must use every means available to stem the flow of refugees and curb the operations of people smugglers in the Mediterranean. The prime minister said he did not expect the issue of migrant quotas to be a subject of debate but noted that the Czech Republic’s negative stance to quotas remained unchanged. EU leaders are also expected to discuss Brexit and EU-US relations under the Trump administration.
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