Addressing a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said the European Union must be ready to impose sanctions on Ukraine if President Yanukovych persists in using brute force against political opponents. The Czech Foreign Minister said it was unacceptable to see human rights being blatantly violated on the borders of the European Union and stressed it was essential to take action before the situation got totally out of control. He said the Soviet-style authoritarian rule implemented by President Yanukovych was close to what his own country had experienced in the past and urged the EU to use all tools at its disposal to bring the crisis to an end. Sanctions on Ukraine have become a point of divergence between the EU and the United States which is in favour of tougher action.
Czech Foreign MInister Lubomír Zaorálek likewise expressed concern over the outcome of the Swiss referendum on curbing migration in which a narrow majority of participants backed a proposal to impose quotas on newcomers to the country. Mr. Zaorálek said this was in violation of the principles of the Schengen travel-free space and not a good development for Europe. While Switzerland is not an EU member, it is closely integrated with the union and is a part of the Schengen space. The European Commission has said it regrets the outcome of the Swiss vote and would need to review the impact on overall relations between Switzerland and the EU.
The jobless rate in the Czech Republic hit an all-time high in January, when it increased to 8.6 percent from 8.2 percent in December 2013, the Employment Office said Monday. The number of unemployed reached 629,274 at the end of January, which is 32,441 more than at the end of 2013. Despite the mild winter, unemployment was affected by the suspension of seasonal work in construction, agriculture and forestry. A moderate decrease in unemployment can be expected in the second half of this year, when economic revival should influence the labour market.
The Czech Republic presently has the worst record in drawing of EU funds of the entire 27-member block, the Czech Minister for Regional Development Věra Jourová told journalists following Monday’s cabinet meeting. Ms. Jourová said that in the period between 2007 and 2013 the Czech Republic had placed bottom of the EU list due to a lack of know-how in securing grants and a reputation of abusing funds. Last year alone the country failed to draw the equivalent of 10 billion crowns of potentially available money, out of an overall 16 billion left untapped. The minister said that this year the Czech Republic could fail to draw as much as 24 billion crowns, with the biggest problems at the environment and education ministries.
The parties of the ruling centre-left coalition have finalized their policy programme statement on the basis of which they will seek a vote of confidence in the lower house on February 18th. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Monday distributed copies of the policy statement to his coalition partners ANO and the Christian Democrats, ahead of a tripartite meeting at which they are to discuss the document with trade unions and employers. The cabinet is to meet on Wednesday to give the policy statement its final approval.
A 52-year-old priest from Havlickuv Brod has been arrested and charged with rape, child abuse and pornography. He remains in detention at the Hradec Kralove jailhouse. The priest is suspected of having raped a 37-year-old woman and sexually abused a 13 year old girl whom he also used to make child porn photos. The woman who reported the case said she had been raped on several occasions and had been under severe psychological pressure from the priest. If convicted the man could face up to ten years in jail.
The two biggest parties in the coalition government, the Social Democrats and ANO, are at loggerheads over who to nominate for the post of the Czech Republic’s European Union commissioner, iDnes.cz reported. ANO is pushing Pavel Telička, who was briefly an EU commissioner in the period after the Czech Republic joined the bloc in 2004. The Social Democrats have rejected Telička’s nomination but have not yet put forward a candidate of their own. iDnes.cz suggested that the new government, which is pro-European, would prefer a more distinctive EU commissioner than the Czech Republic’s current representative, Štefan Fülle.
Eurostat deputy chairwoman Marie Bohatá has confirmed that she is leaving the post in June of this year after ten years in office, the daily Hospodářské Noviny reported on Monday. The paper speculates that the former Czech interim prime minister, Jan Fischer, may make a bid for the job. Like Ms. Bohatá, Mr. Fischer headed the Czech Statistics Office and he also served as vice-president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Mr. Fischer is reportedly also being considered as Czech ambassador to Luxembourg.
The great Italian composer of film scores, Ennio Morricone, performed to a sold-out crowd at Prague’s O2 Arena on Sunday night. The seated audience of 12,000 gave Morricone, 85, a standing ovation at the end of a two-hour performance that featured many of his most famous composition from movies such as The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in America and The Untouchables.