German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is in Prague within her post Brexit European tour, on Thursday met with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka to debate the migrant crisis, the future of the EU after Brexit, and bilateral cooperation in the field of science and research. On the divisive issue of migration, the chancellor said there were principal issues on which the two sides were in agreement, such as the need to enforce the protection of the EU’s outer borders and the need to address the primary cause of the migrant crisis. Prague remains opposed to the concept of mandatory quotas, but Prime Minister Sobotka stressed that the existing differences did not mean that the two sides were not prepared to communicate and address them.
On another hot international issue, the German chancellor and Czech Prime minister rejected calls for an end to the EU sanctions against Russia, advocated among others by Czech President Milos Zeman. Chancellor Merkel said the lifting of sanctions could only come with progress in fulfilling the Minsk agreement, which was clearly not happening. Prime Minister Sobotka said the conditions under which the sanctions could be modified or lifted had been made clear from the outset and until they had been met there was no point in debating the issue.
The German Chancellor later met with President Milos Zeman, a fierce opponent of migration, who strongly rejected the idea of mandatory quotas, arguing that since it was Germany which had issued an open invitation to millions of migrants the country should take responsibility for them and not foist them on others.
At the close of her visit the chancellor attended a dinner given in her honour at Prague’s Lichtenstein Palace.
The German Chancellor’s visit to Prague is marked by street protests. Around two hundred demonstrators gathered outside the Office of the Government to watch her arrive on Thursday, blowing whistles and holding up slogans reading “Away with Merkel, Away with Islam” or “Merkel is killing Europe”. Some of the protesters exchanged verbal insults with the dozen or so Merkel supporters who also arrived on the scene. Police are out in force to maintain order. The chancellor, who was an extremely popular politician in Prague ahead of the migrant crisis, was led in through a back door so as to avoid coming into direct contact with the crowd.
Chancellor Merkel’s visit to Prague was marked by a security incident in which an unknown driver tried to force his way into the motorcade carrying the German delegation, Czech Radio reported. A spokesman for the police presidium confirmed the incident, but said that due to fast action on the part of the police the chancellor’s safety was not threatened and the man was arrested before he could do any harm.
The Czech Republic should join the states that are proposing a withdrawal of EU sanctions against Russia, President Miloš Zeman said at the opening of an agricultural goods fair in České Budějovice. The president argued that the sanctions had benefitted no one and were damaging both Czech farmers and the Czech industry. The sanctions are a sign of helplessness on the part of the EU and if our politicians want to help the agricultural sector they should take a clear stand in support of the states that propose a withdrawal of the EU sanctions, Zeman said. He pointed out that the French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron and the German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had openly argued in favour of withdrawing the sanctions. The chairman of the Senate Milan Štech said he would address an appeal for the sanctions to be withdrawn to German Chancellor Merkel during her visit to Prague.
The Senate has approved a proposed amendment to the law which would change the present zero alcohol tolerance for cyclists in the Czech Republic to a small amount of alcohol permitted. The proposal is based on the current norm in Austria which allows a blood alcohol level of up to 0.8 milliliters, the second most benevolent norm in Europe after Germany. This roughly corresponds to two or three beers or two glasses of wine. The proposed amendment was drafted on the grounds of a petition from close to 5,000 bikers. It will now be debated in the lower house. The Transport Ministry is vehemently opposed to the proposed change on the grounds that it would significantly decrease road safety.
The Senate has come out in support of a petition by South Bohemian citizens who would like to see Parliament give legislative approval to interventions in the Šumava National Park which would improve water retention in the region. The locals claim Šumava forests are drying out as a result of increasing periods of drought and the present non-intervention policy in parts of the nature reserve is doing immense harm to the countryside. An amendment to the law on Nature protection, which deals with this issue, is currently being debated in the lower house. The Environment Ministry is pushing for close to half of the Šumava National Park to be declared a “non-intervention” zone.
The regional court in Ostrava has started bankruptcy proceedings against the company Vitkovice Power Engineering. Creditors have two months in which to file claims. According to earlier reports the company owes close to two billion crowns to over 700 creditors. The company filed for “reorganization” bankruptcy last week in what many see as an attempt of the mother company Vitkovice to retain some control over the bankruptcy proceedings.
More than 900 heritage sights in 150 Czech towns and villages will open to the public free of charge within the European Heritage Days held September 3-11, the ctk news agency says.The European Heritage Days traditionally offer access to architectonic and archaeological sights, sacral buildings as well as museums, galleries, libraries in 48 European countries. In the Czech Republic, not only official cultural heritage sites, but also many private and public buildings, such as town halls, courts, church institutions, schools and residential houses, which are normally not accessible, will open their doors to the public in the course of that week.
The eastern parts of Prague are set to undergo one of the biggest shutdowns of the municipal water system in years, due to an extensive renovation of a water main. The water was shut down on Thursday morning and water will not flow until August 29. The outage will affect some 17,000 residents in the eastern part of Prague as well as some villages outside the city limits. The Prague Water Supply and Sewerage Company has placed fifty water tanks in the streets but also advised people to stock up on water.
A Czech woman who was lost in a remote area of New Zealand for a month has been found alive in an unattended warden’s cabin, New Zealand media reported on Thursday. The woman and her partner had set out to hike the Routeburn Track, which winds through the mountains in the South Island. According to police the couple set on the trail on 26 July and the man fell down a steep slope on 28 July. The woman said she climbed down the slope and reached him but he died shortly afterwards. She had been taken to hospital for assessment and was in good health.
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