France expressed interest in a closer dialogue with the countries of the Visegrad 4, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka confirmed after a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron at the EU summit in Brussels. The leaders of the V4, counting Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic, agreed to another meeting this autumn to push for further progress. Mr Sobotka said the talks had covered a wide range of issues faced by the European Union including differences in living standards between eastern and western and older and newer EU members.
But it was the migration crisis that generated the most heated exchange even before the meeting itself. The French president charged, in an interview that the Visegrad 4 leaders had defied Europe's principles and values by refusing to pull their weight in the bloc's refugee-sharing plan, reminding them that the EU was not only about funds but was “a community of values”. Mr Sobotka and others in the bloc rejected the accusation they were treating the EU as “a supermarket”.
The Czech Republic and other members have strongly rejected EU migrant quotas, accepting only a handful of refugees or none at all. The stance has led the European Commission to launch proceedings against three of the four V4 members.
President Miloš Zeman has come under fire for controversial comments made in an interview for private broadcaster TV Barrandov on Thursday in which he described the country’s Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka as a “grey creature” with all the charisma “of a jar of pickles” and compared Sobotka’s replacement of former finance minister Andrej Babiš to the “behaviour of a swine”. Former speaker of the lower house Miroslava Němcová slammed Mr Zeman for, in her view, degrading the office of the president while others, including euro MP Jiří Pospíšil, suggested the president had hit rock bottom in terms of the political culture. The prime minister himself responded with a barb suggesting that the president was suffering a “breakdown of personality which would only get worse”. Mr Zeman is seeking a second term as president next year.
Fifteen people, including Czech speed skater Martina Sáblíková or honorary consul to Scotland Paul Millar (who is behind the creation of a memorial recognising the sacrifice of the Czechoslovak paratroopers in WWII) are among recipients of this year’s Gratias agit awards which were presented at the Great Hall at Czernín Palace – the headquarters of the Czech Foreign Ministry – on Friday. Famous Czech conductor, Jiří Bělohlávek, who died in May, received the award in memoriam. The awards were presented by Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek; recipients receive the prize for promoting the good name of the Czech Republic abroad.
The Czech Republic wants to take an active part in the emerging strengthened defence cooperation of EU countries, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka told journalists after arriving at the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday. "We are ready to take part in the projects. It will depend on how precisely the conditions will be defined in the months to come and what specific projects will be implemented," Mr Sobotka said. The Czech Republic also supports the emergence of a European Defence Fund, which would support EU countries' effort to upgrade the armed forces and the development of the defence industry.
The leadership of the Christian Democratic Party and members are meeting on Friday for a conference to streamline its political programme as well as candidates list for the autumn election with that of STAN, the independents and mayors party with which the Christian Democrats are running. The decision to run on a joint ballot was confirmed at the party conference in May. Some pundits regard the move as a clever but risky political gamble, as opinion polls put the parties’ joint numbers among voters at around 10 percent: they will need to clinch a minimum 10 percent of the vote together to win seats in the lower house of Parliament.
Temperatures around the Czech Republic reached record highs on Thursday. According to the Czech Hydro-Meteorological Institute June 22nd was the warmest day of the year so far with the highest temperature, 36 degrees Celsius, recorded in Husinec-Řež near Prague.
Temperatures cooled down with severe storms that hit the Czech Republic on Thursday evening. In some parts of the country, hailstones and high winds damaged property, uprooting trees and causing transport problems. Some four thousand households in South Bohemia and Moravia have been left without electricity after the storm brought down power lines.
Saturday should be mostly overcast with sunny periods; daytime temperatures as high as 30 degrees are expected.