The Czech Republic intends to keep its embassy in the Syrian capital Damascus open because it is an effective means of ensuring humanitarian aid in the country, the Czech foreign minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, said on Tuesday after talks with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. Mr. Zaorálek said the Czech embassy had particularly good contacts in Syria with the Red Crescent and other organisations, adding that it had helped US citizens in Syria as well as European states which were searching for their citizens. He denied that the presence of the Czech mission helped legitimise the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Sixty MPs have proposed making public defamation of the Czech president a crime punishable by up to a year in prison. The proposal has the backing of deputies from the Social Democrats, ANO, the Communist Party and Dawn. Social Democrat Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka dismissed the idea, saying it would lead to the law being used in political battles; MPs should focus their energies on dealing with other matters, he said. The bill’s drafters say that defaming the president was illegal in the interwar First Republic. It was also banned under the communist regime before being removed from the statute books in the 1990s.
The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, is not planning to take part in events on Thursday marking the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, SeznamZpravy.cz reported. His spokesman Jiří Ovčáček told the news website that Mr. Zeman would not follow the usual practice of laying a wreath at the spot where the revolution began in 1989 but would “leave that to other politicians”. The head of state is planning to quietly remember the events of that November 17, most likely at his residence at Lány near Prague, his spokesman said.
Hundreds of police officers are to be deployed in Prague on Thursday, which is a state holiday and marks the anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution. Národní St. will be closed to all traffic for a street party celebration entitled Thank You That We Can, while around 30 other marches, demonstrations and gatherings are also set to take place in the capital. Officers from around the country are being sent to Prague as reinforcements.
The Czech Republic would like to have a balanced trade and investment partnership with China, the Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, said at the ceremonial opening of the Czech-China Investment Forum at Prague Castle on Tuesday. At present, China exports over 10 times as much to the Czech Republic as it imports from the country. Mr. Sobotka said relations between the two states were developing dynamically, particularly in the engineering sector but also in transport, science and research and healthcare. He also told the Chinese delegates that the Czech Republic was interested in a dialogue with Beijing on human rights.
A memorial to the 1989 Velvet Revolution on Prague’s Národní St. has been moved, the news site SeznamZpravy.cz reported. The memorial, which takes the form of outstretched hands above the date 17.11.1989, is no longer in a passageway through the Kaňka Palace but on the building’s façade. Building owners the Chamber of Advocates said there was a fear that the many candles lit at the original location could cause a fire.
The Czech Republic’s economic growth contracted in the third quarter of the year, slowing to 1.9 percent year-on-year from 2.6 percent year-on-year in the second quarter. The news stems from a provisional gross domestic product estimate published by the Czech Statistics Office on Tuesday. Analysts had been expecting slightly higher growth in the July to October period.
Temperatures dropped to minus 20 degrees Celsius in the Šumava region in West Bohemia on Monday night, breaking a record for the coldest day set back in 1992. Then the temperature fell to minus 17.9 degrees. No other records were broken on Monday night, according to the Czech weather office. Drivers were warned of ice Tuesday morning though most roads appeared to be usable with care. With rain expected later on Tuesday afternoon a major freeze-up threatens.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka continues his review tour of ministers on Tuesday. It’s the turn of Minister of Foreign Affairs Lubomír Zaorálek and Minister for Industry and Trade Jan Mládek. Zaorálek came under fire recently when he masterminded a declaration of four top Czech officials ostensibly seeking to calm Chinese anger over a meeting by the Christian Democrat culture minister with the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in Prague. The declaration was dubbed servile by opposition parties. Zaorálek also likened culture minister Daniel Herman’s action to a Czech meeting with the Sudeten German leader in the 1930s. He later apologised for that remark. Mládek offered to resign ahead of his, eventually unsuccessful, attempt to be elected to the upper house, the Senate, in recent elections. Sobotka has kept him on in the post though appears to be considering a wider Cabinet reshuffle.