Foreign Minister Martin Stropnický on Friday handed out Gratias Agit
awards to Czech expatriates and foreigners for promoting the good name of
the Czech Republic abroad.
Among this year’s recipients were three Russians who in 1968 protested against the Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia, paying a high price for their courage and solidarity.
Tatyana Bayeva, Pavel Litvinov and Viktor Fajnberg are the last three surviving protesters of a group of eight who staged a protest on Moscow’s Red Square. They were punished by severe jail sentences or locked up in psychiatric institutions.
Other laureates of the Gratias Agit Awards are physician Watheq Al-Qsous from Jordan who is the chief coordinator of the government’s medical aid program Medevac which has helped thousands of Syrian refugees, Estanislao Kocourek, an architect of Czech origin and the builder of the first high-rise buildings to appear in Buenos Aires and Jiri Šíma one of the leading experts in the field of water management and environmental protection who has been applying his experience in Ethiopia, South Africa and Namibia.
President Miloš Zeman says Social Democrats leader Jan Hamáček went back
on an agreement between the two to not nominate Miroslav Poche as minister
of foreign affairs in a possible coalition with ANO. Speaking on TV on
Thursday evening, Mr. Zeman said that Mr. Poche – whom he called an
amateur – cast doubt on two pillars of Czech foreign policy: opposition
to EU quotas on migrants and a pro-Israel policy.
Mr. Poche is one of five members of his party in line to take ministerial portfolios in a possible minority coalition with ANO. The Social Democrats are currently conducting an internal ballot on whether to enter such a government.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has expressed deep concern over the re-election of leftist authoritarian leader Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela’s presidential election at the weekend. The ministry joined widespread international condemnation of election irregularities, intimidation of political opponents and violations of human rights.
Government ministers have stopped taking part in international trips with
Czech entrepreneurs and this could cost the latter in terms of deals, a
number of business chambers said in a statement to the Czech News Agency on
A spokesperson for the Chamber of Commerce, Miroslav Diro, said Czech firms could lose out to rivals from other states when it comes to import and export opportunities. Mr. Diro said the minister of finance and minister of industry and trade often helped open doors for his group’s members internationally.
The acting prime minister, Andrej Babiš, has in the past said that the state is not a travel agency. He said the country should be represented by diplomats, who are paid for that service, abroad.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has expressed deep concern over the result of
Venezuela’s presidential election in which leftist authoritarian leader
Nicolas Maduro defended his post on Sunday.
In a statement issued on Monday the ministry said the election lacked fundamental democratic elements, opposition parties and organizations have been under permanent pressure and there have been persistent violations of human rights in the country.
It called on Venezuela’s government to launch a constructive dialogue with the opposition, release all political prisoners and respect human rights and freedoms.
The Palestinian authority in the West Bank has announced it will withdraw
its ambassador from the Czech Republic and three other European countries,
Austria, Romania, and Hungary. The move is a response to representatives
from the countries attending a reception to mark the opening of the US
embassy in Jerusalem.
The Czech foreign ministry said that it had noted the move but would not be taking reciprocal action. Prague has said it will by the end of the month open an honorary consulate in Jerusalem and a so-called Czech House for cultural exchanges by the end of the year.
The Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania this week blocked a joint
declaration by the member states of the European Union criticising the US
for transferring its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the
Czech News Agency reported. The moved, decided by President Donald Trump,
will take place on Monday.
The EU has long advocated a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Israelis see Jerusalem as their “eternal and undivided” capital but the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, which was occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, as the capital of a future state.
The Czech Republic has backed the EU’s decision to continue to respect the 2015 nuclear weapons agreement with Iran, after President Trump’s announcement that the US would withdraw from the pact. However the Czech Foreign Ministry noted that the international community should not close its eyes to the dangers of Iran’s ballistic program.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has ruled out the possibility that the nerve
agent tested in the Czech Republic could have been used in the attack
against Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain.
The Foreign Ministry issued the statement in response to President Zeman’s claim that a minute amount of the nerve-gas Novichok had been produced and tested in the Czech Republic. The president was citing a military intelligence report.
The Foreign Ministry said that a few millilitres of a nerve gas of the Novichok family labelled A-230 was produced, tested, and destroyed by the Czech Military Research Institute in Brno. “The nerve-paralysing poison used in the U.K. attack is called A-234 and is therefore a different variant than the one tested by the Czech military institute for purposes of defence" the ministry statement said.
It moreover stressed that the substance tested in Brno was immediately disposed of by the laboratory and is not stored anywhere, as was the case with the A230 substance. The Brno institute functions with the approval of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Meanwhile, President Zeman has come under fire for disclosing classified information from a military intelligence report. According to Czech law this is punishable by up to three years in prison, but the president has immunity from prosecution and can only be impeached on grounds of treason.
Experts from Europe and the US met in Prague this week to discuss the hybrid war threat and ways of countering disinformation campaigns against Western countries. In an interview for Czech Radio the head of NATO’s Military Committee, General Petr Pavel, said the Czech Republic underestimates the dangers of the hybrid war waged by Russia.
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