Daily news summary

Czech foreign minister calls for resolute EU action over Khashoggi killing

The Czech Republic will push for a resolute EU stance to Saudi Arabia over the murder of opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the next meeting of European Union foreign ministers, Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček told the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Czech lower house on Friday.

He said there should be a serious debate on an EU-wide ban of arms exports to Saudi Arabia as well as other steps, such as a ban on entry to the EU for some Saudi citizens and the freezing of their accounts.

Minister Petříček and the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee Lubomír Zaorálek said the EU stance on the matter seemed ambiguous to them.

The Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Prague told the ctk news agency it hopes that the Czech government and governments of other friendly countries will not take “rash steps” before an investigation into the case has been completed.

MPs say country must remain true to democratic values on which First Republic was founded

In a debate devoted to the 100th anniversary of the birth of independent Czechoslovakia deputies of the lower house of Parliament stressed that the Czech Republic must remain true to the democratic values on which the First Republic was founded.

A declaration approved by the lower house on the occasion, says that humanism, freedom and democracy are the pillars of the modern-day Czech Republic, and that they must be cherished, protected and developed.

Honorary TOP 09 chair and former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who said he was the only deputy to remember the first republic, noted that the country’s first President T.G. Masaryk had often spoken on the importance of Europeanism, which he said was something Czechs tended to underestimate today.

Social Democrat leader Jan Hamáček noted that on this important anniversary Czechs should remember those who had laid down their lives for freedom and democracy in the past 100 years.

Merkel and Macron in Prague for centenary celebrations

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Prague in connection with the centenary celebrations on Friday. Her talks with Prime Minister Andrej Babiš focussed on bilateral topics and EU-related issues, primarily migration.

The heads of governments agreed on the need for closer cooperation with African countries in curbing migration. Chancellor Merkel also condemned the murder of Saudi opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying she would push for joint EU action in the matter.

Prime Minister Babiš said it was wrong to create a divide between the Visegrad Group and other EU members. He stressed that the Czech Republic is pro-European and wants the EU to function well.

President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Prague late on Friday, from a visit to neighbouring Slovakia. Following talks with Prime Minister Babiš, the French president congratulated Czechs on their anniversary, saying that France stood by their side today as it had done during the founding of Czechoslovakia 100 years ago.

President Macron also spoke of the need to bolster EU unity, saying the alliance would only be successful if its members stood together. He said the Czech Republic and France agreed on the need to create a common system of European defence. The EU cannot rely on others for its security, Macron said.

Munich and Pittsburgh agreements to go on display in Prague

Valuable documents linked to the foundation and history of Czechoslovakia are set to go on display at the newly reconstructed National Museum in Prague. They will be part of an exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Czechoslovakia.

The original documents include the Munich Agreement, which granted Nazi Germany large parts of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans, and the Pittsburgh Agreement, a memorandum of understanding between the Czech and Slovak immigrant communities to create an independent common state.

The main National Museum building at the top of Wenceslas square will ceremonially re-open on Sunday after major renovations with video-mapping on the façade of the building. The museum will remain open to visitors free of charge until December 31.

Zdeněk Hřib to be new mayor of Prague

Prague leader of the Pirate Party Zdeněk Hřib is to be the new mayor of Prague, under a coalition agreement reached on Thursday. His coalition partners, Jan Čižinský from the civic movement Praha sobě and Jiří Pospíšil of the Allied Forces for Prague (comprising of TOP 09, Christian Democrats and Mayors and Independents) will remain in their former posts - Čižinský is mayor of Prague 7 and Pospíšil an MEP in the European Parliament.

The Civic Democrats, despite winning the communal elections, will go into the opposition, as will the ANO party.

Mr. Hřib, who is 37, is a doctor and head of the health NGO InAverz. He has no previous involvement in politics.

Ruling coalition pushes through change to civil service law

The ruling coalition of ANO and the Social Democrats together with the Communist Party have pushed through an amendment to the civil service law in the lower house that will make it possible for government ministers to recall state secretaries.

The opposition parties say this would mean a step back, leading to a politicized state administration.

The civil service law approved in 2014 was meant to stabilize public administration, open it up to experts and prevent purges at ministries after each general election.

The proposed change still needs to win approval in the Senate but efforts to block it can be overturned by the lower house.

Weather forecast

Saturday should be overcast with rain around the country and day temperatures between 6 and 10 degrees Celsius.