Former US Secretary of State, the Czech-born Madeleine Albright, has quashed rumours that she is to become the next American ambassador to Prague. On Tuesday, she told Hospodářské noviny that she did not know where such speculation had come from. She told the paper that she loved the Czech Republic, but denied that she was to be posted to Prague as the next ambassador. On Monday, the newspaper Právo wrote that Ms Albright was to head the US Embassy in Prague, citing diplomatic sources. But on Tuesday, Ms Albright said that she was not aiming for any position whatsoever in the new Obama administration, insisting that she had already done it all, and now just wanted to ‘help’.
The Czech Parliament will vote on whether to ratify the Lisbon treaty after February 3, 2009. At an extraordinary meeting of Parliament on Tuesday MPs voted to start debating the reform document, but only make a decision upon its ratification next year. The proposal to start discussing the Lisbon treaty was approved on Tuesday by 143 to 47. The heads of all of the parties within the government coalition, however, agreed beforehand that they would seek to postpone a vote on the treaty until February 3 at the earliest. The Czech Republic takes over at the helm of the European Union on January 1. It is the only EU country yet to decide upon whether to ratify the Lisbon treaty or not.
If an election had been held in November, then the opposition Social Democrats would have won with 42.7 percent of the vote, suggests a poll conducted by the Median agency and released on Tuesday. The ruling Civic Democrats would have finished second with some 29.1 percent of the vote. The Civic Democrats’ coalition partners, the Greens, would have failed to secure the five-percent share of the vote to remain in Parliament. The Median poll found that Jiří Paroubek’s Social Democrats had increased their popularity by more than three percentage points on last month’s figures, the only other political party to gain in popularity was the Christian Democrats, which would have secured 5.9 percent of the votes cast.
Czech political parties are perceived to be amongst the most corrupt in the world, suggests a new survey released by Transparency International on Tuesday. The study focused on 26 countries from four continents and ranked the Czechs third worst, behind Nigeria and Mexico, when it came to entrepreneurs’ perception of corruption in politics. Some 48 percent of the businessmen polled said they thought the government’s drive to crack down on corruption had been ‘very inefficient’ while a further 39 percent said it had been ‘inefficient’. In its damning report, Transparency International said that little to no progress had been made in the fight against corruption in the Czech Republic.
The upper and lower houses of the Czech Parliament have coordinated their timetables for the duration of the Czech EU presidency, it was announced on Tuesday. Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra, head of the lower house Miloslav Vlček and head of the Senate Přemysl Sobotka told journalists that a special timetable had been agreed for the six months that the Czech Republic would be leading the EU. Mr Vondra said that the cabinet would always meet on Mondays when parliament reconvened in the new year. Head of the Senate Přemysl Sobotka said that individual ministers would organize events as part of the Czech EU presidency, which the Senate would then run.
The opposition Social Democrats voted for Bohuslav Sobotka to head the party’s group of deputies on Tuesday. Mr Sobotka will replace the outgoing Michal Hašek as the club’s head on January 1. Mr Hašek handed in his resignation after being elected governor of South Moravia following recent regional elections. Bohuslav Sobotka is the former finance minister and is currently head of the lower house’s budget committee. He said that his main aim in his new role would be to help the Social Democrats win the next general elections in 2010.
The Czech government will probably decide upon a date for euro adoption next year, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said on Tuesday. Speaking to his Maltese counterpart, Lawrence Gonzi, Mr Topolánek said that there was now no time to come up with a date for euro adoption this year. Malta entered into the eurozone at the start of this year, which PM Lawrence Gonzi described in Prague on Tuesday as having been a ‘fundamental step’ for his country. The head of the Czech National Bank Zdeněk Tůma has said that euro adoption should be debated in 2009, in light of exporters’ calls to switch to the single European currency and the global financial crisis.
In related news, Civic Democratic senators said that they would also like to postpone any vote on the Lisbon treaty until various parliamentary committees had analysed the Czech Constitutional Court’s recent ruling on the document. The head of the Senate Přemysl Sobotka said on Tuesday that the upper house of Parliament would start discussing the treaty later in the week. The deputy chairman of the Senate, Civic Democrat Jiří Liška, said that those from within his own party would push to have this discussion adjourned. The Civic Democrats have 36 out of 81 seats in the Senate.
Prague’s Novodvorská Plaza is the first multiplex cinema in the Czech Republic to close, the Union of Film Distributors has announced. The five-screen cinema’s management has said that it is shutting due to a lack of customers and general unhappiness with the state of business. Its owners, Cinema City, still have three other multiplexes in Prague and one in Plzeň. According to the Union of Film Distributors, the market for such multi-screen cinemas has been growing constantly in recent years. Last year, the country’s hitherto 25 cinema multiplexes took in a total of 940 million CZK (47 million USD) between them.
Six percent of the firms operating in the Czech Republic are planning redundancies in the next three months, suggests the Manpower Labour Market Index, which came out on Tuesday. The last such index released in September found that only one percent of firms in this country were planning job cuts. The situation is worst in Moravia, suggests the study. The index, however, does indicate that the situation overall in the Czech Republic is more favourable than elsewhere in Europe, such as in Ireland, Spain and Italy, where larger-scale redundancies are predicted.