President Miloš Zeman, who on Thursday concludes a two-day working visit to EU headquarters in Brussels, says EC chief Jose Barroso has promised to exert greater effort on behalf of the EC in getting Canada to lift its visa requirement for Czech nationals. The Czech side has repeatedly tried to elicit greater involvement from the EU on the issue after its own appeals to Toronto went unheard. Canada reintroduced visa requirements for Czechs in 2009 following a wave of largely Romany asylum seekers to the country.
Czech President Milos Zeman also met for talks with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The debate covered among others the situation in Syria, Czech participation in military missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan and the Czech defence budget. Mr. Rasmussen praised the Czech Republic’s role in foreign missions and expressed the hope that the Czech government would not lower defence spending.
President Miloš Zeman says the European Union will put pressure on Canada to lift visas for Czech citizens, reintroduced in 2009 following a rise in the number of Roma people seeking asylum. Mr Zeman made the comments in a speech to members of the Czech Republic’s permanent representation to the European Union, after meeting European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
The EU’s new tobacco laws could put hundreds of Czech jobs at risk, President Miloš Zeman told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday, the first day of his visit to EU headquarters. After a meeting with the speaker of the European Parliament, the Czech president expressed hope that during debates on the new rules, MEPs would take into consideration the interest of 1,500 employees of cigarette producer Philip Morris’s Czech plant. The planned EU directive on tobacco products includes a ban on some types of cigarettes such as slims and menthols, and would force producers to place bigger pictorial health warnings on packets.
The Social Democrats’ foreign affairs spokesman, Lubomír Zaorálek, says Prague should have a “more balanced and just” policy toward Israel. The Czech Republic is regarded as one of Israel’s strongest supporters. Speaking on Wednesday, Mr. Zaorálek said his country’s approach had not always been balanced in recent years and that it was necessary to have relations with the Palestinians. He also raised doubts over possible participation in a UN mission at the Golan Heights by Czech soldiers. The Social Democrats are expected to form the next Czech government.
Czech holiday makers have begun returning to Egypt, almost three weeks after travel companies had to quickly bring tourists home due to violence in the country. Two planes carrying tour groups left Prague for Egypt on Wednesday night. Operators insist that resorts in the country are now completely safe, though the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is still advising Czechs not to travel to Egypt.
The Czech Foreign Ministry is aiming to boost security for diplomats serving in Syria, Libya and Afghanistan, acquiring new armoured vehicles at the cost of around six million crowns. The government is studying the proposal now by which upgraded Toyotas are to be provided by the Czech firm Real Trade Praha. Last year, the previous government bought an armoured BMW X5 for the ambassador in Syria; the Czech Republic is one of only a few NATO countries not to have closed its Damascus embassy – serving not only Czech nationals but helping allied member states.
The European Commission has launched proceedings before court action against the Czech Republic over Visapoint, the Foreign Ministry´s system for foreigners´ registration. The move comes following a complaint from Czech Ombudsman Pavel Varvařovský who alerted the EC to problems with the system’s operation and claimed that there were no legal grounds for making such a system compulsory to applicants for long-term residence. The EC is expecting a response from the Czech authorities within ten weeks. After that it will decide whether or not to launch proceedings over breach of EU law.
Ukrainian porn-star Anastazia Hagen has won her fight for asylum in the Czech Republic. A mother of three boys, Hagen says she fears returning to her homeland where she could be persecuted for acting in porn-movies and might even lose custody of her children. She was previously refused asylum several times, and even had an appeal turned down by a court. On Monday the Czech Interior Ministry unexpectedly made a U-turn on the issue and granted Hagen permanent residence in the country.
Pavel Telička, the first Czech European commissioner, will run for the ANO movement of billionaire Andrej Babiš in the 2014 elections to the European Parliament and will assist the movement in campaigning before the early general election due at the end of October. Mr. Telička confirmed the news on Thursday saying he would be responsible for EU related issues with the perspective of leading ANOs list of candidates running in the European elections next year. He said he would not run in the forthcoming election to the lower house of Czech parliament because he would not be able to wind up his other activities by then. Pavel Telička is a consultant for European affairs and one of the owners of the BXL Consulting firm.
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