Russia has expressed concern over the EU’s Eastern Partnership scheme that should strengthen links between the European Union and several post-Soviet states. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Luxembourg on Tuesday that the EU should not seek accession of these countries to the bloc. The Eastern Partnership project, to be officially launched at a summit in Prague in May, is designed to foster closer cooperation between the EU and Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said Monday that Russian officials were talking ‘nonsense’ when they accused the EU of creating a sphere of influence in the former Soviet republics.
In related news, Albania submitted an official application to join the EU in Prague on Tuesday. The Albanian Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, handed the application to the Czech leader, Mirek Topolánek, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the bloc. Provided the European Commission and the Council of the EU approve the application, the accession process will start with bilateral talks on the rights and duties that each aspiring member has to comply with.
The Czech health authorities have ruled out the presence of the swine flu virus in all suspected cases. All three patients had symptoms typical for regular flu and would not have been admitted to hospital had they not recently returned from Mexico. Some 20 beds at Bulovka hospital have been readied in case of a swine flu outbreak in the Czech Republic, and the health authorities say they have anti-viral drugs for two million people.
In related news, Czech health authorities have raised the pandemic threat level as recommended by the WHO, the Czech health minister Daniela Filipiová told reporters. The current threat level is four, with six representing the highest possible alert. Czech authorities believe the risk of a swine flue pandemic is higher than bird flu which began spreading in Asia three years ago. The Czech EU presidency has also convened an extraordinary meeting of EU health ministers for Thursday to address possible threats posed by swine flu.
Ministers in charge of migration from 50 countries of the EU, South-East Europe and central Asia adopted the “Prague Declaration on Migration” in the Czech capital on Tuesday. At a two day conference held as part of the Czech EU presidency, the officials agreed on the need to fight illegal migration, to support the integration of legal migrants and to promote voluntary returns and re-admissions. The Prague conference on migration-related issues has been one of the largest events of the Czech presidency of the EU.
A Czech Romany NGO, Roma Realia, has asked Pope Benedict XVI to open a debate on the status of Romanies in Europe. In a letter to the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the activists said what they called a growing aversion between Czechs and Romanies might get out of control, while Czech politicians don’t know how to deal with such issues. The activists also criticized the interim PM, Jan Fischer, for his decision to abolish the position of minister for minorities and human rights in the new government.
Czech scientists associated in the Learned Society of the Czech Republic called on the Senate on Tuesday to approve the Lisbon treaty. In a letter to the lawmakers, distinguished members of the country’s scientific community, including former heads of the Czech Academy of Sciences Rudolf Zahradník, Václav Pačes and Helena Illenrová, said that the ratification of the reform document was in line with Czech historic and cultural traditions. The Lisbon treaty was approved by Parliament’s lower house in February; the Senate is scheduled to start debating the treaty on May 6.
The interim Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, has selected the first member of a caretaker cabinet he is putting together. Mr Fischer will nominate the head of Prague’s General Teaching Hospital, Dana Jurásková, as the new health minister. Ms Jurásková will join the outgoing health minister, Daniela Filipiová, in Thursday’s meeting of EU health ministers in Luxembourg that will deal with the swine flue outbreak. The interim prime minister will nominate other cabinet members later this week. Czech President Václav Klaus is expected to appoint the new caretaker government on May 8.
The current Gambrinus Liga leader Slavia Prague made a spectacular comeback in a home game against Mladá Boleslav on Monday. The visitors opened the score early on after a grave mistake by Slavia’s goalkeeper but the hosts equalized midway through the first half. Nine minutes before the break Mladá Boleslav regained the lead and another goal by the visitors gave them a 3:1 advantage in the 60th minute. Defending champion Slavia however rescued a tie with two hits, the third an amazing shot by Milos Černý from outside the box just four minutes before the end of game.