News Ukraine says it wants an association agreement with the EU and stable relations with Russia
The foreign minister of Ukraine’s newly-formed government, Andriy Deshchytsya, has said his country wants and association agreement with the EU and stabile relations with Russia. Following a meeting with the Visegrad goup foreign ministers in Kiev on Friday, Mr. Deshchytsya said the new Ukrainian government was prepared to open talks with Russia on stabilizing bilateral relations and in particular finding a peaceful solution to the unraveling crisis in Crimea. The representatives of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland assured Kiev they would provide whatever assistance was within their means. Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said that in view of the situation in Crimea the most pressing issue now was to maintain the unity of the country. Meanwhile, the EU on Friday reiterated its offer of a free-trade pact with Ukraine, saying the country would see the economic benefits within weeks of signing the agreement.
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A joint meeting of Czech and Slovak governments on Thursday in Slovakia has resulted in agreements to step up cooperation in the fight against tax evasion, transport links, and joint defence. The two countries will create a coordinator who will look at ways how the countries can better fight tax evasion. They have also set the target of filling out plans for common defence of their airspace by the end of the year. This could include the joint purchase of some equipment. As well as the meeting between Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka and his Slovak counterpart Robert Fico, bilateral meetings between nearly all government ministers took place. The next meeting should take place in 2015, probably in Moravia.
Meanwhile the head of the Karlovy Vary region and member of parliament Josef Novotný has said he will hang onto both posts in defiance of the Social Democrat Party instructions. Novotný said it is a plus for the region that he is also a member of parliament since it gave him access to other elected members and ministers. He added that the party’s position was discriminatory and that there is nothing in the Czech constitution preventing the accumulation of different political functions.
Police have called for charges to be pressed against members of Prague city council’s executive body over the so-called Opencard scandal. The scandal concerns dubious public tenders and work carried out to develop a multipurpose data card for the city. Current Prague mayor Tomáš Hudeček and former mayor Bohuslav Svoboda as well as council members are suspected of breaking fair competition rules and abuse of public office. All those implicated say they are innocent. Prague’s public prosecutors’ office must now decide if the case goes to court, the office’s spokeswoman said.
Excavations are continuing at a village near the north eastern town of Trutnov where the remains of three bodies have already been uncovered. The bodies are believed to be those of ethnic Germans executed at the village of Rudník in June 1945 for illegal possession of weapons. Czech police are investigating the case as possible murder. Bones were discovered during work on a cycle path and sports area.
Economic confidence in the Czech Republic firmed slightly in April compared with March according to a survey by the Czech Statistics Office. The composite economic confidence index advanced by 0.2 percentage points to 92.6 points. Consumer confidence showed the biggest jump of 1.7 points to 98.4 points whereas business confidence slipped by 0.1 point to 91.5 points.
Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek has insisted that Czech moves to reset relations with China does not mean that it has abandoned its defence of human rights. Defence of human rights remained once of the country’s fundamental principles of foreign policy according to the minister, the Czech News Agency reported. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said Wednesday that Prague could not recognise the sovereignty and unity of China within its current borders and at the same time recognise the exiled government of Tibet. The Czech Republic should not intervene in China’s internal affairs, he added. The government agreed that Zaorálek would make a three day official trip to Beijing at the start of next week, the first by a Czech foreign minister in 15 years. Former foreign minister and leader of the TOP 09 party Karel Schwarzenberg said human rights were violated in Tibet and the across the rest of China.
Czech president Miloš Zeman will host a two day conference in Prague starting Thursday on the European Union’s relations with states from the former Soviet Union, the so-called Eastern Partnership. At least nine presidents are scheduled to take part, including those of Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Ukraine’s acting foreign minister Andrii Deshchytsia is also expected to attend. The Eastern Partnership was created five years ago with the then Czech presidency of the European Council a major impulse behind the move.
Top Social Democrat Michal Hašek has decided to give up his seat in the lower house of parliament and continue as the head of the South Moravian Region. Hašek was forced to choose between the functions by party instructions preventing politicians from occupying more than one significant post at the same time. Hašek, who is also the chairman of the Association of Regions, has seen his position in the parliamentary party plummet following a failed bid to oust party leader Bohuslav Sobotka after last October’s parliamentary elections. Several other members of the lower house must also choose whether to keep their seats or drop other functions within the next days.
Czech foreign minister Lubomír Zaorálek will fly to Beijing China on Sunday for a three day official visit, the first by a Czech minister for 15 years, the government announced on Wednesday. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the visit was a mark of the government’s desire to reset relations with China. He pointed out that major European countries like Germany, France, and Britain had not let human rights issues get in the way of developing much better relations than those enjoyed by the Czech Republic. Zaorálek said relations with China have been at freezing point and that had stalled trade, export and other deals. China was looking at the possibility of establishing a technology park, probably in Moravia-Silesia, which would focus on high value added production, he added.
Police have launched criminal proceedings against the mayor of Ústí nad Labem and two members of the city council’s executive for abuse of third party property. All three are members of the Social Democrat (ČSSD) party with one, Zuzana Kailová, also a member of the lower house of parliament. Police are asking for her immunity from prosecution to be lifted. The case centres on a private company which won a 5 million crown contract to welcome new citizens to the city. It was found to have only spent a total of 600,000 crowns on cheques to the newcomers.