The Czech Senate has postponed a debate on the Lisbon treaty until April on the recommendation of its foreign affairs committee. The committee recommended that debate on the treaty be adjourned until the adoption of a mandate that would secure that not only the government but both houses of Parliament would have to approve any future transfers of power to Brussels. The lower house of Parliament has also twice postponed the treaty’s ratification and is due to re-open debate on it next Tuesday. Although the Czech Republic now presides over the European Union it is the only member state which has yet to vote on the Lisbon treaty.
A civil servant at the Kladno town hall has been handed a three year suspended sentence for assisting feigned marriages. In the course of 2004 and 2005 the woman helped 50 Vietnamese nationals gain permanent residence in the Czech Republic through feigned marriages. In 2007 Parliament approved a tighter foreigners’ law under which all mixed marriages are subjected to close scrutiny.
The Czech authorities are expecting the arrival of 16 Burmese refugees from Malaysia who will be granted asylum in the Czech Republic within a state-funded resettlement programme. The families fled to Malaysia after facing severe persecution in their homeland but their future there was uncertain since the country is struggling to deal with thousands of refugees. Last October the Czech government joined countries such as Canada, Denmark and Holland in helping to alleviate the problem, taking in 23 Burmese asylum seekers. The Czech authorities have organized similar projects for expatriates from countries of the former Soviet Union. Last year the Czech Republic took in a group of Cuban refugees.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has indicated that Washington would be prepared to revise its missile defense plans if it did not have to counter a growing missile threat from Iran. During talks with Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg in Washington on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton said that unless Iran changed its position, the US would have no choice but to push ahead with its missile defense plans. She said that plans to station elements of the US missile defense shield in the Czech Republic and Poland remained on track but admitted they could be delayed as a result of the global crisis. The Czech foreign minister said earlier that Prague would understand and accept the need for a postponement for economic reasons. Although the respective agreements on the siting of a US tracking radar in the Czech Republic have been signed, the project still needs to win approval in the Czech Parliament.
Mošnov international airport in Ostrava was closed down for security reasons early on Tuesday after a suspicious looking object was found on the premises. The find was reported at 5am on Tuesday in the airport’s main lounge and the entire premises were evacuated. Experts later ascertained that the aluminum package was harmless. A number of flights were delayed as a result of the security operation. Police are investigating the incident.
Czech President Václav Klaus has set the date for the 2009 European parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic. They will take place on June 5 and 6. Political parties and movements must submit their lists of candidates by March 31, that is 66 days ahead of the elections. This year Czechs will not elect 24 MEPs but only 22 since the number of seats in the EP decreased from 785 to 736 after the EU enlargement in 2007.The European Parliament has set the election date for June 4-7, giving member countries room to decide exactly when they will hold the vote.
The Czech EU presidency has called a special summit to address the danger of protectionism in Europe. Speaking at a meeting of finance ministers in Brussels on Tuesday, the Czech finance minister, Miroslav Kalousek, said protectionism presented the biggest risk for Europe in the present day and said it was vital to improve coordination in crisis management within the EU. The planned summit is to take place before the end of the month and its main goal is to examine various aspects of the EU recovery plan and assess its efficiency. The move comes in the midst of a row between France and other member states over proposed protectionist measures.
The lower house of Parliament will hold an extraordinary session next Tuesday to discuss a programme of state bonds in aid of Latvia's economy, The Czech Republic is to lend Latvia 200 million euros to help it weather the economic crisis. The seven-year interest-free loan is to be financed by state bonds. Latvia has asked the EU for aid to the tune of 7.5 billion euros. Individual member states are to provide 3.1 billion euros, the rest will come from the International Monetary Fund. According to figures published by the European Commission Latvia's economy will decline by 6.9 percent, the steepest drop in the EU.
The government has approved a bill which will pay foreign workers made
redundant to go home. Unemployed foreigners will, under the new law, have
their passage home paid for and be given 500 euros if they agree to leave
the Czech Republic. Interior Minister Ivan Langer said that the scheme
would be put into effect by the end of this month and that he predicted up
to 2000 foreign workers would take part in the first phase of the project.
The Interior Ministry predicts that up to 12,000 foreigners could be made
redundant in the first quarter of this year. Over 68,000 foreigners’ work
permits expire by the end of this year. Under the new law, it will be
harder for foreigners seeking to work in the Czech Republic to obtain
long-term visas to do so.
Health minister says insurers ready to fine those who refuse to collect healthcare fees
Czech health insurers are ready to start fining hospitals and pharmacies which do not collect healthcare fees, Health Minister Daniela Filipiová said on Monday. According to Ms Filipiová, such practice was violation of the law and those who refused to collect fees could be charged up to 50,000 crowns (around 2,350 USD) penalty, repeatedly if they continued to refuse. Since the beginning of 2008, Czechs have had to pay 30 crowns per visit to a doctor and 60 crowns per day spent in hospital. The law has proved controversial, and many hospitals and chemists have refused to collect the fees.
In related news, steel giant ArcelorMittal is to lay off 650 workers in its Ostrava plant, the firm said on Monday. The number of redundancies is higher than expected, with the firm initially saying that only office workers would be affected by the downscale. On Monday, ArcelorMittal said that it was now planning to lay off manual labourers in its North Moravian plant as well. The redundancies will take place between now and mid-March, the firm said.
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