Czech politicians are mostly pleased with the result of the EU summit
which came to an end in Brussels on Saturday. According to the executive
council of the strongest political party, the Civic Democrats, a reform
process has been launched that will lead the EU to a truly functioning
system of European integration. Civic Democrat MEP Jan Zahradil called the
result a turning point from the concept of the creation of a European
superstate and European federalism.
European Union leaders clinched agreement on a reform treaty by the end of this year, to be ratified by mid-2009, replacing the EU constitution rejected in 2005 by French and Dutch voters. The new text features neither constitutional nor state symbols and the EU will have a high representative for foreign policy, not a foreign minister. The summit also approved the possible transfer of powers back to member countries, a system of "dual flexibility" that Prague has been supporting.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has rejected speculation that he would dismiss his deputy Jiri Cunek by the end of the week. Following Saturday's Civic Democrat executive council meeting, Mr Topolanek reiterated that Mr Cunek will only be removed from his post in government if he is charged and fails to resign himself. The Christian Democrat leader is accused of taking a bribe of half a million crowns while he was mayor of the Moravian town of Vsetin a few years ago.
Following the demonstration against the government reform package, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said his cabinet would withstand the trade unions' pressure just as it managed to survive the opposition's attempts at pushing through a no-confidence vote on Wednesday. Labour Minister Petr Necas says all the changes to the reform plan that the government thought were necessary, following talks with trade union representatives in May, have already been made.
Meanwhile, in the town of Roudnice nad Labem, some 80 aircraft from eight countries were presented to the public at a Memorial Air Show. Besides the B-52 Mitchell bomber, a favourite with spectators, the 15,000 visitors could also admire Jas-39 Gripen fighter jets or L-159 ALCAs (Advanced Light Combat Aircraft). This year, veterans who fought in the Second World War were invited as guests of honour. The event was ceremoniously opened by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek.
Police are looking into evidence which suggests that a 13 year old girl
whose whereabouts and identity have been unclear is a girl from Norway
named Anne, Mlada fronta Dnes newspaper reports. The girl's existence came
to light in connection with another case last month when an eight year old
boy was found naked and bound in the broom cupboard of his home. The boy,
his brother, and their adopted sister Anicka were taken to a children's
home; their mother and aunt are now in police custody on child abuse
charges. A few days later, Anicka mysteriously disappeared and DNA tests
showed that the girl in the children's home was in fact a 32-year old
woman who had slipped into the role of a little girl.
According to the paper, new evidence indicates that the 13 year-old girl did indeed exist. The daily suspects that the police are now looking into the theory that the 32-year old woman who pretended to be Anicka did so to cover up the girl's existence. Where the real Anne from Norway is now is unknown but witnesses recall that she was very ill and often had to be carried, the paper concludes.
Over 25,000 trade union members from around the country attended a demonstration against the government's proposed reform package on Prague's Wenceslas Square. The protesters say the reform plan is tailored to the rich few and are opposed to the extensive tax and social welfare reforms, which the government says are necessary to reduce the public deficit. The package is being discussed by parliament and has already made it through the first reading.
The Czech Army celebrated a Day of the Ground Forces on Saturday, showcasing modern and historic military technology to over 50,000 spectators. The celebration was held, as every year, in west Bohemia's Strasice near Rokycany. The event is held for the eighteenth time and also included presentations of various operations of Czech and also foreign forces.
The CMKOS umbrella trade union group has sent Czech MPs a list of its objections to a proposed financial reform package, which is being discussed by parliament. The union is opposed to the extensive tax and social welfare reforms, which the government says is necessary to reduce the public deficit. Several thousand union members are expected to attend a demonstration against the reforms on Wenceslas Square on Saturday.
A court in South Africa has delayed the extradition hearing of fugitive Czech billionaire Radovan Krejcir until next Tuesday. The court deferred the case because one of the Czech police officers called upon to give evidence at the hearing was unable to attend because he is getting married. Mr Krejcir who is wanted in this country for various crimes including conspiracy to murder and extortion had eluded the authorities for two years before he was arrested wearing a disguise in South Africa two months ago. He is contesting the Czech Republic's efforts to have him extradited.