A memorandum, released by the advocacy group Amnesty International last week, calls on the Czech Foreign Ministry to improve the process of approving arms deals for local weapons producers. The analysis says that more than 38% of the total weapons exports in 2012 went to countries where human rights are not respected and where the political systems are barely democratic. This, the organization claims, hurts the positive image of the Czech Republic abroad and contributes to atrocities and violence perpetrated in certain countries. RP spoke to Andor
The European Court of Justice has rejected a lawsuit filed by the European Commission against the Czech Republic and six other EU countries over their VAT rules for travel agents, the court said in a statement on Thursday. The European Commission sued the EU member states over the fact that travel agents were placed in a separate Vat category which applied not just to travellers but also to other clients. The commission believed this represented a breach of an EU directive. However, the court said the directive’s wording in various languages was too vague, and can be therefore applied to all clients.
Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok has congratulated German Chancellor Angela Merkel on her victory in the general elections. Ms Merkel’s party, the CDU/CSU bloc, won over 40 percent of the vote. The Czech prime minister said the result was extraordinary, adding that he expected no change to the good relations between the Czech Republic and Germany. For his part, the eurosceptic former Czech president Václav Klaus said the elections showed that Germany, as well as the EU and the Czech Republic, had no alternative.
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, 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.
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.
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