Former Czech president Václav Havel and former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg are among the signatories of an open letter that has been prepared for President Barack Obama. The letter – signed by other former political heavyweights and intellectuals in Central and Eastern Europe – calls for Washington not to ignore the region as the price for improved relations with Moscow. Former European affairs minister Alexandr Vondra told the Czech paper Lidové noviny that Obama is looking for quick results and improved relations with Russia and that could be at the expense of former Soviet block countries.
The letter warns that a total renunciation of US plans for an anti-radar system in the Czech Republic and Poland - or Russian involvement in them - would undermine trust in the US. Mr Vondra is due to deliver the letter to US leaders in Washington.
Airlines at Prague airport started checking Canada-bound Czech passengers on Thursday to make sure that they have the required visas for entry into the country. Canada announced the re-imposition of visas for Czechs on Tuesday but allowed visa demands at its frontiers for the first 48 hours. Some of the Czechs flying out on Thursday complained about the last minute stress they had been exposed to. Many have been forced to seek visas at the Canadian embassy in Vienna. Two applicants of the around 200 dealt with there during the first two days were refused visas according to official reports. The Canadian move has been sparked by the surge of Czech asylum applications, mostly from the Roma community.
EU Commissioner Jacques Barrot has said that the Commission wants to understand why asylum demands are being lodged by EU citizens in Canada before it reacts to Prague’s demands that visas be slapped on Canadians visiting Europe. He said it was paradoxical that EU citizens were applying for asylum in third countries. The Commissioner for justice, freedom and security said Canada’s complaints about the surge in Czech asylum applicants seeking to profit from its generous system needed to be probed. On the basis of resulting findings, the Commission could make a recommendation about whether to comply with the Czech demand for EU solidarity against Canada, Barrot said. The Commission recommendation – promised by September - must then be supported by member states for any across the board EU action to be taken.
Czech minister for human rights and minorities, Michael Kocáb, has cleared up some of the apparent surprise and confusion in Prague over the Canadian move. Mr Kocáb said that Ottawa notified at the end of June that visas would be introduced on July 7. However, when the move was postponed for a week this was taken as a victory for Czech and EU diplomacy. The explanation that this was only a temporary postponement somehow did not get through.
The Czech National Bank has attacked the proposed reinforcement of supervision of financial markets agreed by EU leaders at the start of June. The proposal called for two entirely new Europe-wide bodies to improve regulation and supervision of financial markets.
The Czech central bank said on its web page on Thursday that the proposals weakened national supervision whose independence should not be undermined. It added that proposals do not solve fragmented supervision in some countries and do not at all address the causes of the current financial crisis. It also complained that the proposals are still very vague. The national bank was asked to comment by the European Commission before EU leaders agreed on an outline of the new rules.
The Czech Republic has announced its first home grown case of swine flu. The young woman infected is believed to have contracted the virus domestically after coming into contact with foreigners from Britain and the US. The Ministry of Health said she was admitted to hospital on Monday but is now in quarantine at home. All previous 20 cases of Czechs infected followed their return from foreign destinations.
A World Health Organisation report has highlighted the low level of HIV infection in the Czech Republic. The report says that 17 Czechs per 100,000 are infected with the virus that leads to AIDS. This compares with a European average of 336 per 100,000 and 4,735 per 100,000 in Africa. The figures also shows Czechs on average live to 77 compared with the European average of 74 and African average of 52.
The Czech National Bank is following closely an offer to buy the producer of the country’s coins. A tender has been launched for the sale of the private company Česká mincovna with its Polish counterpart seen as a favourite for the purchase. The central bank is the main client of the only Czech mint and wants to see it in safe hands. As well as coins in circulation it also produces commemorative coins and medals.
The Czech Ministry of Interior has announced that 1,819 applications have been made under its scheme to help unemployed foreigners return home. The offer of free flights home as well as 500 euros was offered to foreigners who had lost their jobs with the aim of encouraging them to leave rather than stay in the country and work illegally. Mongolians have so far been the biggest group to take up the offer with 1,186 applications made, followed by Uzbeks with 282 and Vietnamese with 228. An amended version of the offer will be widened to foreigners working illegally in the country from September.
The outlook is for more showers and storms. Maximum daytime temperatures are unlikely to rise above 21 degrees Celsius.