News Government nominates army chief Pavel for senior NATO post
The Czech government has approved the candidature of the chief of staff of the Czech Army, Petr Pavel, for the post of chairman of NATO’s Military Committee. Speaking after a cabinet meeting on Monday night, the Czech minister of defence, Martin Stropnický, said General Pavel had a “very solid chance” of obtaining the position, which is second only to the secretary general in the NATO hierarchy. For his part, the general said if he wins the post in a vote in mid September it will be a great honour for the Czech Republic and an expression of trust on the part of the country’s allies.
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A new documentary film entitled Life According to Václav Havel is to premiere in Czech cinemas on November 20, a spokeswoman for the project said. The film is directed by Andrea Sedláčková in a joint production of Czech Television and the Franco-German TV channel ARTE. The movie aims to present the Czech playwright, dissident, president and human rights champion as an “intellectual rebel and ladies’ man, the filmmakers said. It also focuses on Havel’s childhood, military service and the beginning of his theatre career, and features interviews with Václav Havel’s second wife Dagmar and his bother Ivan.
The Czech Republic supports Macedonia’s bid to join the EU and NATO, Prime Minister Sobotka said after a meeting with his Macedonia counterpart Nikola Gruevski in Prague on Thursday. The country’s accession to the EU and NATO has been opposed by Greece over disputes concerning the name of the country. Mr Sobotka expressed regret that Greece’s attitude has so far prevented Macedonia from joining the European Union. For his part, the Macedonian prime minister appreciated Czech support for his country’s bid and Macedonia had met all requirements for becoming EU member state.
The Czech Republic’s candidate for European commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality Věra Jourová, fielded questions in her three hour confirmation hearing at the European Parliament on Wednesday. While her answers and approach were seen as largely successful by the Czech press, the influential European Voice suggested that the candidate was not entirely convincing. Ms Jourova herself said she had expected the grilling to be “tougher”. On Wednesday, the nominee was asked about ties to influential billionaire-turned politician Andrej Babiš as well as key questions about the commissioner portfolio. At times, her answers were deemed by European Voice to be too general or lacking in commitment to concrete steps. A decision about her nomination will reportedly be taken next week.
Belarusian political activist Ales Belyatsky has told the Czech News Agency that he believed that his winning the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize in 2013 contributed to his release from prison three months ago. But the dissident added that the foremost importance of the prize was that the message sent to the authoritarian regime of President Alexander Lukashenko. Both, to stop persecuting activists and as signal to Belarusian society that Europe was on its side. Mr Belyatsky said the Czech Republic is still considered a critic of Lukashenko´s government and the Belarusian opposition and nongovernmental organisations felt support. Mr Belyatsky is taking part in a conference organised by the Václav Havel Library in Prague in honour of the fresh laureate of the Havel prize, Azeri human rights activist Anar Mammadli, currently in prison for his work.
The Czech government nominates two legendary Czech WWII heroes – pilot Josef Frantíšek and Captain Otakar Jaroš – in memoriam for the Czech Republic’s highest honour, the Order of the White Lion. The final decision will be President Miloš Zeman’s. Josef Frantíšek survived dozens of battles and had 17 confirmed enemy kills. Captain Jaroš, an officer in the Czechoslovak forces in the Soviet Union, fought and died in Sokolovo, Ukraine. He was the first foreigner to ever be given the title Hero of the Soviet Union.
Věra Jourová, the Czech Republic’s candidate for EU Commissioner, faced a grilling from euro MPs on Wednesday not least over her close working relationship with the Czech Republic's finance minister and influential businessman Andrej Babiš. Responding to a question from European MP Laura Ferrara, Ms Jourová explained she had never been interested in Mr Babiš’ business activities or success. Until this week, Ms Jourová was the country’s minister for regional development as well as the deputy chairwoman of ANO, the political movement led by Mr Babiš that came second in last year’s parliamentary elections. Ms Jourová stressed on Wednesday that she would remain independent, making clear she was immune to outside pressure.
The company eMoneyServices which owns the rights to the Opencard system used by commuters in the Czech capital, has halted negotiations with City Hall on the sale of part of the firm administering the system. The firm’s spokesman cited as the reason the upcoming communal elections. Negotiations have been ongoing for several months but both sides have charged neither has come forward with a viable solution or offer. EMS spokesman Martin Opatrný has said in the past that the company would not try and block the card’s continued use. The Opencard system cost the city 1.35 billion crowns but Prague failed to renew the license with EMS earlier this year over the amount (around 500 million crowns) which the company requested.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has rejected a stance being taken by Karel Schwarzenberg, the country’s former foreign minister and head of the opposition party TOP 09, that the Czech Republic should provide arms supplies to Ukraine. The former minister told the German daily Rheinische Post, in an interview published on Wednesday, that Ukraine needed weapons or that it “had no chance in the fight against well-equipped and trained Russian units”. Prime Minister Sobotka stated that the government had no intention of supplying weapons to Ukraine, saying such a move would be perceived as escalating the situation. He also said that the truce between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels had largely held. Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Bělobrádek, the head of the Christian Democrats, has taken a similar view.
The Czech Senate on Wednesday approved the draft of a new law aimed at depoliticizing and making more efficient the country’s civil service. Forty-one of 71 senators voted in favour. The bill was approved without changes following two hours of debate. The legislation is a compromise with the centre-right opposition, with the government having agreed to drop a provision to create a top civil servant whose office would control the entire system. The new bill also includes a provision under which every minister will have at most two deputies who are political appointees. The later has repeatedly been criticised by President Miloš Zeman. The president has warned MPs that he will take the civil service bill to the Constitutional Court if a veto does not suffice.
The Czech Republic will provide humanitarian aid worth 4.14 million crowns to countries in Africa hit by the deadly Ebola outbreak, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka confirmed on Wednesday. Funds will be provided by the Czech Health and Interior ministries as well as the Administration of State Material reserves. Most will be used to buy protective gear, including special suits, gloves and goggles. The prime minster stressed that earlier the Foreign Ministry sent three million crowns worth of material aid through Doctors Without Borders. More than 3,000 people have died of Ebola in the worst-hit countries: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.