The Czech lower house approved on Thursday two agreements, with the United States and Australia, which bind air carriers to pass passenger data on to each country’s authorities. Czech lawmakers approved the agreements that Washington and Canberra had drafted as part of the two countries’ fight against terrorism. The agreements were originally brought before the lower house in March 2008, but a vote on the matter has repeatedly been postponed. Speaking after Thursday’s vote, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said the agreement with the US provided guarantees for passengers’ personal data to be handled appropriately. American authorities are now entitled to hold on to passenger data provided by this country’s airlines for up to eight years. Five EU states are still to approve such an agreement with the United States on grounds of civil liberties issues.
Czech President Václav Klaus slammed the Constitutional Court’s ruling on Thursday evening, saying that judges had knowingly and deliberately ‘deepened the political crisis’ in the Czech Republic. Mr Klaus said that it was time for the Constitutional Court’s mandate to be redefined. Meanwhile, heads of the main Czech political parties were split in their reaction to the ruling, which cancels early elections originally planned for October 9-10. Head of the Social Democrats Jiří Paroubek said that while he would take Thursday’s verdict into account, he believed that the court had ruled ‘unconstitutionally’. Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolánek meanwhile said that he ‘fully respected’ the court’s decision, and that his party would now strive for a long-term solution to the problem through changing the Constitution. The ruling was greeted by the heads of the Green Party and the Christian Democrats, Ondřej Liška and Cyril Svoboda respectively.
Milan Baroš struck four times to help the Czech Republic give their World Cup qualification hopes a lift with a 7-0 win over San Marino on Wednesday. Václav Svěrkoš scored two and Tomáš Necid bagged one to complete a victory that leaves the Czechs with 12 points from eight matches in Group Three and still with a chance of qualification. Slovakia top the group with 16 points from seven games heading into their match away to second-placed Northern Ireland, who have 14 points from eight games. Poland and Slovenia are also in the running in a tight group, with only the winners qualifying for South Africa 2010 directly.
Exiled Uighur activist Rabia Kadir is also attending Václav Havel’s two-day conference in Prague, newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes has reported. The Chinese Embassy has made a formal complaint to the Czech Foreign Ministry about Miss Kadir’s visit, the newspaper said. A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Prague told the paper that the embassy had made the decision to protest against the visit, and that Miss Kadir’s reception could have a negative impact upon Czech-Chinese relations. Organisers of the Forum 2000 conference on human rights in Asia said that Miss Kadir, as one of the foremost campaigners for China’s Uighur minority’s human rights, would certainly have a great deal to add to the next two days’ discussion.
On Thursday morning, Czech President Václav Klaus voiced his support for the set of measures proposed by Jan Fischer’s cabinet to cut next year’s budget deficit by around 70 billion crowns (4 billion USD). At a meeting with the prime minister at Prague Castle on Thursday, Mr Klaus was reported to have said that he ‘understood’ why the government was wanting to cut expenditure and raise certain taxes. According to Prime Minister Jan Fischer, Mr Klaus said that he believed such a package was the ‘only way’ to ‘rationally’ maintain the country’s economic health in the course of the coming year. The government is set to finalise Mr Fischer’s set of proposals next Wednesday.
The Constitutional Court has upheld a complaint made by lawmaker Miloš Melčák which means that early elections will not be held in the Czech Republic as planned on October 9-10. Last week, the court froze a presidential order setting a term for early elections while it examined Mr Melčák’s complaint. The independent MP claimed that early elections breached his constitutional right to serve out his mandate in full, and that said elections were organised in breach of the Constitution. It now falls to lawmakers to decide upon making permanent changes to the Czech Constitution, which they are set to discuss this Thursday or Friday. If proposals to change the Constitution are passed, it is thought that early elections could be held on November 6-7 at the soonest. Should no such changes be agreed, Parliament may well have to wait until lawmakers’ mandates expire next spring.
Czech firms have improved their standing in Deloitte’s list of Central Europe’s Top 500 companies this year, news website iHNed.cz reported on Thursday. Five Czech firms rank in Deloitte’s top 25 companies in the region. The highest ranking Czech firms are Škoda Auto and ČEZ for the second year running. Poland dominates the Central European Top 500, with petrochemical giant PKN Orlen ranking first on the list. Companies were ranked on the basis of 2008 turnover, iHNed.cz explained. In total, some 69 Czech companies made their way into the Top 500 this year, meaning the Czechs finished second behind Poland in this year’s survey.
The Dalai Lama is in Prague to attend a two-day conference on human rights in Asia organized by former Czech president Václav Havel. This is the Dalai Lama’s second visit to Prague in under a year. Speaking at the Forum 2000 conference, the spiritual leader called for increased Western activity in the development of democracy in Asia. It is thought that the current situation in Tibet will feature as another one of the topics at the conference, which will look at the extent to which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is being adhered to across the Asian continent. The Dalai Lama arrived in the Czech Republic on Thursday after a visit to Slovakia, where he had met key opposition politicians.
The government approved a budget for 2010 on Wednesday night with a deficit of 230 billion crowns (13.1 billion USD). A package which would lower the deficit to around 160 billion crowns (9.1 billion USD) will be finalised next week, Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer said. The set of proposals would drastically cut government expenditure and raise taxes in certain areas, Finance Minister Eduard Janota told journalists. Mr Janota has previously warned that if next year’s state deficit is not curbed, the Czech Republic will find itself in a dire financial situation.
The Czech lower house voted on Wednesday evening to postpone the introduction of a new state-wide system of secondary school-leaving exams. MPs said that the project was not sufficiently prepared to be launched according to schedule this school year. The bill must now be approved by the Senate and President Václav Klaus in order to take effect. The new system of school-leaving exams was part of an education law approved five years ago, but the introduction of such nationwide leavers’ certificates has been repeatedly postponed on the grounds of insufficient preparation. The two biggest parties, the Civic Democrats and the Social Democrats, both voted on Wednesday to further delay the new exams’ adoption. Both main parties denied that they were motivated by the desire to garner younger voters’ support.
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