The contradiction is increasingly ridiculous. Since PM Vladimír Špidla was at the helm Czechs have been trumpeting to the world that this country is interested above all in an influx of educated foreigners, but local authorities often give them a very rough welcome, full of disdain and wasted time. After years of maintaining a stiff upper lip, the Interior Ministry now promises that Schengen entry will considerably moderate the bureaucratic shock for those applying for residency. We'll see.
The numbers look great. Last year some 390,000 foreigners established long-term or permanent residence in the Czech Republic, up by more than 100,000 from 2005. The number is expected to grow again this year. But at least one in three foreigners is far from optimistic – roughly, those who legalised their residence at the busiest foreign police outpost in Prague's Koněvova Street. Today it's no exaggeration to say the place is mad – staff shortages, endless queues, omnipresent arrogance and negligible willingness to speak to applicants in a language other than Czech.
Ante and Goran arrived in Prague from Split, Croatia, last September for a one-year stay at the CERGE Economics Institute. (The names are pseudonyms; the two law students did not want their real names used, fearing further problems with the foreign police.) They had visas, but they…