Rescue teams have recovered the bodies of four construction workers from under the debris of a three storey house that collapsed in the centre of Prague on Friday. The four victims of the tragedy were all foreign nationals – two Bulgarians and two Ukrainians. They had been working on the site when the third floor ceiling collapsed crashing through the one under it. It took rescuers 36 hours to find their bodies under the debris. The rescue operation had to be discontinued twice for fear that other parts of the building were in danger of collapsing. Props were put in to make the site safer for the rescue team. An investigation is underway to ascertain the cause of the tragedy. At least one person has come forward to say that safety norms were not respected by the company in question.
Meanwhile, Czech President Václav Klaus, who remains fiercely opposed to the treaty, refused to say on Saturday whether he intended to sign the document. Speaking to journalists shortly after news of the Irish vote came through, Mr. Klaus said he was disappointed by the outcome but ready to accept it. He pointed out that he was not at present able to sign the treaty since he was bound by law to await the outcome of a Constitutional Court ruling on whether the treaty is in line with Czech legislation, a process that could take between six weeks and six months. With Polish President Lech Kaczynski expected to sign the treaty in the coming days, the Eurosceptic Czech president is seen as the last obstacle on the road to completing ratification by the 27-member block.
The Interior Ministry will not support a proposal by a group of senators for the Communist party to be outlawed. The ministry said there were no legal grounds on the basis of which it could support the motion. It pointed out that over the past twenty years the Communist party has become firmly established on the Czech political scene, had not violated the law in any way and had always distanced itself from right-wing extremism. The ministry’s recommendation will now go to the government, but analysts predict that efforts to get the Communist party banned twenty years after the fall of communism stand little chance of success.
The President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek is expected to visit Prague on Friday October 9. He is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Jan Fischer and the chairman of the lower house Miloslav Vlček to discuss the ratification of the Lisbon treaty. It is not yet clear if he will be meeting with President Václav Klaus. Mr. Buzek said this week he did not think it right to exert pressure on the Czech president in this respect. The ratification of the treaty is a democratic procedure in every member state and the Czechs have every right to take their time, Mr. Buzek said.
Czech government and party leaders have welcomed the outcome of the Irish referendum on the Lisbon treaty and urged its speedy ratification by the Czech Republic. Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said the Irish “yes” should serve as an inspiration to the Czech Republic, while Minister for European Affairs Stefan Fulle described it as a big challenge, saying that if the Czech Republic were to be the country to bring the treaty to life he hoped it would happen sooner rather than later. Caretaker Prime Minister Jan Fischer, who is to meet with EU officials next week to discuss the way forward on Lisbon, has expressed the conviction that the treaty’s ratification will be concluded by the end of the year.
The former Czech president Václav Havel on Saturday received Germany’s prestigious Quadriga award at a gala ceremony in Berlin held on the 19th anniversary of the reunification of Germany. The award was also bestowed on the former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, as well as musician Marius Mueller-Westernhagen and human rights activist Baerbel Bohley. The annual award is sponsored by Werkstatt Deutschland, a non-profit organization based in Berlin and consists of a small statue resembling the quadriga at the top of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and a cash prize of 25,000 Euros.
Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolánek has warned caretaker Prime Minister Jan Fischer that if his cabinet should embrace a left-wing policy programme for the six months during which it is expected to govern the country then those ministers nominated by the Civic Democratic Party would walk out. Mr. Topolánek made the statement in a debate on Czech Television ahead of a planned meeting of party leaders who are expected to discuss the mandate of the caretaker government. The Civic Democrats have repeatedly criticized the Fischer cabinet for overstepping its bounds. Most recently they demanded the resignation of Interior Minister Martin Pecina for personnel changes he had made at the ministry, which he said were of a political nature. The prime minister defended minister Pecina saying that the changes he had made were fully within his competences.
Some politicians have urged the group of right-wing senators who filed a constitutional complaint against the Lisbon treaty to withdraw it, in order to clear the way for its immediate ratification by the president. The Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats say this would be the easiest solution, pointing out that delaying the treaty’s ratification would harm the country’s interests. However others believe that once launched the constitutional procedure should be allowed to run its course. Minister for European Affairs Stefan Fulle said that under the circumstances it would be better if the Constitutional Court completed the treaty’s assessment. The group of senators who filed the complaint have shown no indication of reconsidering their decision, despite growing pressure on them to do so.
The former leader of the Green Party Martin Bursík is considering a return to politics. He told Prima television on Sunday that at the Green Party’s urging he may run in the spring general elections next year. Bursík resigned as party leader in the wake of the party’s dismal showing in elections to the European Parliament in June of this year. Since then the party has been led by former education minister Ondřej Liška. Many consider him less charismatic than his predecessor and the party’s popularity ratings remain low.