The Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout has said that he knew at the end of June that Canada was planning to reinstate visa requirements for Czechs, but said that he had expected formal notification before the move went ahead. Speaking on Czech TV on Thursday Mr Kohout explained that Canada’s minister for immigration, Jason Kenney, had warned him of the decision on June 29 during an informal meeting. Mr Kohout also said that he was asked not to make the move public, which he said he could not do in any case before he had received formal notification. Czech officials were informed six hours in advance that Canada would reinstate visas this week. The move was taken by the country in reaction to the high number of asylum applications from the Czech Republic - mostly from members of the Roma community.
Airlines at Prague airport have been checking Canada-bound Czech passengers on Thursday to make sure that they had the required visas for entry into the country. Some of the Czechs flying out complained about last minute stress over Canada’s decision to re-impose restrictions, having had to seek visas at the Canadian embassy in Vienna. More than 300 visa applications were made by Friday with Canadian officials saying they had refused around 1.0 percent of applicants.
Interim Prime Minister Jan Fischer has expressed interest in the post of Czech EU commissioner, the daily Lidové noviny has reported. The newspaper cited unnamed sources on Friday saying that the former head of the Czech Statistical Office, leading the country’s caretaker government, was reassessing plans to return to his former post after the autumn election. The daily reported that Mr Fischer had now expressed interest in the post of commissioner instead. According to Lidové noviny, Mr Fischer’s chances are not high: members of the country’s two largest parties, the Civic and Social Democrats, have made clear their parties are eying other candidates.
The Constitutional Court has upheld a six-year prison sentence for former Communist prosecutor Ludmila Brožová-Polednová. Her defence had put forward a complaint to the court which was rejected on Friday. Mrs Brožová-Polednová is guilty of playing a role in the judicial murder of democratic politician Milada Horáková. In 1950, following a Stalinist show-trial, Mrs Horáková was sentenced to death on trumped up charges of espionage and treason.
The head of Czech Radio, Václav Kasík, has told Lidové noviny he came under pressure from numerous lobbyists warning him to step down - or risk being recalled from his post. In an interview for the newspaper on Friday, Mr Kasík said that the pressure had political roots and vowed not to give up. Mr Kasík has headed Czech Radio - home to a number of stations including Radio Prague - since 1999. He began his second six year term in 2005. Lidové noviny wrote that Mr Kasík’s post was offered up as part of an alleged backroom deal initiated by top members of the Social and Civic Democrats: the post was supposedly to have been freed up for the head of Czech TV, Jiří Janeček, had he given up his bid to continue as general director of the public broadcaster. He did not and was re-elected as Czech TV head this week.
Heavy floods which hit parts of South Bohemia at the end of June caused more than 1 billion crowns in damages, Regional governor Jiří Zimola has told reporters. Floodwaters in the area hit some 500 homes and saw more than 1,000 people evacuated. Flooding in southern Bohemia began on June 28, coinciding with floods in northern and central Moravia, which claimed more than 12 lives.
The Social Democratic Party has promised to introduce anti-money laundering legislation if the party wins the October elections and heads the next government. The party’s economic expert Bohuslav Sobotka told the Reuters news agency the bill would affect those with property worth 10 million crowns or more, or two million crowns in other assets. Under the law, those who were unable to explain the origin of funds used to buy property could be taxed 76 percent. The financial daily Hospodářské noviny has pointed out the tax would be the highest in Czech history. Anyone found guilty of committing a criminal offence in obtaining property, meanwhile, would lose it outright.
Football club Sparta Prague will face Greek side Panathinaikos in the third qualifying round of the Champions League. It will be the third time the Czech team has faced Panathinaikos since 2002. The two times Sparta faced the Greek club, the Czech side came away defeated. In 2002, Sparta lost a chance at the quarterfinal after suffering back to back losses. Last year Sparta also lost in Athens and at home.
Former Czech president Václav Havel and former foreign minister Karel
Schwarzenberg are among the signatories of an open letter that has been
prepared for President Barack Obama. The letter – signed by other former
political heavyweights and intellectuals in Central and Eastern Europe –
calls for Washington not to ignore the region as the price for improved
relations with Moscow. Former European affairs minister Alexandr Vondra
told the Czech paper Lidové noviny that Obama is looking for quick
and improved relations with Russia and that could be at the expense of
former Soviet block countries.
The letter warns that a total renunciation of US plans for an anti-radar system in the Czech Republic and Poland - or Russian involvement in them - would undermine trust in the US. Mr Vondra is due to deliver the letter to US leaders in Washington.
Airlines at Prague airport started checking Canada-bound Czech passengers on Thursday to make sure that they have the required visas for entry into the country. Canada announced the re-imposition of visas for Czechs on Tuesday but allowed visa demands at its frontiers for the first 48 hours. Some of the Czechs flying out on Thursday complained about the last minute stress they had been exposed to. Many have been forced to seek visas at the Canadian embassy in Vienna. Two applicants of the around 200 dealt with there during the first two days were refused visas according to official reports. The Canadian move has been sparked by the surge of Czech asylum applications, mostly from the Roma community.