News Czechs have no need to fear gas shortage despite Ukraine crisis, says Sobotka
The Czech Republic has gas reserves to last 100 days and neither households nor firms need fear a shortage, says Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. He made the comment after a meeting of the State Security Council called to discuss a possible halting of Russian gas supplies through Ukraine due to the crisis in the latter country. Mr. Sobotka said the Czech Republic could help Slovakia by supplying it with Russian gas from the Baltic Nord Stream pipeline. Prague is not in favour of a Polish proposal for EU states to buy gas and oil from Russia together, a suggestion reportedly aimed at reducing Moscow’s ability to “blackmail” individual states reliant on it for power.
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Police detained six people at an anti-immigration rally on Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Wednesday night. Around 500 people attended the demonstration with a handful of opponents of the action also in place but kept apart by the police. Speeches were delivered by Tomio Okamura, the former leader of the Dawn Party elected to the lower house at the last elections, and right-wing journalist Adam Bartoš. Some opponents pelted Okamura with eggs but their aim was awry. Calls were made for the Czech Republic to be reserved for Czechs, for the closure of borders, and departure from the EU. Fake gallows were erected for ‘traitors’and calls made for the country to be saved from ‘hordes of horny blacks.’
Czech interest in booking holidays in Tunisia has collapsed to almost zero following the latest terrorist attack in the country, the daily Lidové Noviny reported. Czech tour operators said that bookings had fallen by between 80-95 percent compared with the levels before last Friday’s attack. Greece was one of the alternative destinations now favoured in spite of the economic turbulence there, it added. A gunman killed 39 people, mostly British, when he opened fire at a beach at the resort of Sousse last Friday. Czechs witnessed the attack but none were injured.
Tributes quickly poured out for Sir Nicholas Winton on news of his death. Czech president Miloš Zeman said he had always admired Sir Nicholas’ 'personal bravery.' Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka described him as ‘a symbol of courage and deep humanity.’ The Czech ambassador to Britain, Michael Žantovský described him as ‘a positive man who radiated good.’ British prime minister David Cameron said ‘the world had lost a great man.’ Many British papers described Sir Nicholas as ‘the British Schindler’, a reference to Oscar Schindler, although Nicholas Winton himself rejected the comparison and said they had nothing in common.
Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Lubomír Zaorálek has said he would support the creation of camps in North Africa where the European Union could process asylum applications. Zaorálek said that siting such camps in Libya would be the most logical solution but that the EU does not have a real partner to negotiate with there. Libya is currently in the midst of a power battle with different factions having control over different parts of the country. The Czech foreign minister said that other African countries showed little interest in such camps either. The idea of such camps is backed by Czech prime minster Bohuslav Sobotka and finance minister Andrej Babiš.
Sir Nicholas Winton, the Briton who helped save the lives of 669 children by arranging their evacuation from Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia has died at the age of 106, the AP agency announced. Sir Nicholas’ exploit in saving the mostly Jewish children in 1939 were largely unknown until 1988 when it featured on a popular BBC programme. The former stockbroker and businessman remained modest about his achievements nonetheless. He was awarded the Czech Republic’s highest civil honour, the order of the White Lion in 2014. Some of the rescued children later went on to become famous, such as the Canadian journalist Joe Schlesinger, British politician Alf Dubs, and British writer Vera Gissing. The last evacuation train with 250 children left on September 1, 1939, the same day Hitler invaded Poland. The borders closed, those children never made it; they are believed to have all perished in concentration camps.
A study by Prague’s University of Technology and Chemistry has found that the same branded foods and drinks in Germany and the Czech Republic often have a dramatically different composition. The study took 24 brands sold in the two countries and found around a third had a significantly different composition. Margarine in Germany had a 70 percent fat content whereas it was only 60% in the Czech Republic. Pepsi-Cola was sweetened with sugar in Germany and a syrup in the Czech Republic. And a brand of fish finger had seven percent less fish in the Czech Republic than Germany. Some producers said the different content was a response to different national tastes but the overwhelming impression was that costs were cut when selling to the Czech market.
Applications for asylum in the Czech Republic rose in 2014 to total 1,154 but most of those making demands were from Eastern Europe, overwhelmingly from Ukraine. Applications from European countries accounted for just over 57 percent of the demands, those from Asian countries 31 percent, and African countries just under eight percent. The total number of asylum applications is a fifth of the total made in 2004. With the latest wave of immigration to Europe and a doubling the number of illegal immigrants found on Czech territory this year the number of asylum applications is expected to rise.
Stepped up Czech police checks for suspicious looking illegal immigrants had an unfortunate result in the east Moravian town of Uherské Hradiště. A group of 11 foreigners from the West African state of Benin were taken into police custody after they were found without papers. It later emerged that they were from a group taking part in the famous International Folk Festival at nearby Strážnice who had gone on an excursion and left their papers in the hotel. The festival organisers intervened to arrange their release.
The government on Wednesday rejected a proposal calling for parties to set a minimum 40 percent quota for women candidates in parliamentary and regional elections, the Czech News Agency reported. The proposal had been put forward by the Social Democrat ministers responsible for human rights and the interior. But the plan however has long been opposed by their coalition government colleagues from the ANO and Christian Democrat parties. Around a quarter of election candidates are currently women with a slightly lower number usually winning seats in the lower house of parliament.
Czech goalkeeper Petr Čech revealed Wednesday that he was close to moving to Arsenal in 2003 from his French club Rennes. At a press conference in Prague, Čech said that the only thing that stopped the transfer then were problems getting a work permit for Britain. Čech later moved to Chelsea. The 33-year-old ‘keeper said that Arsenal had the ambition and talent to win trophies and he would not have moved there if that had not been the case. His transfer from Chelsea, where he was recently number two goalkeeper, was confirmed on Monday.