The Czech Republic’s minister of foreign affairs, Tomáš Petříček, bestowed Medals of Merit for Diplomacy on 12 individuals on Monday. Nine of them, including the late Jiří Dientsbier, the country’s first post-communist foreign minister, received the honour for helping advance diplomacy and foreign policy in the period since the Velvet Revolution.
Barbara Coudenhove-Kalergi was born in Prague in 1932. As a member of the German-speaking minority in Czechoslovakia, she and her family were forced to flee the country at the end of the Second World War. She later settled in Vienna, where she became a journalist and author – ever with an eye on events happening in her old homeland. I joined Barbara at her home in Vienna to discuss her life and work.
Former Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg has attacked the current foreign minister of Austria, Sebastian Kurz, for populism. Schwarzenberg singled out Kurz’s comments attacking any EU talks with Turkey. The Czech politician said that it was clear at the moment that Turkish entry into the EU is not on the agenda. Schwarzenberg’s comments were given in an interview with the Austrian paper Die Presse Am Sonntag.
A series of eight programmes on public broadcaster Czech Television called Modrá Krev or Blue Blood is already around half way through. The series looks at the modern Czech aristocracy, in many cases families which have returned from exile during the Communist era, with each episode focusing on one particular noble family.
The Czech Republic will increase defense spending to two percent of GDP, meeting requirements under NATO only after 2025 as previously agreed, the prime minister confirmed on Sunday. Speaking in a Czech TV political debate programme, he suggested increasing spending before then made little sense for the Czech military; political opponent Miroslava Němcová countered with the view that defense spending was indeed sluggish. NATO commitments were a campaign issue in the recent US presidential election for president-elect Donald J. Trump, who cast doubt that the US would honour Article 5, coming to allies' defence in the face of foreign aggression, if allies didn't pay their fair share. On Sunday, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka called a reopening of the issue of missile defense in the Czech Republic, backed roughly a decade ago by President George W. Bush, axed by the Obama administration and recently mentioned by Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani, "science fiction".
Karel Schwarzenberg says it is highly likely he will stand for election to the Chamber of Deputies as the electoral leader of TOP 09 in Prague next year, iHned.cz reported. Mr. Schwarzenberg, who turns 80 next year, previously led the party and is its honorary chairman. He said he would not stand for president in elections in early 2018, saying he had lost once – to incumbent Miloš Zeman – and that was the end for him. TOP 09 chairman Miroslav Kalousek said the Schwarzenberg noble family had been serving the country for 700 years and his party colleague was continuing that tradition.
Long queues have been forming at Prague Castle recently after security was beefed up at the popular tourist site. Now it has been intensified further with the introduction of walk-through metal detectors. Officials say the measure protects visitors, though critics say less obtrusive approaches could be taken.
Responding to the introduction of airport-style metal detectors at Prague Castle on Tuesday, the honorary head of TOP 09, Karel Schwarzenberg, said that the institution was more closed today than it was under Gustav Husák, the last Communist president of Czechoslovakia. Mr. Schwarzenberg, who was chancellor to President Václav Havel and was defeated in the last presidential election by Miloš Zeman, said he recalled the joy with which Mr. Havel had opened Prague Castle to the public in the 1990s. He made the comments at an event launching the policy programme of TOP 09 ahead of regional and Senate elections later this year.
The U.S. is seeking permission from the Czech government to fly Global Hawk surveillance drones through Czech airspace, the daily Právo reports. The pilotless aircraft is the largest of its kind in the U.S. fleet and is reportedly to help monitor areas along the Russian border. The U.S. Embassy in Prague declined to comment but the news was confirmed by the spokesman for the Transport Ministry, says the daily. Právo adds that teams from the Interior, Defence, and Transport Ministries have met to discuss ways of accommodating the U.S. plans but suggests getting to yes won’t be easy, saying Czech and European legislation do not deal with long-distance operation of unmanned aircraft.
Karel Schwarzenberg, former Czech foreign minister and TOP 09 honorary chairman, has been awarded the Robert Schuman Medal for contribution to peace, European development and human values. He received the medal from the hands of Manfred Weber, who heads the European People’s Party Group in the European Parliament. Schwarzenberg, who has just turned 78, is the first Czech to receive the Award. The previous recipients include Pope John Paul II, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former EC president Jose Manuel Barroso.