Czech president Miloš Zeman is set to meet with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and other government and parliament representatives at Prague Castle on Tuesday for the second time this year to streamline their foreign policy stances. The Mediterranean refugee crisis and the situation in Ukraine are expected to be among the main issues on the agenda of Tuesday’s meeting.
Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has come under fire for coalition colleagues for suggesting that Greece should go bankrupt. At a conference of the country’s economic diplomats, Mr Babiš pointed out the country had gone bankrupt four times over 200 years. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka was quick to react, saying a bankruptcy by Greece would have a negative impact on the whole of Europe. His statement was echoed by the smallest party in government, the Christian Democrats.
The country’s finance minister, Andrej Babiš, has suggested that the Foreign Ministry should review Czech embassies and diplomatic missions to see which are truly needed. Mr Babiš made the statement on Monday at an annual meeting of economic diplomats. He also expressed the opinion that the activities of representative bureaux like CzechInvest, Czech Centres or CzechTourism could be streamlined. It was reported at the weekend by Novinky.cz that the Czech Foreign Ministry is facing serious financing shortfall for this year which in the worst case scenario could result in the closure of 45 embassies or general consulates abroad and loss of 270 staff. The financial shortfall this year is expected to be around 400 million crowns and is set to rise to 900 million crowns next year. Causes are the weakness of the Czech crown and extra expenses from opening up representative offices in foreign countries in recent years.
The Czech Republic’s foreign debt grew by 40 billion crowns to nearly 2.8 trillion crowns in the first quarter of this year, accounting to 66.8 percent of gross domestic product, the Czech National Bank said on Friday. Year-on-year, the foreign debt was nearly 200 billion crowns higher. External liabilities of the corporate sector accounted for 52.1 percent of the total external deb. The private sector is responsible for almost 68 percent of the long-term external debt, while public sector liabilities account for the rest. Foreign liabilities of the government sector accounted for 21.1 percent of the total external debt.
On a three-day visit to Israel and the Gaza Strip, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek voiced strong criticism of Israel’s policy in the region, accusing the country of torpedoing the Middle East peace process. The stand is seen as radical shift in the Czech Republic’s traditionally pro-Israeli foreign policy line.
A Czech journalist, Jakub Kalenský, has been selected to join the team being put together by the European foreign policy chief to counter Russian propaganda, the Czech News Agency reported citing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The new team is being put together at the European External Action Service, the department headed by European representative for foreign affairs ,Federica Mogherini. EU leaders decided in March to challenge what was described as Russia’s misinformation campaign. Kalenský has been working for the business daily Hospodářske Noviny.
Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek summoned the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kiselyev, to Černín Palace on Monday, for urgent talks following two separate incidents, which have cast a fresh shadow over relations between the two countries. The first bone of contention was the revelation of a list last week of 89 EU politicians declared persona non grata in Russia – the list included four prominent Czechs, including TOP 90 chairman Karel Schwarzenberg. The second incident relates to the recent airing of a documentary in Russia, which, critics argue,
Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek on Monday summoned the Russian ambassador to Prague, Sergej Kiseljov, to explain the release of a Russian propaganda film defending the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. The documentary, shown in May by the country’s public broadcaster Rossiya, claims that the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia was to protect the country against a planned attack by NATO troops. Ambassador Kiseljoov said the film did not reflect the official stand of the Kremlin. The Czech foreign minister also protested against a list of 89 European politicians and diplomats, among them four Czechs, who have been banned entry to Russia on the grounds of allegedly having taken a pro-Ukrainian stance in the ongoing conflict between Kiev and Moscow.
Moscow has released a blacklist of EU politicans and diplomats, including four Czechs, who are banned from entering Russia in response to EU sanctions over Ukraine, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday. The list contains 89 names. The Czechs who are no logner allowed to travel to Russia are the head of TOP 09 and former Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, TOP 09 deputy Marek Ženíšek, EU deputy Jaromír Štětina and former EU commissioner Štefan Füle.
Czech diplomat and former politician Jana Hybášková has been selected to be the European Unions new ambassador to Namibia, the Czech daily Lidové Noviny has reported. Hybášková is currently EU ambassador to Iraq, a post where she has been perceived as performing well, the paper adds. She has held that post since 2011. Hybášková was formerly a Czech ambassador to Kuwait and has been a member of the European Parliament. She stood in elections for a series of centre parties, most recently the Christian Democrats.
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