The Czech Republic is sending members of the country’s rapid deployment squad to protect the Czech embassy in Libya. Following a reconnaissance mission by a special team the Czech Foreign Ministry on Wednesday approved Ambassador Josef Koutsky’s return to Tripoli on Thursday. The special unit is to remain at the embassy for as long as necessary. The Czech Foreign Ministry also earmarked 4 million crowns from its aid fund for humanitarian aid to Libya.
The Czech Republic will not recognise the conviction of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and is deeply disappointed with the verdict, the Foreign Ministry said in a press release on Tuesday. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told journalists after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg that the conviction of Tymoshenko will harm relations between the European Union and Ukraine. Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison on Tuesday for having transgressed her powers as prime minister. The court ruled that she must also cover damages of roughly 200 million dollars incurred by the state energy company Naftogaz through Russian gas import contracts she signed in 2009. The Foreign Ministry said the trial did not respect international standards for a fair, transparent and independent legal process.
In this edition of Czech history, we look at the development of Czech-American relations over the past two decades. Ever since the fall of the Iron Curtain, they have been the pivot of Czech foreign policy. But after the euphoria of the Velvet Revolution and the era of Washington’s fascination with Václav Havel, these relations today are like a 20-year old marriage with no sex – at least according to some current and former diplomats who appeared in Friday’s debate hosted by the Foreign Ministry.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas will travel to the US later this month where he will meet President Barack Obama, the prime minister’s office said on Friday, adding the agenda will include economic and trade relations between their countries. Mr Nečas is scheduled to arrive in the US on October 26 and will meet the US President in the White House the following day. The Czech prime minister will then attend a reception at the Czech embassy in Washington marking the national holiday of October 28 before returning to Prague. The invitation for Mr Nečas, the first since both officials took office, notably omits the Czech head of state, President Václav Klaus, who has met the US president several times at various occasions but was never received an invitation from Mr Obama or his predecessor, George W. Bush, to the White House.
Canada will postpone the cancellation of visa requirements for Czechs, possibly due to racial tensions in Northern Bohemia. Canada initiated visa requirements for Czechs in 2009 due to a large influx of Roma seeking asylum there on grounds of racial discrimination in the Czech Republic. A new asylum system was supposed to be launched in late 2011 and would allow Czechs to travel to the country without a visa. However, according to the news website Aktualne.cz, than plan has been delayed until next summer. The Canadian embassy in Prague told the website that it is monitoring the situation in Northern Bohemia, where racial tension has caused violence and demonstrations in recent months.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus addressed the UN General Assembly session on Friday, and rejected unilateral steps in the dispute between Israel and Palestine. Palestine wants to file a controversial application for U.N. membership. Mr Klaus said it took two sides and an innovative approach to overcome old and rigid thinking. A solution, he said, could not come through unilateral steps, whether imposed by the UN or otherwise. The president also used the dissolution of Czechoslovakia as an example, saying that the solution had come from within the region itself, rather than having been brought about by external mediators.
The Czech ambassador to Libya, Josef Koutský, may be returning to Tripoli in October, the Foreign Ministry says. One ministry employee is already in the country assessing the situation and determining security requirements for the embassy. Mr Koubský was withdrawn in February when the insurgency broke out. The Czech Republic recognised the National Transitional Council as Libya’s legitimate representatives in late August. The rapid response force of the Czech police will be facilitating the reopening of the embassy and may remain there on a permanent basis.
A multi-partisan group of MPs has issued an open letter warning against the recognition of Palestine as a UN member state. More than 80 Czech parliamentarians from all three coalition parties put their names to the letter, as did certain Social Democrats, many of whose other members have supported the Palestinian bid. The letter urges the Czech UN delegation to come out against the motion, arguing that the premature declaration of Palestinian statehood would hurt the peace process and upset the integrity of the UN, and calls for the speedy resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The Czech Republic has joined the group Friends of Libya, says Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. The group associates countries interested in contributing to Libya's post-war reconstruction and transition to democracy. Speaking to reporters at the UN, Mr Schwarzenberg said the Czech Republic had many opportunities in the country thanks to strong former ties between the two countries, when many Libyans studied in the Czech Republic and Czechoslovakia. He also said that Libya would be a very interesting partner economically and that Czechs would have to be fast in setting up business relations.
President Vaclav Klaus has warned against what he sees as a growing tendency to restrict personal freedom and democracy in the interest of global governance. Speaking at the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute on Monday the Czech president said he was now living in a better world than under communism, but he was still disappointed by the fact that he was not living in a more free and liberal society. He said there were strong tendencies to “govern people’s lives” not just from the EU but from NGOs and public intellectuals without any democratic accountability. The Czech president is a frequent guest speaker at the Competitive Enterprise Institute which was founded by Fred Smith, a fierce opponent of strong governance.
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