President Václav Klaus on Monday indicated that he will put off signing the Lisbon treaty until it has been ratified by Ireland. Mr. Klaus, who sees the treaty as a “fatal restriction of national sovereignty” said in an interview for Radio Česko that any discussion on the treaty’s future was pointless until the Constitutional Court ruled as to whether its adoption would not violate the Czech constitutional order. Mr. Klaus also noted that without Ireland, the treaty was not viable and that he had no reason to put his own signature to it until it had a realistic chance of being adopted. Apart from Ireland, which rejected the treaty in a national referendum in June, the Czech Republic is the only EU member not to have voted on the document. Political commentators note that this could seriously complicate the country’s EU presidency in the first half of 2009.
A former health minister, David Rath of the Social Democrats, has been elected governor of central Bohemia. He will head a one-party administration with support from the Communist Party. The Civic Democrats who governed the region for eight years will not have any seats in the new administration. The newly-elected governor said at a press conference on Monday that his priorities for the region included covering health fees for patients at regional hospitals and travel fees for school children out of the region’s budget.
The Czech government will ask the Supreme Court to outlaw the far-right Workers’ Party on the grounds of its undemocratic statutes and activities, the minister for ethnic minorities and human rights, Dzamila Stehlikova said on Monday. The move has come in the wake of the country’s worst neo-Nazi violence in the town of Litvinov and is said to have received strong backing from the prime minister. The leader of the extreme right Workers’ Party Tomáš Vandas said that there are no legal grounds for such a decision and told the media that if the party were outlawed it would simply re-emerge under a new name.
The number of people who are happy with the state of Czech politics has dropped to an all time low at a mere 9 percent, according to the latest poll conducted by the CVVM agency. Public trust in the government is currently at 26 percent while that in Parliament is at 20 percent. The highest degree of public trust is at grassroots level with two-thirds of Czechs trusting politicians in local government.
Electricity prices are expected to grow by up to 16 percent in 2009, according to the head of the Energy Regulation Board Josef Fiřt. Households which get their power supplies from the south Bohemian power giant CEZ or the power distributor Pražská Energetika can expect a 9.9 percent increase as of January, but clients of the firm E.ON may see prices grow by as much as 16.4 percent. The pending price rise is triggered by weaker economic growth, inflation and investments into development.
The Czech Constitutional Court is expected to rule at a public hearing on Tuesday on whether the Lisbon treaty is in line with the Czech constitutional order. A positive ruling could unfreeze the ratification process in Parliament, while a negative result could seriously complicate matters, since Parliament would first need to change the constitution order. Even in the event of a positive ruling, the prime minister has expressed serious doubts that the treaty could be ratified in time for the Czech Republic’s EU presidency starting January 1st.
The car maker Tatra has announced plans to lay-off 820 employees by the end of March. Tatra spokesman Vladimir Bystrov said the global financial crisis was behind the move and that other measures included fewer work days in the first quarter of next year and lower salaries for the firm’s management.
The mayors of thirty Czech towns have urged US president-elect Barack Obama to abandon US plans to site part of its missile defense shield in the Czech Republic, warning that it posed a serious danger for Europe. In an open letter to the US president-elect, the mayors say there has been a lack of public debate on the issue in the Czech Republic and that opinion polls indicate that two thirds of Czechs do not want a US radar base on Czech soil. They warn that, if the US plans go ahead, Europe could become the main battlefield in a potential international conflict. Mr. Obama has not made an official commitment to continue with the project, saying that his support was conditional on whether the system really worked.
The leader of the opposition Social Democrats Jiří Paroubek told Czech TV on Sunday that his party would not form a coalition government with the communists after the next general elections. The Social Democrats scored a landslide victory in recent regional and senate elections; in 5 of the country’s 13 regions, they formed regional governments with direct or indirect involvement of the Communist Party. The opposition leader said however that his party was not going to cooperate with the communists on national level.
More than 14 billion crowns, or over 680 million US dollars, is needed to finish various water processing projects around the country, the Environment Ministry said on Sunday. The costs will have to be covered by public funds or commercial credits, as EU funding is no longer available for such purposes. The Union of Towns and Municipalities of the Czech Republic has criticized the government because the costs might increase the price of water. The Environment Ministry also warned that several large Czech cities including Prague could face serious water-processing problems.