News PM Bohuslav Sobotka calls for quick decision on EU Commission head
Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said the Czech Republic is looking for a quick decision on who should be the new president of the European Commission. Mr. Sobotka said he would like to see agreement reached at a meeting in Brussels at the end of next week. He added that Prague is ready to back the centre-right candidate for the job, former Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker. Junker was the outright favorite to occupy the post following last month’s European Parliament elections. But support for him has been slipping with some European leaders, such as the British prime minister, outspokenly opposed to Junker.
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The opposition centre-right parties TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats say they are outraged by the prime ministers stance and are demanding a special session of Parliament to “restore the dignity of the Czech Republic and defend its reputation as a country which respects freedom, democracy and international law". TOP 09 deputy chair Miroslav Kalousek described the prime minister’s stand as “short-sighted, alibistic and cowardly”. Mr. Sobotka has also come under fire from Czech MEPs.
Agriculture Minister Marian Jurečka said on Monday that should the EC fail to help farmers and food producers hit by the EU sanctions against Russia, the Czech Republic might ban the imports of goods for dumping prices. Czech farmers and food producers fear that the expected glut of food products in Europe stemming from the sanctions might result in the Czech market being flooded with goods sold for prices below production costs.
Czech Railways is back in the black showing a profit of 158 million crowns at the end of the second quarter, the ctk news agency reports. The profit was generated mainly by revenues from passenger transport and cost-cutting measures in the areas of marketing and legal services. Freight transport showed a profit of 540 million.
The new wave of EU sanctions against Russia for its involvement in the Ukraine crisis, has caused a rift in the Czech ruling coalition. Attending the EU talks in Brussels, the Czech prime minister made it clear that he did not believe sanctions would prove effective and said his country reserved the right to reject tightened sanctions if they were to cause disproportionately high economic losses. He promptly came under fire from the leader of the coalition Christian Democrats who compared this stand to the Munich Agreement of 1938. The prime minister has now received backing from Andrej Babiš, the leader of the second strongest party in the ruling coalition, who said he too could see little point in enforcing new sanctions against Russia when the last ones had failed to have any effect. He said the way forward appeared to be through political negotiations and noted that the Czech Republic could show its solidarity with Ukraine by more practical means such as sending aid or dispatching a field hospital there. The cabinet is to debate the issue at its session on Wednesday.
Czech Railways has announced that the rail connection between the towns of Hradec Kralove and Pardubice will be out of operation for the next ten days due to maintenance. Passengers are being asked to use a replacement bus service. More information is available to Czech Railways website and its information offices.
Khaled al-Atrash is to be the new Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic. According to the daily Lidové noviny he has already received the so-called agrément from President Miloš Zeman. Khaled al-Atrash is the outgoing ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina where he has served since 2010. The last Palestinian ambassador to Prague, Jamal Muhammad Jamal, was killed in a blast at the embassy at the beginning of this year. It later emerged that he had been trying to open an old safe that contained explosives.
The Czech candidate for EU Commissioner Věra Jourová is to meet with EC President Jean Claude Junker on Wednesday to discuss her possible future portfolio. The Czech government has been striving for an economic portfolio and Ms. Jourová, who heads the Regional Development Ministry in the centre-left government, is aspiring to head the European regional development portfolio, currently run by Austria. If she makes a successful bid, Jourová would appear before the respective committee for the traditional “grilling” at the end of September and take up her post in early November.
President Miloš Zeman attended the first day of the new school year at the Charlotte Garrigue Masaryk Primary School in Lány on Monday. He wished first graders well and briefly recalled his own school years when he was forced to sit with his hands behind his back and was forced to write with his right hand, although he was left-handed. He emphasized the Jan Amos Comenius legacy that the learning process should be based on play and entertainment and told the class of first graders they were fortunate to be living and going to school in a free country. This year schools admitted 115,000 first-graders, 4,000 more than last year.
Singer Michal Hrůza, who was seriously injured in a street fight six weeks ago has been released from a rehabilitation clinic and transported home where he is to undergo further therapy. The singer suffered serious brain damage in the attack and spent some time in a coma. His manager Martina Tůmova on Monday issued a report saying Hrůza was recovering well, but still had a long way to go.
Czech paralympics champion Jiří Ježek was badly injured at the World Championships in Greenville on Sunday, the internet news site idnes reported. Jezek was thrown off his bike in a mass collision suffering multiple fractures and serious chest injuries. He was operated on during the night.