French President Francois Hollande met with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and President Miloš Zeman during a one-day visit to the Czech Republic on Wednesday. Twice before Hollande has had to cancel visits to the country after terrorist incidents back home, and not surprisingly security and European unity topped the agenda of the talks.
French president François Hollande met with Czech president Miloš Zeman and later met prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka on a visit to Prague on November 30. The talks with Zeman touched on the future of the EU, defense cooperation, terrorism, immigration, and high speed rail links. The two presidents agreed that a dispute over French moves to impose the French minimum wage on Czech lorry drivers passing through the country should be dealt with bilaterally by ministers of industry and trade. It is the first visit by a French president to the Czech Republic since Hollande’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, came in 2011 for the funeral of Václav Havel. Hollande had to cancel previous trips to Prague at the last minute. Sobotka urged Hollande to encourage French companies in the Czech Republic to increase the wages of their workers. He also agreed that the EU should not slip into a series of geographical blocs, a fear that has been expressed in the past in France with regard to the Visegrad Four grouping of Central European states.
France’s president, Francoise Hollande, will meet the Czech president, Miloš Zeman, and prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, on a visit to Prague on Wednesday. The future of the European Union, terrorism and bilateral matters are expected to be high on the agenda during Mr. Hollande’s visit. A representative said Mr. Zeman would raise the issue of Czech haulage firms operating in France being forced to meet the local minimum wage, which is higher than in other EU states.
In reaction to the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said he believed in the strengthening of civil liberties in Cuba. He also said that Castro embodied people`s hopes as a revolutionary leader before turning in a dictator. Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said could never forget that the former Cuban leader supported the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. The head of the Communist Party, Vojtěch Filip, expressed his sympathy to his family and his nation, adding that he regarded Castro as a fighter for freedom of Cuban people.
Czech foreign minister Lubomír Zaorálek has said he sees no perspective in the near term of Austria joining the Visegrad Four grouping, which comprised the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary. In an interview with the Austrian paper Die Presse, he said it was already difficult sometimes to get agreement between the four. He added that the splitting of the EU is a great danger and that it would be difficult to imagine cooperation between France and Germany if Marine Le Pen won the French presidential elections.
The president of France, Francois Hollande, is expected in Prague on Wednesday next week to meet the Czech head of state, Miloš Zeman. Mr. Hollande had been due to come to the city in July but cancelled the visit after terror attacks in Nice and Normandy. At that time the French president had been expected to hold talks with Mr. Zeman and Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on the security situation in Europe and the future of the EU in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave.
The Czech Republic intends to keep its embassy in the Syrian capital Damascus open because it is an effective means of ensuring humanitarian aid in the country, the Czech foreign minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, said on Tuesday after talks with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. Mr. Zaorálek said the Czech embassy had particularly good contacts in Syria with the Red Crescent and other organisations, adding that it had helped US citizens in Syria as well as European states which were searching for their citizens. He denied that the presence of the Czech mission helped legitimise the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
The dust has yet to settle in Europe following the election of Donald Trump as the next US president. Two EU member states boycotted emergency EU talks on how to approach the US president-elect over the weekend. The Czech Republic, which attended the summit, stressed the need to establish communication with the new US administration as soon as possible.
The Czech Republic would like to have a balanced trade and investment partnership with China, the Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, said at the ceremonial opening of the Czech-China Investment Forum at Prague Castle on Tuesday. At present, China exports over 10 times as much to the Czech Republic as it imports from the country. Mr. Sobotka said relations between the two states were developing dynamically, particularly in the engineering sector but also in transport, science and research and healthcare. He also told the Chinese delegates that the Czech Republic was interested in a dialogue with Beijing on human rights.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka continues his review tour of ministers on Tuesday. It’s the turn of Minister of Foreign Affairs Lubomír Zaorálek and Minister for Industry and Trade Jan Mládek. Zaorálek came under fire recently when he masterminded a declaration of four top Czech officials ostensibly seeking to calm Chinese anger over a meeting by the Christian Democrat culture minister with the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in Prague. The declaration was dubbed servile by opposition parties. Zaorálek also likened culture minister Daniel Herman’s action to a Czech meeting with the Sudeten German leader in the 1930s. He later apologised for that remark. Mládek offered to resign ahead of his, eventually unsuccessful, attempt to be elected to the upper house, the Senate, in recent elections. Sobotka has kept him on in the post though appears to be considering a wider Cabinet reshuffle.
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