Over 4,000 Czechs stranded around the world by the coronavirus crisis have been repatriated this month, many on special government planes. The latest such flight will leave from Chicago on Tuesday evening, taking 170 Czech citizens in difficult situations to Prague. I discussed the special flight and related issues with Zdeněk Beránek, deputy chief of mission at the Czech Embassy in Washington, D.C.
In times of war, it is often said, truth is the first casualty. In the midst of the battle to contain the coronavirus, Czech authorities during a customs raid last Tuesday mistakenly seized 101,600 facemasks gifted by a branch of the Red Cross in eastern China to a Chinese community in Italy. Although Czech officials apologized for the mix-up, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica on Sunday published a bogus article claiming the Czech state had “stolen” that shipment – and much more.
The city of Prague on Thursday bowed to the courage of Russian pro-democracy activists who laid down their lives in the quest for human rights. The square Pod kastany where the Russian Embassy stands was officially renamed after the slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and a nearby promenade was named after investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya shot to death in 2006. Among those watching the ceremony was Nemtsov’s daughter Zhanna and one of Politkovskaya’s former colleagues.
Britain is currently the Czech Republic’s fifth largest export market and a successful conclusion to post-Brexit trade negotiations is therefore a top priority for Czech diplomats. However, Czechs are also trying to tap in to new business opportunities in the UK and the British government’s promises to invest in its northern infrastructure and hospitals have been identified as potential new avenues for exports.
In addition to the Czech Republic financing developing aid projects around the world, the network of Czech embassies provides aid in small-scale local projects. The Czech Embassy in Cambodia recently joined forces with the Japanese Embassy and the French Development Agency to fund a local project in which two community kindergartens were built in the villages of Trapeing Chrab and Beung Preah. The kindergartens, with complementary infrastructure, were handed over to the locals late last year and are now attended by close to 70 children under the
As of January the UK has officially left the European Union and a new relationship is currently being negotiated between the two international actors. The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs is doing its best to ensure that Czech expats apply for “settled status” in Britain. However, questions regarding future agreements on programmes that have thus far been key in fostering a strong Czech presence in the UK remain.
Prague is expected to rename the city square outside Russia’s embassy in honour of slain Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov in time for the fifth anniversary of his killing on February 27. The City Council is also in favour of naming a public space after Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, another prominent Kremlin critic gunned down a decade earlier.
With Britain having just exited the EU, Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček flew to Manchester on Friday to meet members of the local Czech community and discuss their concerns connected with Brexit. Mr Petříček started his trip by visiting a cemetery in Cheadle and Gatley, south of the city. Radio Prague’s Tom McEnchroe has been following the events on the ground and spoke to us on the phone on Friday morning: