The Chamber of Deputies has passed a bill amendment which should see green
cards replace work visas and residence permits for foreign workers as of
next year. The amendment was approved on Friday. By issuing green cards,
the government is hoping to attract more foreign workers to the Czech
Republic - an idea which has been criticised heatedly by the opposition.
Opposition deputies were vocal ahead of the reading on Friday, warning of
ghettoisation, security and health risks, but the government has argued
Czech economy needs the foreign workforce. According to Labour Ministry
statistics, almost 280,000 foreigners currently work legally in the Czech
The green card is expected to replace the residence permit and work visa for foreign nationals. They will be able to apply only for jobs not filled by Czechs or other EU nationals within 30 days. For it to take effect, the law will now still have to be passed in the Senate and signed by the president.
In a speech on Thursday, the US presidential hopeful Barack Obama focused
on the 40th anniversary of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. In his
speech, Mr Obama commented that the US did not do much to help
Czechoslovakia then, but stressed his country did much for the
building of a free Europe later. Mr Obama, the presumptive Democratic
nominee, also drew on similarities between the ’68 invasion and the
recent conflict between Russia and Georgia, saying that the “right to
live freely and securely within their borders – a right denied the
and Slovaks 40 years ago needed to apply to all European countries”.
At the same time, Mr Obama made clear that Russia was no longer the Soviet Union of the cold war era, and he stressed that the US had a stake in Russia in forwarding common interests.
In related news, the Hungarian Culture Minister Istvan Hiller has apologised on behalf of his government for Hungary's participation in the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Mr Hiller said on Thursday that the suppression of the Prague Spring communist-led reform movement 40 years ago was shameful and that Hungary's share of the blame had not been lessened by the fact that it had acted under pressure from the Soviet Union. He called Hungary’s participation “an aggression, an attack on free thinking and on free decision-making”.
Czech civil servants are not likely to see the implementation of a bill on the civil service originally planned for next year: on Friday the Chamber of Deputies postponed the date of the bill’s coming into effect until 2012. The government has said it wants to draft new legislation to define civil servants' status. Parliament passed the service law back in April 2002 but its implementation has now been postponed three times. The bill outlines the rights and duties of civil servants, including service bonuses, holiday time and severance pay.
The Chamber of Deputies is expected to vote on the government's draft budget for next year in the first week of December, according to a proposed timetable approved by the Chamber of Deputies budget committee. According to the timetable, the lower house should debate the budget bill in its final wording on December 3. Back in June, the government approved the draft 2009 state budget with a deficit of 38.1 billion crowns. Budget spending has been proposed at 1,053 billion, and the deficit set to about 1.5 percent of the GDP. The opposition Social Democrats have criticised the bill, saying it is evidence of the failure of the government's reforms.
The Czech police organised crime unit has revealed in its annual report a rise in neo-Nazi group activities in the Czech Republic, with members of the extreme right organising a an increasing number of demonstrations and concerts or rallies. Last year, the police unit noted in its report, far-right groups held 26 different events. Specialists say that extremists have tried to raise their profile to try and broaden their influence and strengthen their support base. Experts have also noted that the far-right in the Czech Republic has also been trying to prepare the ground for eventual entry onto the political scene.
The Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, 70, has remarried his ex-wife Therese Hardegg in Austria, a regional Austrian daily has reported. The couple first married in 1967 but divorced 20 years ago. The Czech foreign ministry not yet confirmed the step, but the marriage was reportedly confirmed by Mr Schwarzenberg’s son. According to the Austrian paper, the private wedding ceremony had been a heavily-kept secret.
Roman Šebrle, the gold medal winner in the decathlon at the 2004 Athens Olympics, failed to finish in the medals on Friday in Beijing. The athlete earned 8,241 points – managed 6th place. Friday's decathlon was won by Brian Clay of the US with 8791 points. Clay was the silver medal winner in Athens four years ago.
Czechs are marking the 40th anniversary of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, which crushed the reform movement known as the Prague Spring. In the early hours of August 21st of 1968, Soviet tanks rolled across the border taking over all key institutions. Disbelieving Czechs took to the streets to defend their capital. Over 100 people were killed and more than 500 injured in the clash with foreign troops. The public revolt was suppressed and the invasion marked the beginning of a dark period of Czech history. Thousands of people fled the country, and thousands lost their jobs or faced persecution for speaking their minds, as communist hardliners regained their grip on power.
Czech President Václav Klaus and Slovak President Ivan Gasparovič met in the Slovak capital Bratislava on Thursday to mark the 1968 anniversary. They told reporters that the Soviet-led invasion fully revealed the tragedy and irrationality of the communist era. Here in Prague, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek met with his Slovak counterpart Robert Fico. Mr. Topolánek said the 1968 invasion was a tragic event but also a valuable lesson which should motivate the country’s political leaders to make sure history did not repeat itself. The Czechoslovak federation broke up shortly after the fall of communism and the two counties are now going their separate ways, although they have retained close ties.