Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said the Czech Republic is ready to take part in the establishment of a joint EU border patrol to protect the alliance’s outer borders. Speaking to journalists on Thursday, Mr. Sobotka said the Czech Republic welcomed the initiative discussed at Wednesday’s summit of EU leaders and was ready to contribute soldiers or police officers, depending on what was required. The Czech Republic has long called for joint EU action in safeguarding the EU’s outer borders, saying the task could not be left to the buffer states alone.
An association of NGOs working with migrants has accused the Czech government of refusing to accept its share of responsibility for the humanitarian crisis. In a statement released on Thursday two dozen NGOs urged the government to reject the use of force against refugees, such as truncheons and tear gas during their detention and provide adequate standards of care for them. The NGOs argue that in the past the country has sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan and exported weapons to Syria therefore it was co-responsible for the crisis in the region. Among the signatories are People in Need, the Association for Integration and Migration and the Organization for Aid to Refugees.
The Czech Republic currently has 680 vacancies in its facilities for migrants and another 400 should be made available in the near future, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec told the European Affairs Committee of the lower house on Thursday. There are presently close to 900 migrants in asylum centres and detention facilities around the country. The minister reiterated his concerns that the approval of quotas by EU interior ministers could trigger a fresh wave of asylum seekers to Europe in the spring of next year.
The Czech Republic is to offer Hungary help in patrolling its borders with Serbia and Croatia, Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnický told the Czech News Agency. The ministry is currently carrying out an analysis of what technical help and personnel could be used. Technical help could include equipment for monitoring the movement of people, the agency added. The Czech Interior Ministry has already sent 50 large tents to Hungary to house some of the migrants. As an EU buffer state Hungary has been one of the countries worst affected by the migrant crisis.
President Miloš Zeman said on Thursday that his chancellor, Vratislav Mynář would have to quit his post if he fails to get the top-security clearance needed for the job. However he said he would give Mr. Mynář time to appeal the verdict if it proves negative. The president made a similar statement soon after taking office and appointing the chancellor, but it has taken two and a half years for the National Security Office to come to a decision, allegedly due to procrastination on the part of the chancellor in providing all the necessary documents. According to the daily Právo the security clearance has not been granted.
Petr Dongres, who heads the president’s security team at Prague Castle has asked to be released from his post in the wake of a breach of security last weekend in which activists, posing as chimneysweeps, managed to climb onto the roof and hung a pair of red underpants in place of the presidential standard. President Miloš Zeman had already made clear that Dongres could not remain in his post and on Thursday he indicated that more heads would roll, saying that the Prague Castle Guard was co-responsible for the breach of security.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka stressed the continuing relevance of the Višegrad Four regional cooperation late Wednesday. Arriving at an extraordinary EU summit on immigration in Brussels Mr. Sobotka said that the cooperation is meaningful in spite of occasional differences. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland have often been able to push through their stances when they act together, he added. The comments follows Poland’s split from the formerly united Višegrad Four stand against mandatory immigrant quotas on Tuesday. Minister of interior Milan Chovanec later said the regional cooperation faced “a short term end.”
The minister for human rights and minorities, Jiří Dienstbier, is to meet with the mayors of 36 towns and cities who are involved in a government programme to fight social exclusion. The talks will focus on the extent of progress made, the problems involved and the possibility of acquiring grants for various initiatives in support of social inclusion. A ten-year European initiative involving 12 European states with Romany minorities to improve their socio-economic status across the region ended earlier this year. According to national representatives it managed to raise awareness of the plight of Romanies, but failed to combat their segregation.
The Czech National Bank board decided at its meeting on Thursday to keep interest rates unchanged. The two-week repo rate will be maintained at 0.05%, the discount rate at 0.05% and the Lombard rate at 0.25%. The bank board also confirmed the central bank’s commitment to intervene on foreign exchange markets if needed to weaken the crown so as to maintain an exchange rate of CZK 27/EUR.
Police have charged a hotel owner in Zlín with endangering the public health after it emerged that he had put dozens of people at risk by failing to close down the facility after hygiene officers confirmed the presence of legionella bacteria in the hotels waterworks. The presence of the bacteria was confirmed last year after a foreign national died of the infection. The hotel owner failed to take any measures and continued to take in guests, putting at risk 36 people. Another man reportedly developed serious health problems as a result. It is not clear if the owner was aware of the problem before the death of one of the hotel guests last year. If convicted he faces up to eight years in prison for criminal negligence. The hotel, which has its own source of water, has been closed down.
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