Foreign ministers from the Visegrad Four (the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary) as well as Luxembourg and Latvia met in Prague on Monday to discuss the ongoing immigrant crisis. The meeting was expected to have a coordinating character and not expected to result in a final standpoint or declaration, according to the spokeswoman for the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Luxembourg foreign minister Jean Asselborn said later there had been an exchange of views and that Tuesday’s meeting of interior ministers was very important to find a solution. It was not an impossible goal, he said, adding that he now appreciated the problems better. The Visegrad Four have taken a stand against the European Commission proposal that countries sign up to a mandatory share out of immigrants. Prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka repeated that stand Monday. EU heads of government are meeting for an emergency summit on the immigrant crisis on Wednesday.
An analysis of mandatory quotas by the Czech Ministry of Interior suggests that they are illegal. The analysis also says that such quotas were already tried out and failed six years ago when they were adopted to deal with a wave of immigrants to Malta. The analysis in particular highlights the problems of how immigrants allocated to one country could be kept their against their will if they wanted to move on to another country. The analysis will be passed on to the current country chairing the EU’s Council of Ministers, Luxembourg.
The latest draft of a European Commission plan to share refugees among EU states does not include set numbers of migrants that individual countries would be required to accept, the Financial Times reported. Member states’ interior ministers are due to discuss the issue on Tuesday. If confirmed, the news would likely be welcomed by the Czech government, which has long opposed quotas and says countries should accept refugees on a voluntary basis alone. The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, recently announced plans for the EU to take in 160,000 asylum seekers in the next two years.
Unions representing workers at the Czech Republic’s sole refinery company, Česká Rafinérská, have given warning that are preparing strike action in pursuit of their pay claims. The unions have asked the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to nominate a mediator who could intervene in the negotiations. Talks between the unions and management over a new collective agreement have been ongoing since May. Workers are reported to be seeking a 2000 crown increase in their monthly wages. Česká Rafinérská is controlled by Unipetrol which in turn is majority owned by Polish energy group PKN Orlen.
An explosion at an arms factory in Central Bohemia on Monday has claimed the life of at least one person. The fire service said the incident happened at the Sellier and Bellot factory at Vlašim when powder used for making arms exploded. More may be injured or dead at the scene, the fire service say. Unofficial reports said at least three people were unaccounted for. The company has an almost 200 year tradition in the town.
Czech Minister of Finance Andrej Babiš has criticized the European Commission for failing to take seriously enough the Europe revenues lost through Value Added tax evasion and the proposals made by Prague to tighten up the system. Babiš’ views have been expressed in a letter to the Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Pierre Moscovici. The Czech minister said the revenue loss from VAT fraud amounted to 168 billion euros in 2013. Babiš has been in the forefront of moves to shake up the current EU tax system with value added tax paid by companies when they buy goods instead of when they are sold to the customer. This allows some firms to pocket the full retail price of the goods without handing over tax to the state.
The Czech branch of Transparency International has launched a campaign for laws to be amended so that those who expose corruption or other illegal behaviour at work are better protected. Czech law has clear shortfalls in this respect, the organisation said. A survey linked to the campaign showed that around 70 percent of Czechs perceive ‘whistle blowers’ as heroes. However, only a fifth of those confronted by corruption said they raised the alarm with superiors or authorities.
Security at Prague Castle is to be improved after the art group Ztohoven on Saturday replaced the presidential flag over Prague Castle with a pair of giant red boxer shorts in protest at President Miloš Zeman. The Castle authorities have been investigating how the group managed to get onto the roof, the news website iDnes.cz reported. It quoted the head of the Castle Guard as saying the Ztohoven members had taken advantage of the fact there that scaffolding was in place. Three people have been arrested in connection with the matter. The spokesman for President Zeman said personnel changes would be made in the Castle security team.
The Czech Republic’s worst road accident this year has claimed another victim, taking the death toll to six. Five Poles were died on Thursday after their van collided with a lorry on the motorway outside Brno. One of the three people hurt in the accident later died in hospital. The accident happened on a section of the motorway where the number of lanes had been limited for repairs to take place.
The chairman of the Czech Football Association, Miroslav Pelta, has said Viktoria Plzeň defender David Limberský should not be selected for the upcoming two European Championship qualification games against Turkey and the Netherlands. Pelta said Limberský’s recent actions crashing his luxury Prague when drunk and later making a celebratory driving sign after scoring in a game were not compatible with representing his country. The chairman said he had passed on his views to the national coach. The Czech Republic has already qualified for the finals in France next year making the possible punishment rather toothless.
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