The Czech Republic has welcomed the signing of CETA, a long-delayed landmark trade deal, between Canada and the EU. The agreement was signed in Brussels by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and top EU officials, following weeks of uncertainty due to opposition in Belgium. The Czech prime minister signed the agreement two weeks ago. Czech Trade Minister Jan Mládek said the Czech Republic and Canada share the same principles in trade and that the country would not have a problem meeting the set conditions. The Czech Republic expects the agreement to create new jobs, simplify exports and open up new markets for Czech firms in the area of engineering, chemicals production and health products.
The Czech Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Trade and Tourism is preparing to lodge a constitutional complaint against the law banning large stores from selling goods on selected public holidays. The head of the Chamber of Commerce, Vladimír Dlouhý, told the news site novinky.cz the law was discriminatory since it forced outlets over 200 square meters to close while leaving smaller shops open. A constitutional complaint would need to win backing from 16 senators which Dlouhý said would not present a problem since all right-wing senators and a number of others oppose the law.
Holocaust survivor George Brady was greeted by several hundred people in his home town Nové Město, in Moravia on Sunday. Brady, who was reportedly crossed off the list of nominees for a state award after his uncle Culture Minister Daniel Herman met with the Dalai Lama, has divided the Czech political scene and many politicians refused to attend the official celebrations on Czechoslovak Independence Day in a show of solidarity with him. Mr. Brady has received numerous distinctions in the course of the past week, including the Karel Kramář Medal from Prime Minister Sobotka and a memorial plaque from the lower house of Parliament. During a meeting with the townspeople in Nové Město, he said that the issue was not an award for him, but democracy and asked people to vote in elections. On Monday George Brady is to visit Brno where he is to receive honorary citizenship and a symbolic key to the city.
Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek has defended the declaration on Czech-Chinese relations issued in connection with the Dalai Lama’s visit to the Czech Republic. The foreign minister said on commercial TV Prima that the declaration had been a necessary step, since Culture Minister Daniel Herman had violated an agreement following the reset of relations with China that Czech government officials would not officially receive the Dalai Lama. Mr. Zaorálek said that according to the agreement on a strategic partnership with China an official reception of the Dalai Lama would cast doubt on the territorial integrity of that country. He said Culture Minister Herman was aware of this condition and had changed his plan to meet with the Dalai Lama privately at the very last minute, arranging an official reception at the Culture Ministry in the presence of the deputy speakers of Parliament and the Senate, arguing that it was a matter of conscience.
Senators for the STAN party have called for the declaration on Czech-Chinese relations issued by the country’s key officials during a visit by the Dalai Lama to be debated in the Senate. According to the head of the STAN senator’s club in the upper chamber, Jan Horník, it is not clear whether the country’s senior officials did not overstep their powers in signing such a declaration without Parliament’s approval. The speaker of the Senate Milan Stěch, who is one of the signatories, said he would call a session on the issue if there was majority support for the proposal.
The majority of Czechs think the declaration on Czech-Chinese relations issued by the country’s key officials during a visit by the Dalai Lama was excessive and uncalled for, according to an outcome of a survey conducted by the polling agency Nielsen Admosphere for Czech Television. Forty-two percent of respondents said the declaration was excessive, while 11 percent described it as unusual, but necessary. Twenty percent of respondents consider it standard procedure, while four percent said it did not go far enough. The declaration signed by the president, prime minister and the heads of both chambers of Parliament said the Czech Republic fully respected China’s territorial integrity and emphasized that the Tibetan spiritual leader’s presence in the Czech Republic did not signal a change in the country’s foreign policy in relations with China. In a related poll, 69 percent of respondents said the Czech culture minister was fully entitled to meet with the Dalai Lama even if it angered China, 17 percent said the meeting should not have taken place.
The center-right opposition parties TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats say they will call for a special session of the lower house of Parliament to debate the recent joint proclamation of leading Czech officials to reassure China of the Czech Republic’s continued interest in developing close ties with the country and saying the Czech Republic fully respects China’s territorial integrity. The proclamation came in connection with a visit to Prague by the Dalai Lama and his meeting with Culture Minister Daniel Herman. Opposition parties and the Christian Democrats of the ruling coalition have criticized the proclamation for its submissive tone saying that it degraded the Czech Republic and was a throw-back to the communist days. Right-wing senators have called on the chamber’s speaker Milan Stěch, who is running for re-election, to distance himself from the proclamation he signed or forego their support.
Communist Party leader Vojtech Filip has called on Culture Minister Daniel Herman to resign for “repeatedly breaking his oath of office”. The party leader accused Mr. Herman of lying when he said the president had crossed his uncle, Holocaust survivor George Brady, off the list of nominees for a state award and he once again criticized him for having attended the annual conference of the Sudeten Sudeten-German Landsmannschaft in Nuremberg in May of this year. At the meeting Culture Minister Herman expressed regret over the injustices that had broken up long years of fruitful coexistence between the nations, speaking both about the crimes of the Nazi regime as well as the violent acts of revenge committed during the post-war transfer of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia. The Communist Party leader said Herman’s actions damaged the country adding that if he did not resign of his own accord he would ask the prime minister to recall him. Culture Minister Herman, who attended the Landsmannschaft meeting as an official representative of the Czech government, lashed back, accusing the Communist Party of trying to raise its profile in the wake of its humiliating defeat in October’s Senate and local elections.
MPs from the Platform for Preserving European Culture want the Czech Republic to adopt legislation which would prevent radical Islamic priests from being allowed to preach in the country. They have put forward a draft bill according to which foreign priests who wish to be active in the Czech Republic would have to undergo schooling on the Czech legal and cultural environment. The bill is reportedly tailored according to Austrian and Danish legislation, which also sought to bring radical priests under greater state control. At the end of August the Czech intelligence services reported they were investigating an imam formerly active in Prague who had apparently tried to radicalize the Czech Muslim community.