The Czech Republic will not introduce mandatory checks of passengers at its airports over Ebola, the country’s chief hygiene officer, Vladimír Valenta, said on Friday. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the spread of Ebola in West Africa an international health emergency, requiring a coordinated international response. The chief hygiene officer referred to the European commissioner for health who has described the danger of the spread of the disease to EU countries as “extremely low”. The Czech Republic will focus on providing information for the time being. Hygiene officer Valenta made clear it was not recommended to travel to countries hit by the Ebola outbreak if at all possible.
The government minister for human rights, Jiří Dienstbier, held a special press conference on Friday where he rejected accusations his bureau was not cooperating fully after a disagreement on new civil service legislation. He said his office had, on the contrary, been providing the Interior Ministry with the relevant documentation since Thursday morning. He also denied that he and the prime minister were at odds over the legislation, despite having slammed a compromise by the coalition over the bill a day earlier. Mr Dienstbier criticised the agreement as it would place oversight of bureaucrats in the hands of the Ministry of the Interior rather than an independent body headed by a so-called “super-bureaucrat”, which was originally envisaged by the government.
A 24-year-old suspect in a hit-and-run in Prague this week, which claimed the life a young woman, will remain in custody awaiting trial. The district court for Prague 2 issued the decision on Friday with the judge saying there was a danger the suspect could otherwise influence witnesses. The suspect, who fled the scene without attempting to help the mortally-wounded 21-year-old, gave himself up to the police the same evening. He is charged with gross negligence leading to death, driving under the influence of an illicit drug, and failure to provide emergency assistance; if found guilty, he could spend up to eight years in jail.
The Czech jobless rate stagnated at 7.4 percent in July, despite analyst expectations of a slight increase. In July, the number of those unemployed was just over five hundred and forty-one thousand, up by almost 11,000 year-on-year, according to the Employment Office. Job vacancies, meanwhile, have risen over a period of several months. The coming months, could nevertheless see an increase as seasonal work wraps up. The unemployment rate had fallen steadily since January when it stood at 8.6 percent.
The Czech Republic’s Minister for Regional Development Věra Jourová, whom the Czech government has nominated for EU commissioner, will meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in late August, Ms Jourova confirmed Friday to the Czech News Agency. The minister had her first meeting with Martin Selmayr, the head of Juncker´s cabinet, in Brussels on Thursday. After the meeting, she expressed confidence she had a good chance of heading the regional development portfolio in the EC. The Czech Republic’s nominee was originally to meet Juncker on Thursday, but he postponed the date of their meeting until the end of August to be able to meet first with all the candidates for EU commissioner from all of the member states.
The lower house of Czech parliament adjourned after a brief session on Friday until August 27. This means that contentious civil service reforms, being hotly debated by the coalition government and also the opposition TOP 09 and ODS parties will be postponed until MPs return from their summer vacation. Reforms to the civil service, designed to reduce political influence over bureaucratic institutions, were thrown into doubt this week by a controversial compromise measure, which would place oversight of bureaucrats in the hands of the Ministry of the Interior rather than an independent body.
Agriculture minister Marian Jurečka has urged Czechs to make an effort to purchase locally grown produce to combat the impact of Russian sanctions. On Thursday, Moscow announced a ban on fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products from the EU to last for one year in retaliation for sanctions imposed by Russia over its alleged involvement in the Ukraine conflict. In making his appeal, Jurečka also added that Russia "must not step on the principles of freedom and democracy on which European society is based."
The governing coalition has backed down in the face of concerns expressed by the opposition TOP 09 and ODS parties with regards to crucial civil service reforms. Specifically, at a meeting held late on Wednesday in Prague, it was agreed that a contentious central civil service directorate is to be dropped in favour of a system managed by the Ministry of the Interior. The compromise would see the government approve a civil service chief for a six year term. Civil service reform laws, designed to remove political influences from the government bureaucracy, represent a key reform pledge from the current coalition government. However, trade union groups have criticised the deal, saying such reforms will not lead to de-politicisation. Jiří Dienstbier, Social Democrat minister for human rights and legislature, also slammed the compromise on Thursday, pulling out of any further involvement in the current proposals.
Jan Hamáček, Social Democrat speaker of the lower house of the Czech parliament has stated that unlike the former government, "we will not uncritically approve every policy of the centre-right government of Benyamin Netanyahu." The statement was made to Isaac Herzog, Israeli Labour opposition leader, during his visit to Prague. The comments come as the new president of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, has accepted an invitation by his Czech counterpart Miloš Zeman to visit the country. The timing of the invite by Zeman has been criticized by some observers, who accuse the president of demonstrating an excessively simplistic unflinching support of Israel in light of the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip.
The Czech Ministry of the Interior is preparing legislative proposals to improve readiness in case of a blackout in the capital city Prague. Presently, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec has appointed a working group to examine how Prague could deal with a major power cut and also a disruption of its water supplies. Back in February, a training exercise for just such a scenario was conducted by the emergency services. This resulted in 32 proposals for how to improve readiness - something that the ministry is now in the midst of processing. The proposed measures will be finalised in September.