The Czech Foreign Ministry is hosting an international symposium on Czech
foreign policy titled “Rethinking the Future.“
The event is co-organized by the Prague-based Institute of International Relations, the German foundation Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung and the embassies of the United States and Australia.
In an opening address to the assembly, Deputy Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček stressed the significance of EU and NATO membership for the Czech Republic.
He said politicians must work to overcome their differences on divisive issues such as migration and relations with Russia and that Czech foreign policy must build on values such as support for human rights in countries where they are brutally suppressed.
Petříček also stressed the importance of developing transatlantic cooperation, saying the United States had always been Europe’s key partner in times when the continent faced serious challenges.
Sixteen more community centers for mental health will open around the
country in the coming years, Health Minister Adam Vojtěch announced at the
opening of such a center in Prague’s Prosek district on Thursday.
The building of a network of mental health community centers is part of an attempt to erase the stigma surrounding mental health problems and enable patients who have been released from hospital to continue getting professional aid and advice. The understanding is that more patients will also approach such a center in the event of problems.
Five such centers were built this year and their number should reach 30 by 2021.
The government’s Secretary for European Affairs Aleš Chmelař is leaving
his post and seeking the position of deputy foreign minister in charge of
the ministry’s European section, the daily Právo reported on Thursday.
Prime Minister Babiš said an open competition would be held to fill the post of Government Secretary for European Affairs. Chmelař has served in the post since June 2017.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has hailed the idea to hold a summit of
EU and African states, but voiced disappointment with the EU debate on
migration at an informal summit in Salzburg.
Mr. Babiš said that some politicians are still insisting on the redistribution of illegal migrants which took the debate a few years back.
The Czech prime minister said the fact that some EU politicians seem to have come to terms with the flow of illegal migrants to Europe was an invitation to people smugglers and criticized the fact that the EU had not agreed on more concrete measures how to fight them.
As regards Frontex, Babiš said it was essential to clear up the agency’s role in the future. He earlier stressed it would be good if Frontex operated outside of Europe, rather than duplicating the coast guards of individual member states.
The Czech Republic ranks 26th in the world in a quality of life index
compiled by the non-profit group Social Progress Imperative along with
partner organisations including the consultancy Deloitte.
Of the new EU member states, only Slovenia finished higher, in 22nd place. The best living standards are enjoyed by the people of Norway; the worst by people in the Central African Republic. In total, 146 countries were evaluated.
The Czech branch of anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International has
sent a formal complaint to the European Commission alleging a conflict of
interest between PM Andrej Babiš and his economic interests in relation to
the Agrofert group.
The complaint alleges that Mr Babiš is both founder and beneficiary of trust funds overseeing Agrofert, giving him de facto control of a company with a deep interest in issues at stake in Common Agricultural Policy reform and broader EU budget negotiations.
Under EU rules, persons involved in the implementation and administration of the bloc’s budget must “refrain from any action likely to bring their interests into conflict with the interests of the Union.”
President Miloš Zeman has indicated that he plans to meet the Social
Democrat’s new candidate for Foreign Minister, Tomáš Petříček, in
the near future. Previously, he had rejected the party’s candidate
Miroslav Poche, and the post has been vacant, with Social Democrat Jan
Hamáček leading the ministry in the interim.
PM Andrej Babiš (Ano), who like the president had not backed Mr Poche, is reportedly in favour of the move. However, the foreign minister post appears likely to remain vacant until at least early October 2, the first available time in Mr Zeman’s calendar.
The Czech government on Wednesday approved the draft budget for the year
2019. It counts on a deficit of 40 billion crowns (1.6 billion euros), the
same amount as in the years 2020 and 2021, said PM Andrej Babiš (Ano)
following a Cabinet meeting.
On the expenditure side, the focus is on investment, increasing pensions and raising salaries for public sector workers, Mr Babiš said. Some opposition politicians argued that during a period of strong economic growth, running such high budget deficits is irresponsible. They also said the level of investment was too low.
The government has proposed increasing the average old-age pension by about
900 crowns as of January 2019. The fixed component of such pensions, which
is the same for all and now stands at CZK 2,700, would rise by 570 crowns.
The component reflecting the amount the recipient paid into the system
during their working years will rise 3.4 percent.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (Ano) has said the overall aim is to raise all pension levels – but first to help predominantly those pensioners now living at or below the poverty line. People with small pensions who retired years ago and those who earned less and therefore paid less into the social system will get a bigger hike; those who retired in recent years and have a higher pension would see a slower rise.