Posts Tagged ‘Czech Republic’

Merkel and Austria’s Kurz clash over migrant quota

January 17, 2018


© AFP | German Chancellor Angela Merkel andAngela Merkel new Chancellor Sebastian Kurz stressed the ‘close cooperation’ between the two nations

BERLIN (AFP) – Angela Merkel and her Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz clashed over immigration in their first meeting Wednesday, with the seasoned German chancellor saying Vienna’s resistance to sharing out refugees across the bloc was “wrong”.Kurz, at 31 the world’s youngest leader after forming a government with the far right last month, said following talks with Merkel that the debate about mandatory migrant quotas “took up too much space”.

“I’m convinced that the solution to the migrant problem lies with decent border protection and stronger help in countries of origin,” Kurz told reporters after he was received in Berlin with military honours.

While Merkel echoed those priorities, she also chided the member states that have refused to take in their share of migrants and refugees under the European Union’s quota system.

When external border protection fails, “it cannot be, in my view, that there are some countries that say ‘we don’t want to participate in European solidarity’,” she said.

“I believe that’s wrong.”

Austria has sided with countries such as Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic that reject the scheme, agreed by a majority of EU leaders in 2015, to share 160,000 migrants around the bloc to help frontline states like Greece and Italy.

Just some 32,000 were relocated by the end of 2017.

Kurz, who was foreign minister at the height of Europe’s migrant crisis, was one of the fiercest critics of Merkel’s contentious decision in 2015 to open Germany’s borders to those fleeing conflict.

The move prompted an influx of nearly 900,000 asylum seekers to Germany that year alone, although arrivals have slowed significantly since then.

Kurz came to power after taking over the conservative People’s Party (OeVP) last year and yanking it to the right, with a hardline stance on immigration.

His government is the only one in Western Europe to feature the far right after he struck an alliance with the controversial Freedom Party (FPOe).

Merkel stressed the “close cooperation” between Germany and Austria and their shared positions on many issues.

She said she would judge the new government in Vienna “by its actions”, but added that she would be watching closely.

“We will keep an eye on everything else — perhaps I will a bit more than I would have otherwise done. But what matters are actions,” she said.


Hungary’s Orban tells Germany: ‘You wanted the migrants, we didn’t’ — EU-wide refugee resettlement quota let in “Muslim invaders”

January 8, 2018

In an interview with the German daily Bild, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban defended his country’s refusal of an EU-wide refugee resettlement quota, saying that he believed refugees are “Muslim invaders.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (picture-alliance/NurPhoto/K. Dobuszynski)

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a populist leader known for his hardline anti-immigration stance, said that the European Union’s migration policies threaten the “sovereignty and cultural identity” of Hungary, in an interview published Monday.

“We don’t see these people as Muslim refugees. We see them as Muslim invaders,” he told the German daily Bild newspaper.

In the interview, he said Syrian refugees were not fleeing their home country — where a multi-sided war has been raging for almost seven years — out of fear for their lives.

Read morePoland, Hungary say EU migration policy has failed

Instead, he said the decision of thousands of migrants to journey to richer western European countries like Germany while passing through less wealthy “but stable” countries like Hungary was proof that they could not be classed as refugees, but rather “economic migrants in search of a better life.”

Orban also rejected the idea that Hungary should be open to accepting people from majority-Muslim countries, saying his country “doesn’t want to be forced.”

“We believe that a large number of Muslims inevitably leads to parallel societies, because Christian and Muslim society will never unite,” Orban told the paper.

“Multiculturalism is only an illusion,” he added.

Read moreTwo against the EU — Hungary PM Viktor Orban visits Poland

Germany ‘wanted the migrants’

Orban also addressed the ongoing spat between Budapest and Brussels over a refugee resettlement quota, which Hungary and Slovakia unsuccessfully challenged at the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

When asked by a Bild reporter why it was fair that Germany accepted hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants while Hungary accepted none, Orban responded: “The difference is, you wanted the migrants, and we didn’t.”

He said in Bild, that if the September ECJ ruling had fallen before the quota’s validity was to run out, Hungary would have accepted the refugees.

Read moreThe EU migrant relocation and resettlement scheme – what you need to know

The ECJ decision fell on September 6 while the European Commission decision mandating the quota system expired on September 26.

At the time of the decision, however, Hungarian officials rejected the ruling and decried it as political, with Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto saying: “Politics has raped European law and values.”

Orban also told Bild that it “a double standard” that Hungary was the “only” country in the bloc that was criticized although the quota “wasn’t implemented in over 20 countries.”

According to the latest European Commission figures, only two EU member states took in no refugees under the quota system — Hungary and Poland. Slovakia, Austria and the Czech Republic took in a handful of refugees under the program.

A total of 22 countries involved in the resettlement scheme fell short of their “legal commitment.” Although Germany took in more refugees than any other involved in the program with 9,169, it still fell short of its quota of 27,536.

Read moreEU sues Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland over low refugee intake

Orban has been ramping up his anti-migrant statements ahead of elections in Hungary this April.

The interview with Bild followed Orban’s controversial appearance last Friday at the party conference of the conservative Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).

Suffering from losses at the polls in last year’s general election, the CSU has been calling for a tougher stance on immigration.

Obama Must Return his Nobel Peace Prize If U.S. Ignored Iranian Terror, Hezbollah Drug Smuggling to Get Nuclear Deal, Israeli Politicians Say

December 19, 2017
 DECEMBER 18, 2017 22:40


“Obama must return his Nobel Peace Prize,” if the Politico story is correct, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said.

Former US President Barack Obama delivers a speech

Former US President Barack Obama delivers a speech. (photo credit: DARIO AYALA / REUTERS)

Israeli politicians lashed out at former US president Barack Obama after an exposé in Politico alleged that his administration had blocked a major investigation into Hezbollah’s global drug trafficking activities so that Iran would sign the 2015 deal to curb its nuclear activities.

“Obama must return his Nobel Peace Prize,” if the Politico story is correct, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said.

Image result for Yair Lapid, photos

Yair Lapid

“Israel warned repeatedly that there can be no connection between the nuclear deal and anti-terror activity, certainly against Hezbollah... We also warned of this specifically, because of the proven link between Hezbollah and Iran.”

Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi wrote on Facebook that the report is not surprising, due to Obama’s “persistent efforts to give Iran, Nasrallah’s patron, legitimacy at any price.

“Up until the Obama Administration, every American President fought terrorism uncompromisingly… I am convinced that the Trump administration will not turn from that tradition, and that the outrageous and mistaken policy that was revealed this week will not be repeated,” Hanegbi said.

The Politico piece details the efforts of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, which launched Project Cassandra in 2008. The group tracked Hezbollah’s global criminal-syndicate operation, backed by Iran, including drug and weapons trafficking worth $1 billion annually.

But while DEA gathered evidence, including of Iran-backed activities in Latin America and the US, Politico charged that the Justice Department and other US authorities refused to file charges against major players.

This included, according to Politico, “Hezbollah’s high-profile envoy to Iran, a Lebanese bank that allegedly laundered billions in alleged drug profits, and a central player in a US-based cell of the Iranian paramilitary Quds force.”

Image result for John Kerry, with Zarif, Photos

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Among those against whom no US action was taken, was Ali Fayad, a suspected Hezbollah operative held from 2014 to 2015 by the Czech Republic.

“The administration also rejected repeated efforts by Project Cassandra members to charge Hezbollah’s military wing as an ongoing criminal enterprise under a federal Mafia-style racketeering statute, task force members say,” according to the Politico article.

It further charged that the administration blocked other initiatives to give the Cassandra Project legal tools to halt Hezbollah’s activities.

Even as far back as 2007, the article claimed, planes flew from Caracas to Syria and then on to Tehran with drugs and cash, returning with arms and agents.

The article relied heavily on the testimony of a former US Defense Department financial analyst, David Asher, who worked for the Cassandra Project.

“This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” said Asher, according to Politico. “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”

Asher also publicly testified to Congress in 2015 on the need to do more to combat Hezbollah’s criminal and financial activities.

The article also put forward counter theories that would have accounted for the Obama administration’s actions, including turf wars among different US agencies, the destabilization of Lebanon and reprisal terror attacks.

Former Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren, currently a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, said the news “wouldn’t surprise any Israeli involved in the attempts to prevent a bad nuclear deal with Iran.”

“It was clear that the government was willing to do anything to reach an agreement, including ignoring Iranian terror that took the lives of hundreds of Americans and Israelis and hundreds of thousands of Syrians,” Oren said. “This exposé and others that may be published in the future must strengthen our resolve to dance or at least significantly change this dangerous agreement.”

Communications Minister Ayoob Kara called the report “excellent,” tweeting that the Obama administration allowed Hezbollah to grow stronger.

“Does anyone still doubt why Obama was bad for Israel and how Trump is better for us?” Kara asked.


Marine Le Pen says EU ‘killing Europe’ at meeting of far-right party leaders

December 16, 2017


From left, president of Czech Freedom and Direct Democracy party Tomio Okamura, French politician and head of the National Front, Marine Le Pen, and Dutch politician and leader of the Party for Freedom Geert Wilders (AP)1
From left, president of Czech Freedom and Direct Democracy party Tomio Okamura, French politician and head of the National Front, Marine Le Pen, and Dutch politician and leader of the Party for Freedom Geert Wilders (AP)

France’s National Front leader Marine Le Pen has described the European Union as “a disastrous organisation” that is “killing Europe” as she met with other heads of far-right parties from different countries.

Le Pen addressed the other leaders at a conference in Prague, held on Saturday to discuss ideas for Europe’s future.

Geert Wilders, founder of the Dutch anti-Islam Party for Freedom, said Europe should follow the example of US president Donald Trump and impose travel bans to restrict immigration.

The leaders vowed to work together to create a new model of intracontinental cooperation far removed from the EU.

Parties with anti-immigration platforms have been making gains at the polls in Europe, although Wilders and Le Pen both ran unsuccessfully this year for the top political posts in their countries.



Europe’s far-right leaders hail ‘historic’ Austrian govt deal

© AFP / by Jan FLEMR | Marine Le Pen (L), head of French far-right National Front (FN) party and Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders of the PVV party hailed the success in Austria of the far-right FPOe party, which on Friday formed a coalition government
PRAGUE (AFP) – Europe’s far-right leaders including Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders on Saturday hailed as “historic” the government coalition deal struck by their Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe) peer with the conservatives.At a triumphant gathering of some of the continent’s most prominent far-right personalities, leaders urged closer cooperation to build upon recent electoral gains.

“This is great news for Europe,” said Le Pen, who made it to May’s presidential run-off in France before losing to Emmanuel Macron.

“These electoral successes show that… the future rests with the nations, with a Europe of the people, a Europe of cooperation,” she added, calling the FPOe’s success a “truly historic event”.

Le Pen also threw her support behind Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bid for re-election on March 18, saying her National Front party “naturally wants the victory of Vladimir Putin,” and called for better relations between France and Russia.

Dutch far-right firebrand Wilders also applauded what he called the “excellent result” achieved by FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache.

His Freedom Party got the interior, defence and foreign ministries in the Austrian government it formed with the conservative People’s Party of future Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

“Let that be an example for all the political elite that it is much wiser to work together to achieve good policies and strengthen our border and diminish the immigration and be rougher on crime — everything that is happening in Austria today,” added Wilders, head of the Dutch Party for Freedom, the largest opposition party in the Netherlands.

Wilders also said that “Russia should be an ally”, calling the EU’s stance on Russia, including sanctions over Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, “a total disgrace”.

Both far-right leaders were in Prague for a conference of the Europe of Nations and Freedoms (ENF), a European Parliament group established two years ago.

– ‘Sort waste, not people’ –

Far-right politicians espousing anti-migrant and anti-EU views discussed cooperation within Europe outside EU bodies at the conference which brought together politicians from the FPO, Italy’s Lega Nord or the Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Czech police tightened security as left-wing groups announced several protests, including a blockade of the suburban area of Prague where the conference is held.

About a hundred protesters blocked an access road, carrying banners saying “Sort waste, not people” and “We don’t want a Jurassic Park of nationalists here.”

Another group blocked the entrance to the hotel, chanting “corrupt journalists” at those trying to enter.

Police also had their hands full with Wilders, who is facing death threats over his fiery anti-Islam rhetoric.

Le Pen and Wilders also hailed the success of the far-right Czech SPD party in general elections in October.

Led by Tokyo-born entrepreneur Tomio Okamura and running on a staunchly anti-EU and anti-Islam platform, the SPD (Freedom and Direct Democracy) scored 22 seats in the 200-member Czech parliament.

Okamura, a deputy parliament speaker, hosted the Prague conference of the ENF.

Days ahead of the conference, Okamura received backing from Czech President Milos Zeman, a veteran leftwinger known for his pro-Russian, pro-Chinese and anti-Muslim rhetoric, who attended an SPD congress last weekend.

Zeman, who once called the migrant crisis “an organised invasion” of Europe and Muslims “impossible to integrate”, is the odds-on favourite in a two-round presidential election slated for January.

Paradoxically, the Czech Republic, which vehemently opposes the EU’s quota system for distributing migrants among its members, has received only 12 migrants under the scheme.

Overall, migrant numbers from the Muslim world are very low in this EU member of 10.6 million people as refugees prefer wealthier European countries such as Germany or Sweden.

by Jan FLEMR

EU refugee quota row flares up ahead of summit — “The paper prepared by President Tusk is unacceptable, it is anti-European.”

December 13, 2017



© AFP/File | Refugees protest outside the German embassy in Athens to demand a faster family reunification process in Germany

BRUSSELS (AFP) – A row over controversial quotas for the sharing out of refugees across EU countries broke out on Wednesday on the eve of a summit where leaders will discuss the way forward on migration.EU President Donald Tusk said in a pre-summit letter to leaders that mandatory relocation was “ineffective” and “highly divisive”, recommending that efforts should instead be directed to securing Europe’s borders.

Under a scheme introduced in 2015, asylum seekers from the frontline states of Greece and Italy were moved to other EU countries under a quota system, but Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic have refused to take almost any.

Plans by the European Commission to introduce a permanent mechanism for refugee-sharing for any future crises have been stalled for months due to fierce opposition from some member states.

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos launched a stinging attack on Tusk on Tuesday, saying that “the paper prepared by President Tusk is unacceptable, it is anti-European.”

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas returned to the subject on Wednesday, insisting there was “no dispute, no drama”.

But Schinas said the commission, the executive arm of the EU, “firmly disagrees with the statement that relocation as an emergency response has been ineffective.”

He said that over 32,000 people had been relocated under the plan, or 90 percent of those eligible. The scheme was originally meant to relocate 160,000 refugees.

Germany and Sweden lead the states backing a permanent quota system under a reform of the EU’s asylum rules in the wake of the biggest migration crisis in its history.

But many central and eastern European states are against them, promising a long night of talks on the issue on Thursday.

“We can expect a very lively and maybe controversial debate,” one EU diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Reflecting the divisions, another European diplomat said that Avramapoulos had overstepped the mark “by far” with his comments, but a third said that there had been “criticism of the balance” in Tusk’s note.

Netanyahu in Brussels With EU’s Mogherini: Israel Should Give Peace a Chance

December 11, 2017

Netanyahu’s visit comes on the heels of a harsh exchange with the organization’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who fiercely opposed Trump’s Jerusalem move

(Brussels, Belgium) Dec 11, 2017 9:24 AM
Image result for Netanyahu, Federica Mogherini, photos

File photo: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and the European Union chief of foreign policy 

An Israeli prime minister has not traveled to Brussels, the heart of the EU, in 22 years.

Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, and the ramifications of the policy shift, are expected to be a dominant issue during the meetings. Various EU leaders have slammed Trump for the Jerusalem-recognition move, saying that by doing so he has taken Israel’s side on the Jerusalem issue.

The EU has for years adopted the Palestinian position on the matter, saying east Jerusalem needs to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Despite Mogherini’s tough words about the recognition, the EU foreign ministers did not immediately issue a condemnation of the move, because of opposition from Hungary and the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic – a strong ally of Israel inside the EU – followed Trump’s recognition by announcing that it was recognizing west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists in Paris protested on Saturday against Netanyahu’s visit, holding Palestinian flags and pictures of Macron branded as an “accomplice.” Protests also took place in numerous capitals over the weekend, including in Berlin, Beirut, London, Mogadishu, Amman and Tehran, as well as in Istanbul.

The Turkish daily Hurriyet quoted a presidential source as saying that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Macron spoke by phone on Saturday and agreed to “close cooperation” on the Jerusalem issue.

According to Huriyet, the two presidents “agreed to continue efforts to convince the US to reconsider its decision.”

Erdogan has called for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul on Wednesday to discuss the matter. Observers in Jerusalem say that the Turkish president is trying to “ride” the issue into a leadership position on the Arab and Muslim street, similar to what he did following the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010 when he became the temporary darling of the Muslim world for his tough rhetoric and confrontational approach to Israel.

Erdogan also spoke on the phone with the presidents of Lebanon, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan on Saturday regarding the issue. Israel has strong ties with both Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

One senior diplomatic official said that Netanyahu’s visit to Paris and Brussels will undoubtedly be “hot,” and that the prime minister is “furious” at Mogherini for her comments.

According to assessments in Jerusalem, there are influential voices in the EU saying that this is an opportunity to “provide an alternative” and to initiate a peace plan of their own, perhaps reviving the French initiative that died earlier this year when presidents François Hollande of France and Barack Obama of the US left office.

Netanyahu, according to diplomatic sources, has sought a meeting with all the EU foreign ministers for months, but had to overcome initial skepticism on their part.

He is expected to “stand up” to the Europeans, criticizing their “obsession” over the settlements and telling them that they are feeding Palestinian intransigence by giving the impression that a solution can be imposed on Israel from the outside.

Mogherini announced last week that she invited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to meet the foreign ministers at their monthly parley next month.

See also Haaretz (Paywall):

BRUSSELS – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded a possible peace deal being drafted by the White House while speaking at the European Union in Brussels…
read more:

Netanyahu faces pressure in Europe amid Jerusalem protests — Netanyahu has taken aim at what he called Europe’s “hypocrisy,” for condemning Trump’s statement

December 11, 2017

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he leaves the Elysee Palace on Sunday in Paris. (AFP)

BRUSSELS: Israel’s leader faces renewed pressure from Europe on Monday to reboot the Middle East’s moribund peace process following widespread criticism of the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in Brussels for an informal breakfast with EU foreign ministers who will urge him to “resume meaningful negotiations,” according to the bloc’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini.

The talks come after French President Emmanuel Macron met Netanyahu in Paris on Sunday and called on him to freeze settlement building and to re-engage with Palestinians following widespread protests over the US move.

Last week’s decision by the administration of US President Donald Trump upended decades of US diplomacy and broke with international consensus.

Speaking alongside Netanyahu on Sunday, Macron again condemned the decision as “contrary to international law and dangerous for the peace process.”

“I urged the prime minister to show courage in his dealings with the Palestinians to get us out of the current dead end,” Macron said after talks in Paris with the Israeli leader.

“Peace does not depend on the United States alone… it depends on the capacity of the two Israeli and Palestinian leaders to do so,” the French leader said.
Netanyahu has praised Trump’s decision as “historic” and he explained Sunday that Jerusalem “has always been our capital and it has never been the capital of any other people.”
“It has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years, it has been the capital of the Jewish state for 70 years. We respect your history and your choices and we know that as friends you respect ours. I think this is also central for peace,” he said.
“The sooner the Palestinians come to grips with this reality, the sooner we’ll move toward peace.”
Before leaving Israel, Netanyahu had taken aim at what he called Europe’s “hypocrisy,” for condemning Trump’s statement, but not “the rockets fired at Israel or the terrible incitement against it.”
Pointedly, Macron began his pre-prepared remarks with a clear condemnation “with the greatest of clarity of all forms of attacks in the last hours and days against Israel.”
Despite the obvious differences between the 39-year-old French leader and the Israeli hard-liner, there were also attempts to show they had developed a good early working relationship and held common views.
“Does this mean Emmanuel Macron and me agree on everything? No, not all of it, but we’re working it,” Netanyahu said at one point, joking later: “The lunch in the Elysee is superb, the conversation is superb too.”
The two countries are keen to reset ties after often difficult exchanges under ex-president Francois Hollande.Most EU members, including the bloc’s biggest countries, have expressed alarm over the Trump administration’s policy shift.
Mogherini has warned the decision on Jerusalem “has the potential to send us backwards to even darker times than the ones we’re already living in.”
Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Friday, she repeated Europe’s stance that “the only realistic solution” for peace was two states — Israel and Palestine — with Jerusalem as the capital of both and the borders returned to their status before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
“It is in Israel’s security interest to find a lasting solution to this decades-long conflict,” she added.
But the 28-member block is not unified on the issue — Hungary, Greece, Lithuania and the Czech Republic in particular favor warmer ties with Israel.
Last week Hungary broke ranks to block a joint statement from the EU that was critical of Washington’s Jerusalem shift.
Trump’s announcement on Wednesday has been followed by days of protests and clashes in the Palestinian territories.
Four Palestinians were killed either in clashes or from Israeli air strikes in retaliation for rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.
Tens of thousands have also protested in Muslim and Arab countries, including Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia.
Further protests were held in Lebanon, Indonesia, Egypt and the Palestinian territories on Sunday.
Macron was also asked if France would attempt to launch another peace initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict following failed efforts in the past.
“There’s a desire by the Americans to mediate which remains and I don’t want to condemn it ab initio (from the beginning),” he said. “We need to wait for the next few weeks, the next months to see what will be proposed.
“And I think we have to wait to see whether the interested parties accept it or not.”
Netanyahu was an outspoken critic of efforts by former French president Hollande to push a Middle East peace process.


Czech President Milos Zeman: EU’s “cowards” are doing all they can so a pro-Palestinian terrorist movement can have supremacy over a pro-Israeli movement

December 10, 2017
 DECEMBER 10, 2017 09:53

He went even further, calling on the embassies in Tel Aviv to be moved to Jerusalem during a speech he gave in New York at a gala event by the newspaper The Algemeiner.


CZECH PRESIDENT Milos Zeman welcomes President Reuven Rivlin at Prague Castle. (photo credit: MARK NEYMAN / GPO)

The European Union’s condemnation of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital shows that they are afraid to stand with Israel, Czech President Milos Zeman said.

“The European Union, cowards, are doing all they can so a pro-Palestinian terrorist movement can have supremacy over a pro-Israeli movement,” Zeman said, according to the AFP.

He spoke Saturday at an event with the far right Freedom and Direct Democracy Party.

Zeman and the Czech Republic are known for their strong support of Israel. Immediately after Trump’s deceleration about Jerusalem on Wednesday, the Czech Foreign Ministry announced its recognition of west Jerusalem.

In September, Zeman also spoke of the international cowardice with regard to Israel, citing as an example its refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state or acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

He went even further, calling on the embassies in Tel Aviv to be moved to Jerusalem during a speech he gave in New York at a gala event by the newspaper The Algemeiner.

“I proposed this removal four years ago during my visit to Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told me, if so, I will give you my own house. I hope his promise is still valid. Anyway, now after the same promise of Donald Trump in the election campaign I think it might be a good hint and this hint might be followed by some courageous countries, not all countries, but courageous countries. This is a concrete step toward real solidarity [with Israel] and not solidarity by words only” he said.

Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis called the Czech Ambassador in Israel to thank him for his country’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“You are a brave people, who are not afraid to fight, on our side, for the truth. The Czech Republic is a true friend of the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” Akunis said.

To date, his country has not made good on Zeman’s statement. But the Czech’s stance on Jerusalem marks a break from the position of the 27 other members of the EU as articulated by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

She has downplayed the significant of the Czech’s position, and has issued a number of statements condemning Trump’s declaration and his intention to relocate the US Embassy.

She is expected to speak with Netanyahu about the issue in Brussels on Monday when he speaks with the EU’s 28 ministers.


Czech PM designate: EU should not push us over migrants — EU might embolden extremist elements

December 9, 2017


PRAGUE (Reuters) – The designated Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said that the European Union should not push Czechs over their refusal to shelter asylum-seekers, because it could strengthen extremist parties in the country.

 Image may contain: 1 person, standing, suit and indoor

Czech newly appointed Prime Minister Andrej Babis attends a news conference at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic December 6, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny

The European Union’s executive will sue Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in the bloc’s top court for their refusal to host asylum-seekers, Brussels said on Thursday.

Babis, whose government is due to be appointed by President Milos Zeman on Dec. 13, repeated his country’s stance on migrants.

“The (European) Commission can withdraw the charge at any moment. We have to negotiate on this and to offer different models, like guarding the borders or help to other countries. But we don’t want any refugees,” Babis said in an interview published on Saturday by the Pravo daily paper.

He will represent his country at the EU summit on Dec. 14 and Dec. 15, where European leaders will discuss migration.

The Czechs have declined to shelter asylum-seekers despite an overall drop in arrivals due to tighter borders and projects beyond the EU’s frontiers to discourage migration to Europe.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) cases could lead to financial penalties but may take months, or years, to conclude.

Babis said that by pushing on with the case, the EU might embolden extremist elements.

“The EU has to understand, that if it won’t listen to our proposals, then the influence of extremist parties like (Germany‘s) AfD or (Czech) SPD will grow, whose strategy actually is to destroy the EU,” he said.

Despite his ANO party winning the parliamentary election by a landslide in October, it is unclear whether Babis will be able to win a confidence vote for his government by mid-January as required by the constitution. He also faces the threat of prosecution in connection with his business interests.

The far-right, anti-EU and anti-NATO SPD party and the Communists have lent ANO support in several initial votes in parliament in return for committee posts for their members, raising the prospect that they may have some kind of agreement to back ANO.

But Babis reiterated in the Pravo interview that there was no deal in place and he would talk to all parties to either back the cabinet or abstain from the vote to help ANO win.

Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

EU steps up pressure on Hungary over Soros school, NGO laws, migration

December 7, 2017

Image result for Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary, photos

Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s executive on Thursday stepped up its pressure on the nationalist government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary over its treatment of immigrants, non-governmental groups (NGOs) and a liberal school.

Orban has been locked in a series of running battles with the EU, where Western states and the Brussels-based executive Commission decry what they see as his authoritarian leanings, the squeezing of the opposition and the free media.

In a series of legal announcements, the European Commission said it was taking Budapest to the bloc’s top court, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, over its NGO laws as well as a higher education law that has targeted a Budapest university founded by U.S. financier George Soros.

Brussels also confirmed it was taking Hungary – along with eastern EU peers Poland and the Czech Republic – to the tribunal over refusing to host asylum-seekers under an EU-wide quota system.

It has in addition stepped up its legal case against Budapest over Hungary’s asylum laws.

Separately on Thursday, European lawmakers were debating whether the rule of law and democratic standards in Hungary are under threat more generally and to an extent that would merit the triggering of an unprecedented punishment against Budapest.

The so-called Article 7 procedure would shame Orban by denouncing his government as undemocratic and could even lead to the maximum – though practically highly unlikely – sanction of stripping Hungary of its voting rights in the EU.

The Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, however, made clear the executive did not side with the parliament’s broader, tougher view of Hungary.

“We believe that we are dealing with very specific issues where we have disagreements with the Hungarian government,” Timmermans told a news conference. “For now, the Commission does not see the need to move to another track.”

“The situation in Hungary is not in that sense comparable to the systemic threats to the rule of law which we see in Poland,” he said of Orban’s closest EU ally, the euroskeptic, nationalist Polish government of the Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, Lily Cusack and Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Hugh Lawson