Outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has urged senators to ratify the Lisbon reform treaty in a vote due on May 6th. Speaking in a TV debate, Mr. Topolánek said a failure to ratify the treaty could cause a major rift within the EU and serve as an excuse for some countries to halt further EU enlargement. He said the Czechs would find themselves side-lined and would find it hard to recover their lost credit. In his strongest endorsement of the treaty to date, the outgoing prime minister said that although he himself had some reservations about the treaty, it was vital to ratify it if the Czech Republic wanted to be a member of the European community. He called on senators who were reluctant to support the treaty to leave the assembly hall ahead of the vote. The treaty was approved by the lower house of Parliament in February.
An effort to curb the amount of flu medication sold over the counter had
to be abandoned on Sunday after a new computer system collapsed in trial
operation. According to an amendment to the law which took effect on May
1st, flu medicine containing pseudoefedrine such as Coldrex or Stopgrip,
should only be sold to people in small amounts on the basis of a health
insurance card and ID. The move is an attempt to curb abuse of the
substance in the production of the illegal street drug pervitin. However
the system collapsed within hours of being launched and in the face of
growing complaints from the public pharmacies are once again selling flu
medication without restriction.
Aside from the technical problems, the new law is controversial. It involves putting personal data into a central evidence system and some pharmacies have refused to use it for fear of violating the privacy law. The matter is being investigated by the Office for Protection of Private Data.
Members of the Roma minority held peaceful demonstrations around the country on Sunday in protest against growing extremism in the Czech Republic. In the town of Chomutov the protest ended prematurely after it was attacked by right-wing extremists. The mass protests were sparked by a recent arson attack on a Romany family which left a two-year-old girl fighting for her life. The organizers of the first-ever nation-wide Romany protest say Sunday’s gathering was contrived as a peaceful event but they will not hesitate to fight back if their lives are threatened by neo-Nazis. Romany vigilante groups are now operating in some parts of the country.
The interim prime minister Jan Fisher has been meeting with political leaders to try to reach agreement on the composition of his caretaker cabinet. The process of establishing an interim administration was derailed on Friday when the prime minister designate unexpectedly broke with an earlier political agreement and put forward his own candidates for three important ministerial posts. Leaders of the Civic Democrats, Social Democrats and the Greens have said they would not back such a cabinet and will now put forward other names for Mr. Fischer to consider. The Fisher cabinet was expected to take over on May 8th and lead the country to early elections in October. It is not clear if this unexpected hurdle will delay its appointment.
Five Czech hikers and one Slovak were killed in an avalanche near the ski resort of Soelden in the Austrian Alps at the weekend. Witnesses spotted the accident and alerted rescuers but they could not reach the scene until Sunday due to poor weather. A police official said rescuers had retrieved the bodies of six climbers who had been ascending the 3,500-metre peak in an isolated region southwest of Innsbruck. The only survivor was the seventh member of the group who had opted to remain behind in a hut as he was not feeling well.
Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso is expected to arrive in Prague late on Sunday ahead of an EU-Japanese summit chaired by the Czech EU presidency. The Japanese leader will on Monday meet with Czech President Václav Klaus and European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso ahead of a summit focusing on the global economy, climate change and security issues. On the security front, the Japanese prime minister is expected to seek European support for pressure on North Korea over its threat to conduct a second nuclear test unless the United Nations apologizes for condemning its recent rocket launch. The EU-Japanese summit will be chaired by President Václav Klaus.
Czech Republic handed Slovakia their worst-ever defeat at the world ice hockey championship on Saturday by trouncing their neighbours 8-0. Jakub Klepis and Karel Rachunek had three assists while Jaromír Jagr scored twice in the most one-sided meeting in the history of Czech Republic-Slovakia matches. The team scored four goals in each of the first two periods before easing off in the third. The win took them into third place in Group F, ahead of Belarus on goal difference.
The Czech health authorities have so far ruled out 14 cases of suspected swine flu, thirty-eight more people are currently being tested. Among them are seven of 200 Czech tourists who returned home from Mexico on Sunday morning. Prague’s Ruzyně Airport had doctors on standby and people returning from Mexico underwent thermal screening on arrival. One person suffering from a high fever was taken to Bulovka hospital, six others are in home isolation. Czech doctors currently have two million anti-viral drugs at their disposal, enough to treat a fifth of the population.
Further talks are expected on the line-up of the country’s caretaker cabinet after prime minister designate Jan Fischer broke with a party agreement and proposed three candidates of his own choosing. The leaders of the two strongest parties the Civic and Social Democrats, who proposed Mr. Fischer for the post and expected to fill the respective ministerial posts with their own candidates, have both said they find the proposed line-up unacceptable and have ruled out support for it in the lower house. Mr. Fischer has said he is willing to discuss the matter.
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