The Czech foreign ministry has called on all Czech citizens to leave the country immediately due to the worsening security situation, primarily in the capital city of Tripoli. The notice was posted on the ministry’s website Saturday afternoon. The Foreign Ministry also announced that its embassy in Libya would be temporarily closed as of Sunday and that its staff would be evacuated. News organisations on Friday reported a major government crackdown in which thousands of protestors were said to have been injured or killed. Twenty-two Czech citizens are believed to be in the country.
Writer Arnošt Lustig has died in hospital at the age of 84. He succumbed to a five-year illness at the Vinohrady hospital in Prague on Saturday morning. One of the internationally best known Czech writers, Arnošt Lustig made his name as a journalist for numerous publications and for Czechoslovak Radio, and through a number of novels about WWII and the holocaust, which he experienced first-hand as a Jewish internee in the Terezín and Auschwitz concentration camps. Following the 1968 invasion of his homeland he moved to Israel and then to the United States, and regularly returned to the Czech Republic after the revolution. According to his publisher, he was planning to finish several books and to travel widely when he died.
Former Czech MEP and diplomat Jana Hybaskova has been charged with leading the European Union diplomatic delegation to Iraq. Ms. Hybaskova, who is 45, is the first representative of the Czech Republic to be appointed to such a high post in the EU´s fledgling diplomatic service. She was appointed by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Friday. A member of the Czech diplomatic corps since 1990, Jana Hybaskova headed the ministry´s section for the Middle East for seven years and later was the Czech ambassador to Slovenia, Kuwait and Qatar, where she was also responsible for Iraq.
About a hundred people met at the grave of former Czechoslovak communist president Klement Gottwald on Friday to commemorate the "Victorious February" events that brought the Communist Party to power in 1948. Members of the Communist Party in attendance praised the event as the beginning of the country’s most successful period economically and socially. Klement Gottwald headed the Czechoslovak Communist Party from 1929 until his death in 1953; he was prime minister in 1946-1948 and Czechoslovakia´s first communist president in 1948-53. In February of 1948 the party seized power after provoking a government crisis and began the nearly 42-year communist era in Czechoslovakia.
A Czech businessman convicted of multimillion crown tax evasion has disappeared, shortly before he was to be extradited to the Czech Republic from Austria, the daily Právo reports. Roman Vaškůj was sentenced by a Czech court to 7.5 years imprisonment for evading up to half a billion crowns in taxes in the mid 90s and is charged with bribery and tax fraud in separate cases. Police are now searching for him after he missed a court date on Tuesday that ruled on his extradition and has since ceased all communications.
Právo reports that the current head of the police anti-corruption squad in the town of Ústí nad labem, Jiří Veselý, has been selected to be director of the national police department for corruption and financial crime. The previous head of the department, Libor Vrba, resigned on Wednesday after facing sharp criticism from the new Chief of Police, Petr Lessy.
Smog alerts continue in various cities around the Czech Republic, while the situation has improved slightly. Around the region of Moravia-Silesia the amount of dust is two to three times the permissible limit of 50 micrograms per cubic metre. The same applies to the region of Ústí nad Labem and the town of Most, where conditions improved on Saturday but remain at 130 and 153 micrograms per cubic metre, respectively. Factories in the region have been forced to regulate production for the third time this winter.
The Czech Republic and Georgia have said a tough stance needs to be taken
regarding Libya’s authoritarian regime. On Friday, the foreign ministers
Karel Schwarzenberg and Grigol Vashadze made statements after meeting in
Prague. Mr Schwarzenberg called violent action by the regime unacceptable.
The escalating conflict in Libya has claimed hundreds of lives so far,
after Mr Gaddafi's regime opted for a brutal clampdown. Witnesses in
Tripoli have said the city is living in fear.
The Czech Republic will back the EU’s stance if sanctions are imposed on Libya, Mr Schwarzenberg said. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told EU defence ministers on Friday that restrictive measures against Libya were being considered. The UN Security Council is also to discuss the proposal that an arms embargo and financial sanctions be imposed on Libya and that the international criminal court charge leading government representatives of committing crimes against humanity. Besides growing concerns over Libya, Mr Schwarzenberg and Mr Vashadze on Friday discussed the candidacy of their countries to the UN Human Rights Council. Mr Vashadze also stressed that Georgia appreciated Czech support towards the country regarding the EU and NATO defence structures.
In related news, the Czech consul in Tripoli, Jiří Hušner, has said 22 Czech nationals remain in Libya, despite increasing violence and unrest there. Speaking on a line from the Libyan capital, Mr Hušner said another five Czech citizens would fly back to Prague on Friday. Some of those remaining, he confirmed however, had expressed an interest in being evacuated from the country. News organisations on Friday reported a major government crackdown in which thousands were said to have been injured or killed. Fighting for the past week in Libya has raged between troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and anti-government forces.
Ministers in the Czech government agreed on remaining details in the government’s planned pension reform on Friday, including raising the VAT (value-added tax) now at 10 percent on some products and 19 on others, to a uniform 20 percent. The move is to be taken as quickly as possible. Prime Minister Petr Nečas indicated the change could come into effect by the Q4 this year – far earlier than the previous deadline of 2013. The prime minister stressed that the revenue from the change in the VAT will be used to fund shortfalls in the state-run part of the pension system, in which some age groups will now be allowed to opt out of part of their social security payments, directing a percentage into private pension funds instead.
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