The centre-right Civic Democrats have formed a new ‘anti-federalist’ European Parliament bloc with the British Conservatives and Poland’s Law and Justice Party, it was announced on Monday. The new European Conservatives and Reformists Group includes 55 MEPs from eight European member states. Civic Democrat MEP Jan Zahradíl said that he was ‘very happy’ that years’ worth of negotiations had come to a successful conclusion on Monday. The Civic Democrats and British Conservatives both left the European People’s Party, previously the biggest bloc in the European Parliament, to found the new European Conservatives and Reformists Group.
The Social Democrats’ Bohuslav Sobotka is currently the most popular politician in the Czech Republic, a poll conducted by the STEM agency and released on Monday suggests. Second comes the new head of the centre-right TOP 09 Party, Karel Schwarzenberg. The politician whose popularity fell the most over the past two months was head of the Social Democrats, Jiří Paroubek. His popularity fell by ten percentage points to 35 percent, ranking him this country’s 13th most popular politician. The head of the Civic Democrats, Mirek Topolánek, finished just behind him, in 14th place.
The Czech Republic has one of the highest rates of road fatalities in Europe, suggests a report released by the European Transport Safety Council on Monday. Around 39,000 people died in road accidents in the EU last year, with over 1,000 of these deaths being caused by accidents on Czech roads. According to the report, the Czech Republic has one of the highest rates of road fatalities per capita in the whole of the European Union. Nine countries in the 27-state bloc fared worse than the Czech Republic in the Safety Council’s report. Last year, however, road deaths were down in the Czech Republic by 12 percent on 2007’s figures.
Following a poor show in European elections earlier this month, a number of smaller, centre-right parties want to group together to contest the upcoming Czech general elections this autumn, under the name Občanské fórum 09. Head of the Věci veřejné Party Radek John made the announcement on Sunday, adding that the individual parties involved were in negotiations on around 100 different points. The anti-Lisbon Free Citizens’ Party and the European Democrats are also thought to be interested in the political grouping. Results of negotiations will be announced in three weeks, Mr John said on Sunday. The title Občanské fórum (in English, Civic Forum) was originally used by Václav Havel in 1989 during the Velvet Revolution. The Civic Forum subsequently formed Czechoslovakia’s first democratic post-communist government.
Iranian diplomats in Prague have been summoned by the Czech Foreign Ministry, which has dismissed claims that it is interfering in Iran’s internal affairs by voicing concern over the country’s recent elections. In Tehran last week, Czech charge d’affairs Josef Havlas was summoned by the Iranian authorities, which criticized EU ‘interference’ in the wake of the country’s presidential elections. The Czech Republic is head of the European Union until June 30. In a statement on Monday, the Czech presidency of the bloc urged other EU member states also to summon Iranian diplomats and ‘transmit the same message’. In the statement, the presidency said it continued to be ‘deeply concerned’ by the violence that prevailed in Tehran following the elections.
Nearly one in two Czech doctors would consider working abroad, suggests a study conducted by the journal Health Care in the Czech Republic. Forty-five percent of practitioners and some 60 percent of medical students questioned said that, due to the low wages that doctors receive in the Czech Republic, they would consider working abroad for more money. The average gross monthly salary for a doctor in this country is 43,000 crowns (nearly 2,300 USD) - in Great Britain or Ireland, according to the journal, doctors earn three times that amount. A great number of the Czech doctors polled said that they were also unhappy with the levels of bureaucracy in the Czech healthcare service.
At a meeting of the Czech cabinet on Monday, Jan Fischer’s interim government agreed to buy another 500,000 doses of Relenza, to vaccinate the Czech public in the event of a swine flu epidemic. The Czech Republic already has enough doses of Tamiflu to inoculate 20 percent of the Czech population, this new batch of Relenza means that one quarter of the Czech population would be covered in the event of an outbreak. The purchase of the antiviral drug will cost the Czech state 138 million crowns this year (7.35 million USD), and a further 236 million crowns (12.57 million USD) in 2010. Six cases of swine flu have been confirmed in the Czech Republic to date.
Interim Prime Minister Jan Fischer said on Monday that the Czech Parliament had ‘no reason’ to re-examine the EU’s Lisbon treaty in light of guarantees approved in Brussels last week, which pave the way for Irish ratification of the EU reform document. On Friday, EU leaders agreed to a series of guarantees making it possible for the Irish government to hold a new referendum on the Lisbon treaty this autumn. The guarantees are designed to assure Irish voters that Ireland’s traditional neutrality and national sovereignty in certain fields, such as taxes and abortion, will not be jeopardised by the treaty. Last week, Czech President Václav Klaus said that he thought the guarantees changed the treaty, and therefore, the document should be ratified once more by Czech politicians. But, speaking after a government meeting on Monday, Czech PM Jan Fischer said that it would not be necessary to re-ratify the treaty. The Czech Republic’s staunchly eurosceptic President, Václav Klaus, has refused to sign the Lisbon treaty pending Ireland’s approval of the document.
The second biggest carrier at Prague’s Ruzyně airport, the Slovak-based discount airline SkyEurope, filed for protection from its creditors in Bratislava on Monday. A spokesperson said that the firm had filed for bankruptcy protection ‘voluntarily’, and that the move would give the airline more time to ‘restructure’ and find new investors. In recent weeks, it has emerged that SkyEurope owes millions of crowns to its employees, suppliers and the Slovak authorities. The low-cost airline flies from Prague to a number of European destinations, including Brussels, Rome and Thessalonica.
The US Navy intends to open a regional technology office in Prague, the daily Lidové noviny reported on Monday. According to the paper, US Chief of Naval Research, Admiral Nevin Carr, was in Prague to discuss plans for the project last week. According to Admiral Carr, the centre, which would select firms to conduct American-funded projects, would offer opportunities to Czech science and industry. According to Mr Carr, the Czech Republic is an ideal location for a regional office as it lies in the centre of Europe. A timeframe for the opening of the office is not yet known. The US Navy currently has such regional technology centres in London, Santiago, Tokyo and Singapore.