Daily news summary

Czech Republic would back Tusk’s re-election as European Council President

Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek would back Donald Tusk's re-election as European Council President. Mr. Zaorálek told reporters in Brussels on Monday that Mr. Tusk had his support but he emphasised that the decision was up to the EU countries' presidents and prime ministers. Tusk, former prime minister of Poland, made it clear at the EU summit in Malta on Friday that he would like to continue at the European Council's head. His present mandate will expire in May. "Our communication with Donald Tusk has been smooth, we comprehend his positions," Zaorálek said on behalf of the Czech Foreign Ministry. He said Prague would discuss the issue with its partners, mainly within the Visegrad Four group, which also comprises Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

PM wants working group to assess planned high speed rail links

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka wants a working group set up to discuss plans for high speed rail links, the CTK news agency reported on Monday, following the prime minister’s meeting with the head of the Rail Infrastructure Administration, Pavel Surý. The working group should be made up of experts on transport, local development and the environment. Possible high-speed routes have been identified as between Prague and Brno and Prague to Dresden, Germany, where they might be extended to Berlin and Hamburg. Sobotka will discuss the latter possibilities with the minister president of the Saxony region, Stanislaw Tillich, when he visits Prague on Tuesday. Sobotka and Surý also discussed a rail link between Prague’s Václav Havel airport and the centre of the city.

HateFree Culture project likely to be wound up

The government’s HateFree Culture project, which is aimed at fighting racial and ethnic prejudices and increasing tolerance among Czechs, is likely to be terminated in April of this year, the news site Novinky.cz reported. Human Rights Minister Jan Chvojka who made the decision, told the media that he was unhappy about the amount of negative publicity linked to the project’s financing and personnel matters. The project was largely financed by grants from Lichtenstein, Iceland and Norway as well as an annual contribution from the Czech government. Its employees, who have been working on the project since 2014, are reportedly shocked by the decision.

Career diplomat Daniel Meron to be the new Israeli ambassador to the Czech Republic

Career diplomat Daniel Meron is to be the new Israeli ambassador to the Czech Republic, the Israeli Embassy in Prague said on Monday. Mr. Meron previously served in diplomatic posts in the United States, Norway and Cyprus. He will replace Gary Koren who left his ambassadorial post in Prague in January of this year. It is not yet clear when Mr. Meron will hand over his credentials to President Zeman. The Czech Republic and Israel enjoy close relations and the Czech Republic is perceived as one of Israel’s closest allies in the EU.

Employers calling on government to speed up work permits for Ukrainian workers

The Czech Chamber of Commerce and the Confederation of Industry have asked the government to speed up the immigration process of Ukrainian workers seeking employment in the Czech Republic. Due to the record low unemployment many Czech firms are recruiting workers from Ukraine but they say that the process of securing a working permit lasts for six months which is creating serious complications. The business associations have urged the Czech Foreign Ministry to take effective measures to resolve the problem as quickly as possible. The ministry has already increased the quotas for work permits for Ukrainian workers from 320 to 400 a month but it may have to double that number to meet demand.

Bird flu spreads to twenty localities

Just over a month after the first case of bird flu was detected in the Czech Republic, the spread of the deadly H5 virus continues. Vets have now confirmed its incidence in twenty localities around the country, five of which were confirmed just this weekend. The most serious case is in the vicinity of Blatná, South Bohemia, where 20 thousand ducks are to be slaughtered in the coming hours. Several countries outside the EU have banned imports of poultry from the Czech Republic.

Weather forecast

Tuesday should be partly cloudy to overcast with scattered snow showers and day temperatures between 0 and -4 degrees Celsius. Night time temperatures between -2 and -6 degrees.