The Communists have failed to win support for a bill on national
referenda in the lower house of parliament. The bill needed the support
of 120 deputies in the 200-seat chamber as this is the majority needed
for a bill like the proposed national referendum law, whose enactment
requires an amendment to the constitution. The Communists' proposal was
rejected in the first reading on Wednesday when all 100 governing
coalition MPs voted against. If it were passed Czechs would have been
able to hold a referendum on whether or not a US radar station should
be built on Czech territory.
The Green Party, which generally supports the enactment of a national referendum law, is working on its own proposal.
The opposition Social Democrats have criticised government plans to sell seven percent of the state's stake in the power giant CEZ. The shares, currently worth some 35.7 billion crowns (an estimated 1.6 billion US dollars), are to be offered on the stock market later this year. The daily Hospodarske Noviny reports that the revenue is to be used for the construction of roads and motorways. Social Democrat MP and former Trade and Industry Minister Milan Urban has opposed the plan. He views it as irresponsible to sell off part of CEZ just for the purpose of what he considers "darning a hole" in state finances.
In fifty percent of cases when a patient is prescribed an antibiotic in the Czech Republic, it is unnecessary, the head physician of the antibiotics department at Prague's Na Homolce hospital, Vlastimil Jindrak, warned on Wednesday. The exaggerated use of antibiotics leads to bacteria becoming immune to the drugs. This could result in an epidemic. Czech doctors would also save money if they used other forms of treatment, as health insurers currently spend some three billion crowns on antibiotics a year.
Prague city councillors supported the city's proposed candidacy for the Olympic Games in 2016 at a meeting on Tuesday evening. The city council will now vote on the matter next week Thursday. If, as expected, most of its members vote for the proposal, Prague will become an official candidate for the Olympic Games and compete against cities like Berlin, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro for the honour of hosting the event.
Deputy Prime Minister and Christian Democrat leader Jiri Cunek, who is facing charges of corruption, has postponed a police interrogation. Mr Cunek says he put in a request to reschedule because the media had found out about the date. Mr Cunek is accused of having accepted a bribe five years ago when he was mayor of the Moravian town of Vsetin. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said on Wednesday that it will not be long before Mr Cunek - unable to cope with mounting pressure - resigns.
The head of the Catholic Church in the Czech Republic has said the Church does not enjoy the best of relationships with President Vaclav Klaus. Speaking on a radio programme on Tuesday, Cardinal Vlk said that relations with the president were not very positive. In particular, the cardinal highlighted Mr Klaus's negative reaction to a memorandum drawn up by a number of Catholic organisations on defining the relationship between church and state and finally settling the issue of church property.
The US Congress has taken a first step towards cancelling the requirement for Czechs to get a visa for travelling to the United States. Senators have approved a proposal that would allow visa requirements to be cancelled for countries like the Czech Republic who are allies of the US in its so-called War against Terrorism. The proposed legislation would have to be passed by the House of Representatives in order to come into effect.
The Justice Ministry is preparing a new Penal Code that sees the age of criminal responsibility lowered from 15 to 14 years. Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil said on Wednesday that the bill should be ready by the end of next month. Unlike last year's proposal, which was not passed because it failed to deal with large-scale fraud, the new bill will have a clause on the issue; however, it will not have a clause on euthanasia, as it is to be dealt with by a separate law. The current Penal Code is considered outdated as it was written in the 1960s.
Austrian activists blocked four Czech-Austrian border crossings on Wednesday. The blockades were staged in protest at the Temelin nuclear power plant which is just 50 km away from nuclear-free Austria. Following two recent leaks of slightly radioactive liquid at the plant, the activists are planning more protests to call for an investigation into Temelin's safety.
Germany's Social Democrats would like the European Union to hold discussion on a US request to station part of its anti-missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Since EU members hold a joint foreign and security policy this issue should not be ignored, according to the head of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament Martin Schulz. German Chancellor and Christian Democrat Angela Merkel, on the other hand, says talks on the defence system should mainly involve NATO.