The Czech government will not aid the ailing coal mining company OKD, but will focus on helping miners who are to be laid off, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Friday following talks with trade unions and employers. Friday was the deadline for a possible deal with the government which would allow the OKD mines to remain in operation. Bankruptcy procedures are now likely to start within days. The company has close to 10,000 stem employees and thousands of other jobs in the region are dependent on it.
Interior Minister Milan Chovanec has moved to dispel public concern with regard to claims in the German media that the Czech Republic was being used by illegal migrants as an alternate route to Germany. The minister said that in the course of the past two months German police had detained four cars with illegal migrants who had allegedly crossed the Czech-German border and the Czech police detained two cars with migrants seeking to make an illegal crossing. The number of migrants who enter the Czech Republic is minimal and there is nothing at all to indicate a new migrant route forming, the minister said.
The Czech unemployment rate dropped to 4.1 percent in March, according to the Czech Statistics Office, which has a different means of calculating unemployment than the Labour Office which registered a 6.1 percent unemployment rate in March. The figure published by the Czech Statistics Office puts unemployment at a 20-year-low and would make the Czech Republic the country with the lowest unemployment rate in the EU.
A convoy of American WWII jeeps passed through the Prague city centre on Friday within the end-of-the-war remembrance events taking place in the country. The veterans’ convoy stopped at the US Embassy in Prague where it was greeted by Ambassador Andrew Shapiro, who thanked the organizers of the event for keeping alive the memory of US soldiers who had laid down their lives to bring Europe freedom and security. The convoy will also appear at the end-of-war celebrations in Plzen which was liberated by US units commanded by General George S. Patton.
Adam Bartoš, the leader of the far-right National Democracy party has been charged with inciting ethnic hatred in connection with statements he made at a Prague rally against Islam. Bartoš slammed the Czech government for its “soft” policy on the migrant issue, saying the politicians in office were traitors who deserved the ultimate punishment. The head of the National Democracy party spent the night in detention while the police searched his home and office confiscating documents and computers.
Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek on Friday denied claims that following the closure of the Balkans route there has been a rise in the number of refugees being smuggled through the Czech Republic. According to the German daily Passauer Neue Presse people smugglers are now using the Czech Republic as an alternate route. Since Monday German police are reported to have detained 14 groups of refugees on the Czech-Bavarian border. The Czech foreign minister said no such tendency had been registered and stressed that the Czech Republic was perfectly capable of securing its border against illegal migrants.
The Czech Republic should appoint an ambassador to Cuba within a matter of months, due to a thaw in diplomatic relations, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said at a press briefing in Prague on Friday. The foreign minister said the ground had been prepared and both sides were interested in taking diplomatic relations to a new level. The Czech Republic has been one of the loudest critics of human rights violations in Cuba which left a mark on bilateral relations. Zaorálek said the last twelve months had seen a marked improvement in communication. Both countries want to boost trade and broaden cooperation in the areas of culture and education.
Twenty-nine Czech police officers left for the Greek island of Lesbos on Friday where they will join an international team serving under the European agency Frontex. The group is to help escort refugees from Greece back to Turkey under the conditions of an agreement between the EU and Turkey. Eleven other Czech officers are already there and are helping to register migrants. There are currently some 4,000 refugees on the island.
Czech confidence in the European Union has fallen to its lowest level since the country voted to join the political and economic grouping in a referendum in 2003, according to a survey. The survey by the CVVM company shows that now around just over a third of Czechs, 38 percent to be precise, say they now have confidence in the EU. A year earlier the confidence percentage was 52 percent. The rapid fall since then is largely due to the EU’s perceived handling of the immigration crisis. The Czech Republic joined the EU in 2004.
The Prague-based Association for International Affairs has identified President Miloš Zeman as one of the most problematic factors in the country’s foreign affairs. In its annual assessment of the past year and pointers for the current one, the association highlighted how Zeman put himself out on a limb by attending end of WWII ceremonies in Moscow and Beijing. Some of his statements conflicted clearly with government policy. The prime minister and foreign minister should clearly distance themselves from Zeman’s stances otherwise Czech foreign policy would be unreadable for outsiders, the assessment added. The assessment said attempts to build a strategic dialogue with Germany and South Korea were pluses. On the immigrant crisis though, the Czech Republic was too often reactive, isolationist, and short on positive proposals to strengthen the Schengen area or tackle the crisis, it added.