Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas is on a four-day working visit to Russia. On Monday, Mr Nečas met the head of the Russian government, Dmitry Medvedev for talks on economic cooperation including a Russian bid to expand one of the Czech Republic’s nuclear power plants. Later on Monday, the Czech prime minister is scheduled to meet with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, in Sochi.
Cyprus is reportedly planning to close down four of its embassies, including its embassy in Prague, within the framework of tough austerity measures. It is not clear when the decision will come into force. Greece, also in financial straights, is selling dozens of buildings around Europe and moving its diplomatic missions to cheaper quarters. The move is likewise expected to effect its Prague representation.
The Ukrainian branch of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights has called on the Czech Republic not to extradite a Russian manager wanted for embezzlement in the Ukraine on the grounds that she could face torture, the daily Lidové noviny reports. Tatjana Pareskevic, who has been charged with embezzling 5 million dollars in the Ukraine, claims that she is victim of a politically motivated trial. The Czech Foreign Ministry has also spoken out against her extradition. The Prague Supreme Court recently approved it on the grounds that it had received assurances from Ukrainian officials that she would get a fair trial. Paraskevic has appealed the verdict. She was arrested in the Czech Republic last spring while visiting a spa resort for health reasons.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has criticized Israeli airstrikes on Syria and the country’s settlements plans in the West Bank. In an interview for the news website Times of Israel released on Tuesday night, Mr Schwarzenberg called plans to build settlements in the controversial E1 area “obnoxious”; the Czech foreign minister also said he would nit express support for Israeli airstrikes on weapon convoys in Syria, and never sanction a potential Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Mr Schwarzenberg’s remarks are the first strong criticism of Israeli policies coming from a Czech government minister as the country is considered one of Israel’s major allies within the EU.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is holding an open day on Wednesday, which is the anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe and a state holiday in the Czech Republic. Visitors will be able to enjoy a rare opportunity to view the interior of the Černín Palace, including what was once Jan Masaryk’s apartment, between 10 AM and 4 PM. The building’s gardens will host an event featuring live music celebrating Croatia’s accession to the European Union in July. The Senate will also be open to the public on Wednesday, from 10 AM to 5 PM.
Israeli President Shimon Peres confirmed in talks on Monday with Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, that the Czech head-of-state, Miloš Zeman, will visit the country in October. The last time Mr Zeman visited Israel was as Czech prime minister in 2002, when he raised controversy by comparing then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to Adolf Hitler. His statements, made in an interview for the Ha'aretz newspaper, drew condemnation both from the Arab world and Brussels. Mr Schwarzenberg is in Jerusalem to discuss the next Czech-Israeli inter-governmental meeting to take place in July, when Prime Minister Petr Nečas and his counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as some cabinet ministers, will attend.
President Miloš Zeman will respect the government’s foreign policy, according to the head of the presidential office’s foreign department, Hynek Kmoníček. The president will however pick some topics which he would like to focus on such as support for Czech exports, Mr Kmoníček said. Mr Zeman’s aide for foreign policy also said negotiations were taking place between the president’s office and the Czech Foreign Ministry about the appointments of several ambassadors, an issue which caused a major row between the president and the foreign minister, Karel Scharzenberg. While Mr Kmoníček said he believed a compromise could soon be found, Mr Schwarzenberg said on Saturday there was no resolution in sight.
The senior coalition Civic Democrats have backed Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, of TOP 09, in his row with the president over ambassadorial appointments. In a reference to President Zeman’s efforts to take over the appointments, the Civic Democrat leadership on Friday said they rejected any extraordinary procedures, and did not want the country to move towards a semi-presidential system. Mr Zeman and Mr Schwarzenberg, formerly rivals in the presidential vote, have clashed over the president’s picks of ambassadors in Russia and Slovakia.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told the news website idnes.cz on Saturday there was no resolution in sight to his ongoing row with the president, Miloš Zeman, over ambassadorial appointments. The dispute broke out last month when President Zeman proposed the wife of Václav Klaus, Livia, as the ambassador to Slovakia and former Czechoslovak astronaut Vladimír Remek, to the Czech mission in Moscow. The nominations were rejected by Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg who maintained it was his role to nominate ambassadors who are only then appointed by the president. On Saturday, Mr Schwarzenberg said there was no development in the row which could take “a year or two” to resolve.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has criticized Switzerland’s decision to
extend the validity of quotas for long-term residence permits granted to
citizens from eight EU countries including the Czech Republic. In a
statement issued on Thursday the Czech Foreign Ministry said the move was
discriminatory and called for the matter to be addressed on a European
level. The Swiss authorities announced the decision on Wednesday, bowing to
growing unease about immigration from poorer neighbours.
The EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also said she regretted the Swiss action, adding that it was contrary to the 1999 treaty signed with Switzerland on the free movement of people since the quotas differentiate between countries. Under the terms of the treaty non-EU Switzerland may invoke a "safeguard clause" which allows temporary caps on work permits if the annual influx exceeds a certain number.
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