Around thirty deputies and senators, accompanied by professional musicians, have gathered in St Vitus cathedral in Prague on Sunday to sing one of the best loved pieces of Czech Christmas music - the 18th century Christmas Mass by Jakub Jan Ryba. The Czech deputies were inspired by their colleagues from the British Parliament, who performed the mass last year.
PM Mirek Topolánek refuses “blackmail” demands of the opposition Social Democrats on a non-aggression pact with the government during the country’s EU presidency. He made the statement after the meeting of his party’s board on Saturday. Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek on Friday said his conditions for a non-aggression pact with the government are early elections and the ratification of the Lisbon treaty with no strings attached. The Social Democrat leader was referring to the fact that some Civic Democrat deputies had attempted to link the ratification of the Lisbon treaty to the fate of the US radar on Czech soil.
Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanová will draft a compromise plan on the
deployment of Czech troops in foreign missions for next year. Speaking on a
TV debate show on Sunday, she said the plan envisages reducing number of
troops in NATO’s ISAF mission in Afghanistan to 500 and withdrawing the
anti-terrorist unit. The government could debate the re-drafted plan at the
beginning of January. The chief of staff of the Czech Army, Vlastimil
Picek, has already informed the NATO and ISAF headquarters about the
The lower house of Parliament on Friday rejected a proposal on the deployment of Czech troops in foreign missions in 2009. Although Prime Minister Topolánek offered a number of concessions, the opposition overturned the proposal with the aid of a number of independents. The government subsequently approved maintaining Czech forces abroad until the end of February.
The Jewish community in Prague has marked the beginning of Chanukah on Sunday by erecting the Menorah in Náměstí Jana Palacha, just outside the historic Jewish Quarter of Prague. The Menorah lighting ceremony was established eleven years ago by one of Prague’s Jewish congregations. Chanukah starts on Monday and the giant candelabrum will remain at the square until the end of the holiday, which falls on December 29.
Czech state budget deficit should not exceed 60 billion crowns next year as long as the economic growth reaches 2 to 2.5 percent, Deputy Finance Minister Eduard Janota said on a TV debate show on Sunday. If the pace of economic growth is slower, as some economists suggest, the deficit could rise up to 70 billion crowns. The approved law on state budget, based on economic development indicators from this spring, reckons with a deficit of 38.1 billion crowns. The ministry plans to cut spending and look for further money in European funds.
The number of payment cards in the Czech Republic has almost reached the level of the country’s population. According to the data of the Bank Card Association, the number of payment cards issued by Czech banks increased by 944,000 to 9.8 million in the third quarter of this year. The population of the Czech Republic is 10.45 million. Czechs still prefer debit cards, which are issued for an account, over credit cards and use them mainly to withdraw cash from ATMs.
The Civic Democrats, along with other parties in the governing coalition, want to redraft the bill abolishing health fees to make it acceptable for the government coalition, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek told journalists on Saturday. The lower house of Parliament on Friday abolished health fees, introduced at the beginning of the year as part of the government’s health care reform. The opposition Social Democrats and the Communists, who are strictly against the fees, have found support among a few government coalition deputies, who didn’t take part in the vote. The bill is now to be discussed in the Senate. Prime Minister Topolánek dismissed speculations that he may negotiate the issue with Jiří Paroubek, head of the opposition Social Democrats.
The Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, and wife of the Czech president Livia Klausová have taken over the symbolic Bethlehem Light from scouts in St Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle. The scouts will now distribute the Bethlehem Light by train all over the country. Until Christmas Eve people can come to the cathedral to light their own candles. The Bethlehem Light tradition was established by the Austrian radio station ORF in 1986. In the Czech Republic, this tradition started after the fall of communist regime in 1989.
A new poll suggests Social Democratic Party would win the general election if it was held now with a lead of about 16 percent on the Civic Democrats, the largest party in the governing coalition. According to the survey, conducted by the STEM agency, the Social Democrats would win about 40 percent of the vote, while the ruling Civic Democrats would only gain about 24 percent. The preferences of the Social Democrats have increased by more than 5 percent since October. The Communists came third in the poll, with more than 11 percent of respondents voting for them.