Ottawa has introduced a visa requirement for Czech visitors, in response to a rise in the number of Czech Romanies applying for asylum in Canada. The Canadian immigration ministry informed Prague of the move on Monday night. The Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, called Canada’s step unilateral and unfriendly, while his government reacted quickly, recalling the Czech ambassador to Canada for consultations and announcing plans to impose visa requirements on Canadian diplomats and civil servants.
The European Commission said it would not heed a Czech call for all EU states to impose a visa restriction on Canadians in solidarity with the Czech Republic. A spokesperson said the Commission regretted Canada’s decision and hoped it would be a temporary measure.
In the first half of this year Czech Romanies filed 1,720 asylum applications in Canada, twice as many as for the whole of 2008. They say they suffer discrimination in their home country, a claim backed by human rights groups.
Canada introduced a visa requirement for Czechs in 1997 following an influx of asylum seekers, before dropping the measure a decade later.
The head of the Social Democrats, Jiří Paroubek, has reacted angrily to criticism he has faced over a trip he made to Moscow last month. He was reported to have held talks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin without informing Czech diplomats in Moscow or the foreign ministry in Prague. In a statement, however, Mr Paroubek said that the Czech embassy in the Russian capital had not offered him any help. He said that they could at least have seen Mr Putin at close quarters, which the Czech ambassador Miroslav Kostelka had not often done during three years in Moscow.
One of the most successful figures in the history of Czech show business Karel Gott is celebrating his 70th birthday. The singer, who is also popular in such states as Germany and Russia, is reported to have sold over 30 million albums in a career spanning five decades. On Monday night the man dubbed the golden voice of Prague held a birthday party at a hotel on Wenceslas Square attended by over 1,000 people, including many well known figures from Czech music and society.
The Christian Democrats have signed a pre-election pact with the European Democrats under which the two parties will contest early elections in October together, their leaders Cyril Svoboda and Jana Hybášková said in Prague on Tuesday. Candidates from the relatively small European Democrats are set to appear on the lists of the Christian Democrats, who are currently the fourth biggest party in the lower house. Some senior figures from the Christian Democrats recently left to form a new party, TOP 09.
The ombudsman Otakar Motejl has said overcrowding in Czech prisons could lead to an increase in tension and violence. In a report posted on his official website, he warned against a reduction in the number of employees in the Czech prison services. Mr Motejl said overcrowding could threaten the rehabilitation aspect of incarceration. The ombudsman’s office monitored the situation in Czech prisons at the request of the head of the country’s prison services.
Police have filed charges against a man who let off a hand grenade in a restaurant in Prague last week. The man could face up to eight years in jail after deliberately pulling the pin out of a grenade in the pub U Českého lva on Thursday. Four people were injured in the blast, while the accused sustained a serious injury to his left leg. No motive has yet been established, police said.
Czech MEP Edvard Kožušník arrived in Strasbourg on Tuesday for a plenary session of the new European Parliament on a bicycle, before entering the chamber in cycling gear. It had taken the Civic Democrat politician 13 days to make the 850 km-plus journey. Mr Kožušník said he had undertaken the long ride to raise interest in the new anti-federalist group in the European Parliament that the Civic Democrats helped found with the British Conservatives and Poland’s Law and Justice.
The next few days should see temperatures of up to 33 degrees Celsius. It is expected to be sunny with occasional storms that forecasters said could lead to renewed flooding.