Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has announced that Turkey has abolished visa requirement for Czech citizens. As of this month Czechs travelling to Turkey will no longer be required to apply for visas. Turks travelling to the Czech Republic will still require Czech visas but the procedure has been simplified.
The three Czech women who are in Thai hospitals with serious injuries sustained in the disaster are due to return to the Czech Republic, the Czech ambassador to Thailand said on Sunday, adding that their condition allows transport. Beside Czech supermodel Petra Nemcova who suffered a broken pelvis, another woman and a nine-year-old girl with severe cuts are being treated in hospitals in Thailand.
Czechs have raised over 22 million crowns (733,000 euros) in public collections called by aid organisations to help the disaster-stricken countries in South Asia. The total figure is expected to be much higher as the amounts on some of the accounts will not be known until Monday. The government said it will donate another 5 million crowns on top of the 10 million already pledged for immediate relief.
A Czech Army special carrying Czech, American, German and Finnish tourists as well as the body of the first Czech victim of the Indian Ocean disaster landed in Prague on Sunday morning. The only confirmed Czech casualty so far was a 24-year-old woman who died in Thailand. The list of Czechs in the region who have not yet contacted their relatives or Czech embassies has shrunk to 40. The Foreign Ministry says six of them are likely to have died in Thailand and Sri Lanka in last Sunday's catastrophe.
The Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has said that the Czech Republic should coordinate its aid to South Asia with the European Union. According to Mr Gross the current humanitarian aid stage will be followed by a renewal of the devastated areas in which the Czech Republic will take an active part. The government will hold an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday to discuss the forms of immediate relief the Czech Republic is providing to the areas as well as further steps it will take. The Prime Minister also said that the Czech Republic will join the rest of the European Union in a three-minute silence on January 5, in honour of the tens of thousands of victims of the devastating earthquake and tsunami waves.
The former Czech President Vaclav Havel has spoken against a referendum on the European Union Constitution. Speaking in a televised debate on Sunday, Mr Havel said the EU Constitution Treaty was a comprehensive technical text hardly changing the European Union. Mr Havel said once Czech citizens said yes to EU membership, a public vote on the EU Constitution would be superfluous. Czech politicians have not yet decided on the way of ratifying the treaty but it is expected that a referendum will take place. The opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats as well as President Klaus sharply criticise the EU Constitution.
The first Czech casualty of the Indian Ocean disaster has been confirmed. The victim was a young woman who had been holidaying in Thailand. The Foreign Ministry believes six other Czechs may also have died in Thailand and Sri Lanka in Sunday's catastrophe. A total of 45 Czechs remain unaccounted for, although officials expect most of them will be found once communications improve in disaster hit areas. Three Czechs are in hospital in Thailand with serious injuries, while two others are receiving treatment in Sri Lanka. Most of the Czechs still unaccounted for were holidaying in those countries. The government will hold an extraordinary meeting on the situation in South Asia on Tuesday, two days ahead of a European Council meeting in Brussels.
Czechs have raised over 14 million crowns (470,000 euros) in public collections called by aid organisations to help the disaster-stricken countries in South Asia. The state will donate another 5 million crowns on top of the 10 million already pledged for immediate humanitarian aid. A Czech Airforce plane landed in Indonesia on Friday with over nine tonnes of humanitarian aid. The plane was carrying water, medicines and water purifying tablets, as well as body bags. It is due to bring Czech tourists back from various countries in the region on Sunday.
In his New Year's address to the nation President Vaclav Klaus said that the Czech Republic's accession to the European Union on May 1st, 2004 did not prove to be a watershed in people's lives. The President said that although the ongoing changes have been continuous, people should be aware of them. In his speech President Klaus criticised the fact that despite promises, the reforms of the health care and pension systems have not been launched. Mr Klaus also mentioned the low voter turnout in the European Parliament, Senate and regional elections that took place in the Czech Republic in the past year. The President said that by not turning up people expressed what they thought of those institutions. He concluded his New Year's address by saying that 2005 should not be a nameless year, lacking in substance. He called on the Czech people to follow traditionalist, conservative and un-ideological goals and demand courage, responsibility and modesty from their elected representatives.