The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed on Friday that visa requirements will be lifted for Czech citizens in the next few weeks. On a visit to Brussels, Mr. Harper said that one of his country’s goals is visa-free travel between Canada and the European Union. Canada re-introduced visas for Czechs four years ago, after it received a large number of asylum applications from mostly Romani Czechs during the two years that visa-free entry was in place.
Canada will in the near future lift a visa requirement for Czechs visiting the country. The news was reported by the site Canada.com and confirmed on Thursday by the Canadian Embassy in Prague. Ottawa imposed the restriction four years ago following a spike in asylum applications from Czechs, many of whom were from the Roma minority. The Czech government had appealed to the European Union to put pressure on Canada to abolish the visa requirement.
Monika Šimůnková has handed in her resignation as the Czech government’s human rights commissioner. Thursday’s move came just 48 hours after she was removed as the head of the human rights department at the Office of the Government. She said the reasons given for her dismissal from that post were spurious; the real reason was that the cabinet does not attach sufficient importance to human rights, she said.
The police’s anti-corruption unit has charged five people over an overpriced contract to produce tickets for Prague’s public transport system. Among those facing accusations including manipulation of public tenders and breach of trust is Martin Dvořák, former director of the city’s transport authority. The case centres on the awarding in 2008 of a contract to provide tickets for the transport system to the company Neograph, which has since itself admitted it received too much for the service.
The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, says that when he was prime minister in 1999 he did not know whether any members of his cabinet were aware of information regarding the ownership of the company Appian. It bought a huge mining company in a deal that last week saw the latter’s former managers found guilty of large-scale fraud in a Swiss court. Mr. Zeman made the comments on a visit to the central Bohemian town of Nymburk on Thursday. One of those convicted, Antonín Koláček, said some members of Mr. Zeman’s government knew that he and his associates were behind Appian.
The website of the Citizens’ Rights Party-Zemanites has disappeared from the internet, the news site iDnes.cz reported. The owner of its domain names, Miroslav Šlouf, shut down the site; he said he was angered that pornographic images had appeared on it recently, when it was evidently the victim of hackers. Mr. Šlouf, a well-connected political strategist, was prevented from standing in Prague by the Zemanites’ leadership. He was a long-term political ally of the party’s Miloš Zeman but the two fell out following the latter’s election as president.
Fugitive former member of parliament Petr Wolf has settled the CZK 5 million financial penalty he received alongside a six-year jail term for subsidy fraud. The final installment was lodged by his wife on Thursday. Mr. Wolf, who was a Social Democrat backbencher, has been in hiding since failing to turn up to begin serving his jail term in January. He is believed to be somewhere outside Europe.
Diplomat Jan Sechter is set to become Czech ambassador to Vienna, the Czech News Agency reported on Thursday. The post in Vienna has been vacant for almost a year. A number of Czech embassies are to receive new heads, following a period of deadlock when President Miloš Zeman and the then minister of foreign affairs, Karel Schwarzenberg, disagreed sharply on some postings. One concerned the sending to Bratislava of Livia Klausová, who is perceived as having supported Mr. Zeman’s bid for the presidency. On Thursday, the Slovak government approved her appointment.
A group of statues comprising Christ the Saviour and Saints Cosmas and Damian has been returned to Prague’s Charles Bridge. A team of restorers commissioned by the City Gallery Prague cleaned, treated and repaired the original Baroque statues over a three-year period. A spokesperson for the gallery said on Thursday that in time it would probably replace all of the original statues on the 14th century bridge with copies.
The inaugural Signal festival of light got underway in Prague on Thursday evening. The event, which runs over four nights, features leading European video mapping teams projecting moving images on to four buildings in the city, as well as dozens of installations created by Czech artists. The festival takes place between 19:30 and 23:30 every night and is free.