Vietnamese citizens have asked to be allowed to remain in the Czech Republic if they lose their jobs. At a meeting with Interior Ministry officials, leaders of the Vietnamese community said they were capable of supporting one another in the event of being laid off, arguing that possible deportation was too heavy-handed a measure on the part of the Czech authorities. The Vietnamese leaders said their compatriots would prefer to stay in the Czech Republic and do community service, for instance.
The Czech government recently launched a scheme to give laid-off workers from non-EU states EUR 500 and a ticket home. So far around 550 people – most of them from Mongolia – have signed up for the programme, which is open to 2,000 foreigners in its first phase. Only 20 or 25 people from Vietnam have taken up the offer.
A Vietnamese citizen named Le Kim Thanh, who briefly went on hunger strike in protest at a deportation order, is to be expelled from the country in the next few weeks, a spokesperson for the Czech police said on Wednesday. The man lost his right to remain in the Czech Republic when he lost his job and his case has received a good deal of attention. While the human rights minister, Michael Kocáb, said Le Kim Thanh should be allowed to stay in the country, the minister of the interior, Ivan Langer, said he had broken Czech law and had to go. His lawyer is appealing the expulsion order.
The Czech police have deported 12 people after checking the papers of 4,300 foreigners in operations in a number of cities on Tuesday. They registered nearly 300 contraventions of the country’s law on foreigners and levied fines of nearly CZK 200,000, a spokesperson said. Police also handed out flyers with information about the government’s voluntary repatriation scheme.
The Supreme Administrative Court has rejected a government proposal to ban the Workers’ Party. The government says the small far-right grouping contains extremists and is attempting to subvert democracy. However, the court said the government had failed to prove claims of a connection with the neo-Nazi group National Resistance, or that the Workers’ Party was trying to change the political system by violent means.
The Workers’ Party came to national attention last year when members fought with police after being prevented from marching on a largely Romany district in the town of Litvínov in north Bohemia.
The leaders of the Civic Democrats and the Greens have agreed to a proposal from the other party in the governing coalition the Christian Democrats to push for a reduction in the number of seats in the Chamber of Deputies from 200 to 199. The chairmen of the three parties are set to continue discussions on other possible changes to the Czech Republic’s electoral law.
The minister of agriculture, Petr Gandalovič, is putting forward a plan to help food producers hit by a slowdown in payment and difficulty in securing loans, the news website euro.cz reported. Some CZK 800 million is being earmarked for the programme, which was not included in the recently announced government stimulus package and has to be approved by the cabinet.
US President Barack Obama says he wants to work with Russia to resolve a nuclear stand-off with Iran, but has denied reports he offered to slow deployment of a missile defence shield in exchange for Moscow’s help. Washington has signed deals with Prague on basing part of the defence system, a radar base, in central Bohemia, though the Czech Parliament has not yet voted on the matter. The New York Times reported this week that Mr Obama had sent a letter to Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev, suggesting he would pull back from deploying the missile shield if Russia helped stop Iran from developing long-range weapons. Speaking on Tuesday, however, the US president said the letter simply reiterated statements he had made saying the defence system was directed towards Iran, not Russia. Mr Obama said obviously if Iran’s commitment to nuclear weapons was lessened there would be less pressure for or need for a missile defence shield.
The Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, said on Wednesday that nothing had changed regarding plans to build a US radar on Czech territory. He said if Iran gave up its nuclear ambitions the whole situation would change and the missile defence system could be discussed again.
The Czech government has invested considerable political capital in backing the US radar base, which opinion polls have consistently suggested most Czechs are opposed to.
Meanwhile, the Czech media have been speculating on plans for President Obama’s two-day visit to Prague, which begins on April 4. Wednesday’s edition of the newspaper Právo quoted a diplomatic source as saying that preparations were being made for Mr Obama to walk across Charles Bridge and up to Prague Castle. There has also been speculation that the US president may give an open-air speech in the Czech capital. However, no official details of his visit have yet been released.
The editor-in-chief of Právo says he has been repeatedly warned recently that the newspaper would lose advertisers if it continues to portray the opposition Social Democrats in an unfavourable light. In an article in Wednesday’s edition, Zdeněk Porybný said the advertisers concerned were companies whose management were appointed or influenced by the state. The leader of the Social Democrats, Jiří Paroubek, has denied the allegations, calling on Mr Porybný to back up his statements. The left-leaning Právo grew out of the former communist newspaper Rudé Právo.
It should be grey and wet over the next few days, with maximum temperatures falling to about 5 or 6 degrees Celsius at the weekend.