The Czech Republic’s communal elections, which will take place this Friday and Saturday, differ from their presidential and parliamentary equivalents in that citizens of other EU member states are also allowed to vote. This includes those living in the country on a temporary basis. However, interest in political engagement seems low among foreigners living in the country, with only a few thousand deciding to register.
The number of Russians residing and working in the Czech Republic has been steadily growing in recent years. Many come here in search of a better life, to escape the authoritarian regime of Vladimir Putin or homophobia in their homeland. And many find that the Russian led-invasion of Czechoslovakia casts a long shadow.
The government in January agreed to double the number of Ukrainians it would allow in as fast-track migrant workers to nearly 20,000 per year, in a bid to help address the chronic labour shortage, which has companies in the export-driven economy struggling to fill orders. According to Czech Chamber of Commerce, the fast-track scheme is a drop in the proverbial bucket – but still paying dividends.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced last week that the Czech consulate in Hanoi has stopped accepting applications from Vietnamese nationals for both long-term resident permits and visas, citing incapacity to handle the backlog of requests – but most of all, security risks, in the form of “exported” organised crime.
At 2.9 percent, the Czech unemployment rate is the lowest in 22 years, and in particular graduates have never had it easier finding work. According to labour office statistics there are currently ten vacancies per graduate, a state of affairs that is attracting young people from Greece, Italy or Spain to the Czech Republic.
In response to numerous complaints with regard to abuse of the Czech visa system in Ukraine, the Czech consulate in Lvov has moved to simplify and speed up the process. Steps have been taken to root out corruption by local middlemen who blocked the registration system, making it virtually impossible for anyone else to sign up for months. Applicants will now be able to book by phone, eliminating the long waiting lines outside the consulate and the waiting time for a visa should be reduced from 130 days to 75.
There are lots of countries in the world that have been hesitant about letting refugees through their borders. The recently re-elected Czech president even ran his campaign partly on a non-immigrant agenda. Nevertheless, Prague is a hub in Europe for those looking for a better life including some refugees from countries suffering from war and poverty.