The leader of the Social Democrats says he believes a deal with the government aimed at ensuring the Czech Republic’s EU presidency runs smoothly will be agreed before Christmas. After discussions on Tuesday, Jiří Paroubek said it was possible he and Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek would hold further talks on the matter in the near future. Mr Paroubek has previously said any agreement would only concern some aspects of EU policy – not domestic politics.
The Czech National Bank has cut interest rates by half a percentage point. The cut, which analysts had expected, leaves the main two-week repo rate at 2.25 percent. Speaking on Wednesday after the move was announced, the deputy governor of the central bank, Miroslav Singer, said it had been made because of a fall in demand in developed countries, which influences inflation in the Czech Republic. Six weeks ago the Czech National Bank cut interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point.
The Social Democrats Irena Kočí has been sworn in as a member of the Chamber of Deputies, following the resignation of his seat in the lower house by her former party colleague Michal Pohanka. Mr Pohanka had previously abandoned the opposition benches to vote with the government; his departure has further weakened the shaky coalition, which is unsure of a majority in the lower house.
A new poll suggests the opposition Social Democrats have pulled further ahead of the governing Civic Democrats in terms of public support. An opinion poll carried out this month by the CVVM agency indicates that 44.5 percent would vote for the Social Democrats, compared to 27 percent support for the Civic Democrats. In November the gap was 1 percent narrower. The Communist Party ranked third in the December survey with 14 percent backing. The Social Democrats made significant gains on the Civic Democrats in regional and Senate elections in October.
Czech betting firms are to be allowed to operate internet gambling for the first time. Following lobbying from the country’s biggest betting companies, the Finance Ministry decided to allow five firms to introduce on-line gambling. Currently Czech firms are losing out as punters in this country bet on websites based in other states. Gamblers who wish to bet on-line will first have to register in person at bricks and mortar betting shops, a Finance Ministry spokesperson said.
The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has attacked the refusal of the Czech president, Václav Klaus, to fly a European Union flag over Prague Castle during the Czech Republic’s upcoming presidency of the EU. Speaking at the European Parliament, Mr Sarkozy also criticised Mr Klaus’s behaviour during a recent meeting with a delegation of senior MEPs in Prague. Those talks ended in acrimony when the MEPs tried in vain to present the euro-sceptic Mr Klaus with an EU flag. For his part, President Klaus described the French president’s comments as “really undignified”. The Czech Republic assumes the six-month rotating presidency of the EU on January 1.
The Czech government has taken the advice of the Finance Ministry and the governor of the central bank and decided not to set a date for adopting the common European currency, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said on Wednesday. That means the Czech Republic will not sign up next year to ERM-II, the exchange rate mechanism which is a major step towards full euro adoption. Several Czech business leaders have called for the introduction of the euro, as the strong Czech crown has had a negative impact on exports. Neighbouring Slovakia joins the eurozone on January 1.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday criticized the Czech Republic in the European Parliament for the fact that EU flags had not yet been hoisted on all public buildings in the country. He also lashed out at President Vaclav Klaus saying that his treatment of a visiting delegation of the European Parliament had been unacceptable. Several MEPs on Tuesday also criticized the fact that Prague Castle had seen fit to publish a transcript of the talks between the Czech president and the visiting EP delegation. President Klaus asked for the transcript of the talks to be made public, saying that he had been treated in an aggressive and disrespectful manner in particular by the head of the Greens group Daniel Kohn-Bendit.
Prime Minster Mirek Topolánek said on Tuesday that he plans to announce changes in the centre-right coalition government before the end of the week. A reshuffle has been on the cards ever since the coalition’s crushing defeat in regional and Senate elections in October but the prime minister had postponed the move until his own party confirmed his mandate as party leader and head of government two weeks ago. The three party ruling coalition has been racked by infighting and defections which have weakened its position in the lower house, making it difficult to push through further reforms and undermining its position ahead of the EU presidency.
Denmark will fully open its labour market to Czechs, Slovaks and other EU newcomers as of May next year, the Danish labour ministry said on Tuesday. Czech officials have welcomed the decision. The Czech Republic has long advocated the removal of barriers to labour across the EU. Czechs are still denied free access to the labour markets in Germany, Austria and Belgium.
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