President Miloš Zeman has signed letters of credence for a number of new Czech ambassadors, including former astronaut and MEP Vladimír Remek, who will be heading to Moscow soon. Mr. Remek is one of two ambassadorial appointees who were at the center of a dispute earlier this year between President Zeman and former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg. The former minister had other candidates in mind for the ambassadorial posts in Moscow and Bratislav, while the president stood behind Mr. Remek and former first lady Livia Klausová as his appointees. Mrs. Klaousová’s credentials was signed last week by the president.
The Czech Republic is set to reopen its embassy in Luxembourg after little over a year. The diplomatic mission was closed at the end of last year but is set to begin operating again from next February. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the move on its website, saying it was intended to support the development and strengthening of traditionally strong relations between the two states. The previous Czech government shut a number of the country’s embassies as a cost-cutting measure.
Vladimír Remek is the only Czech to have flown in space, as a crew member on the Soviet Soyuz 28 mission in 1978. Thirty-five years later, Mr. Remek, currently an MEP for the Communist Party, is returning to Russia, with the news on Wednesday that the Czech president has signed the document required to make him ambassador to Moscow.
The president has cancelled all foreign trips planned for the remainder of this year due to his knee injury, an official at Prague Castle announced on Tuesday. A trip to Serbia and Romania had already been called off, while the latest announcement means the head of state will not now make a visit to Czech troops stationed in Afghanistan. A scheduled visit to Prague by the president of Singapore has also been postponed.
The Globe and Mail has voiced reservations regarding the appointment of Czech-born Otto Jelínek as Canada’s ambassador to the Czech Republic. The paper says the communist refugee, world-champion figure skater and Mulroney era cabinet minister returned to the Czech Republic in 1994 where he spent 18 years and developed a wide range of business and personal connections which questions his ability to represent and advocate for Canada. The Globe and Mail moreover points out that Mr. Jelínek was associated with a still unresolved corruption scandal linked to the suspect acquisition of fighter jets for the Czech military.
The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed on Friday that visa requirements will be lifted for Czech citizens in the next few weeks. On a visit to Brussels, Mr. Harper said that one of his country’s goals is visa-free travel between Canada and the European Union. Canada re-introduced visas for Czechs four years ago, after it received a large number of asylum applications from mostly Romani Czechs during the two years that visa-free entry was in place.
Diplomat Jan Sechter is set to become Czech ambassador to Vienna, the Czech News Agency reported on Thursday. The post in Vienna has been vacant for almost a year. A number of Czech embassies are to receive new heads, following a period of deadlock when President Miloš Zeman and the then minister of foreign affairs, Karel Schwarzenberg, disagreed sharply on some postings. One concerned the sending to Bratislava of Livia Klausová, who is perceived as having supported Mr. Zeman’s bid for the presidency. On Thursday, the Slovak government approved her appointment.
Canada will in the near future lift a visa requirement for Czechs visiting the country. The news was reported by the site Canada.com and confirmed on Thursday by the Canadian Embassy in Prague. Ottawa imposed the restriction four years ago following a spike in asylum applications from Czechs, many of whom were from the Roma minority. The Czech government had appealed to the European Union to put pressure on Canada to abolish the visa requirement.
The Canadian Embassy has confirmed media reports that the government in Ottawa is on the verge of lifting visas for Czechs. Visas for Czechs wishing to visit Canada were reintroduced in 2009 following a rise in the number of Roma people seeking asylum. The Czech government had appealed to the European Union to put pressure on Canada to abolish the visa requirement.
The person most likely to become the Czech Republic’s next finance minister has set off a debate about the country’s foreign policy priorities. Speaking at an economic forum, Jan Mládek of the Social Democrats said criticism of Russia and China could cost thousands of Czech jobs. Critics say human rights have to come before exports.
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