In a speech in Prague on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Czech Republic’s accession to the European Union, the bloc’s president, Herman Van Rompuy, said energy self-sufficiency was key to its competitiveness. Mr. Van Rompuy said on Wednesday that if the EU did not act now, it would be 80 percent dependent on imported energy by 2035. He said the EU also needed to boost connectedness between states, improve energy efficiency and make use of various power sources including renewable energy.
The Czech Republic has so far failed to make full use of its membership of the European Union, the country’s prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, said after a meeting with Mr. Van Rompuy. Mr. Sobotka said the failure did not just concern accessing potential EU funding but also the Czech Republic’s ability to put forward its views and interests at European level. He said his centre-left government aimed to return the country to the mainstream of European integration.
A decade after joining the European Union, some 28 percent of Czechs are satisfied with membership, suggests an opinion poll conducted recently by the CVVM agency. A similar survey carried out this time last year found that 26 percent of Czech citizens were satisfied with EU membership. In the two European Parliament elections in which Czechs have participated turnout was 28.3 percent in 2004 and 28.2 percent in 2009, below the EU averages of 45.6 percent and 43 percent, respectively.
The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, and president, Miloš Zeman, agreed at a meeting on Wednesday that the country should halt a fall in spending on defence. Mr. Sobotka said otherwise the Czech Republic would not be able to fulfil tasks arising from its membership of NATO. The two leaders also discussed the coordination of positions regarding foreign policy and economic diplomacy. On a visit to Prague recently the NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, called on the Czech military spending was too low. The military alliance wants members to spend the equivalent of 2 percent of GDP on defence; the Czech Republic puts just over 1.1 percent into defence and reduced spending in that area under the last government.
A Prague court has sentenced the influential businessman Roman Janoušek to three years in prison for grievous bodily harm in connection with a hit-and-run incident in 2012. He fled the scene after knocking down a female driver with whom he had become involved in an altercation and later failed a breathalyser test. Mr. Janoušek can appeal Wednesday’s verdict. The hit-and-run incident came just days after a newspaper published transcriptions of wiretaps giving the impression that he had held such influence over politicians and officials in Prague that he was a kind of “shadow mayor”.
The Czech ambassador to Indonesia, Tomáš Smetánka, was summoned to the country’s foreign ministry to explain the circumstances surrounding Czech police raids on Islamic sites in Prague last week, the Jakarta Post newspaper has reported. It cited a text message from foreign minister Marty Natalegawa as its source of information. Indonesians, including the embassy’s social and culture secretary, were among those apprehended when police swooped during Friday prayers. One person was charged by police with propagating hate crime. Czech minister of interior Marcel Chovanec has called for a police investigation into the incident, saying the timing was insensitive and excessive force appeared to have been used.
The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, says it is up to individual regional governors if they wish to simultaneously hold that post and a seat in the Chamber of Deputies. Mr. Zeman made the comment on Wednesday after a meeting with governors. He also congratulated his “friend” Michal Hašek on being re-elected chairman of the Czech Association of Regions. Mr. Hašek, who is governor of South Moravia, is at odds with the leadership of his party, the Social Democrats, which has recommended that its MPs who are also governors choose one post or the other. Mr. Hašek failed in an attempt to oust party leader Bohuslav Sobotka after October’s elections and the latter is not close to the president, himself a former chairman of the Social Democrats.
Erstwhile agriculture minister Jaroslav Palas will file a complaint with the Constitutional Court within a fortnight in connection with a recent police search of his home in Ludvíkov, north Moravia, his lawyer Matěj Zachveja said on Wednesday. Mr. Zachveja said the police were now investigating how Mr. Palas – who has also been a senator and governor of Moravia-Silesia – had funded the purchase of the house, which has an estimated value of CZK 20 million. The lawyer says the police have accused his client of taking a bribe of CZK 10 million in connection with the privatisation of a hospital.
Czech ice hockey star Jaromír Jágr has signed another one year contract to play for the New Jersey Devils, the NHL team for whom he played during the last season. Jágr broke the news in Prague, where he is taking part in the national team’s preparations for the upcoming Euro Hockey Tour competition in Sweden and the upcoming Ice Hockey World Championships starting in Belarus on May 9. Jágr has still not clarified whether he will be playing in the world championships or not.
My Prague – Rob Cameron
Agencies abuse Czech visa system in Ukraine to fuel booming illegal business
Hockey legend Jaromír Jágr turns 45
Marie Iljašenko: a European poet
New documentary celebrates Czechoslovak war hero, RAF pilot Emil Boček
Jan Antonín Baťa always said he put his people first, says granddaughter Dolores Bata Arambasic
Academic Michael Smith: Czech govt. is supporting education of well-off through “free” universities