Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeld phone Czech President Václav
Klaus on Thursday about ratification of the EU’s reforming Lisbon
the president’s spokesman said. The Swedish Prime Minister, whose
currently chairs the 27-strong EU, complained on Wednesday that President
Klaus had not returned his calls. Mr Reinfeld described the talks as
interesting and positive. According to the Reuters agency, President Klaus
called for a footnote of around two sentences to be added to the Lisbon
Treaty dealing with its charter of fundamental rights. Mr Reinfeld said
that clarification was being sought what the Czech President wanted.
The eurosceptic Czech President along with his Polish counterpart have still not signed the treaty which should come into force at the beginning of 2010. Klaus is expected to be the last European head of state to do so after Polish President Lech Kaczynski said he would sign if the Irish voted in favour in a second referendum. They did so last Friday. The Czech President is now waiting for the Constitutional Court to give its verdict on a new complaint about Lisbon lodged by a group of right-wing Senators.
An advertising campaign in which mostly Roma manual workers have been wearing t-shirts with the slogan “I should have learned better” has created controversy. The campaign launched in cooperation with a building company has been used on the streets of Prague to promote an educational website. The advertising company that came up with the idea says that it is based on the traditional warning that if you do not work hard in school you will end up with a shovel in your hands. But some heads of schools have said that the campaign is on the borderline of good taste and perhaps goes beyond it. Czech Minister for Minorities and Human Rights Michael Kocáb described the campaign as disgraceful.
Czech state debt climbed at the end of September to 1,168 billion crowns according to the Ministry of Finance’s quarterly calculations. This is a rise of 31 billion over the latest quarter with the debt total climbing by around 169 billion crowns since the start of the year. The figure breaks down into every Czech owing around 111,000 crowns. The Czech government has been forced to tap international markets for loans by issuing state bonds because state income has been lower and spending higher as a result of the economic crisis. Analysts say Czech debt is still relatively low but could be on a sharp upward curve unless curbed.
In related news, a poll by the STEM agency has shown that 77 percent of those surveyed are satisfied with Prime Minister Jan Fischer’s interim government with only a fifth unhappy with it. Poll results also showed that 79 percent of those who responded were happy with the prospect that it continue in office until elections during the middle of next year. Support for the caretaker government came from across the political spectrum though was strongest from those on the centre-right. The highest proportion of the discontented came from the poor and poorly educated.
Czech unemployment rose to 8.6 percent in September from August’s 8.5 percent, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs said on Thursday. The number of jobless rose by around 7,000 over the month and is just over 190,000 higher than at the start of the economic crisis in September 2008. The total number of unemployed seeking jobs now stands at just over half a million.
The Ministry of Finance has denied a newspaper report that the Czech Republic faces a bigger budget deficit next year because of an embarrassing oversight at the Ministry of Finance. Thursday’s edition of the business daily Hospodářské noviny said the deficit would rise from 163 billion crowns to 173 billion because the ministry used the wrong economic growth figures for next year. It said the ministry counted on growth of 0.3 percent next year instead of its own revised figures predicting a fall of up to 0.5 percent. But the ministry said on Thursday that the original figure is correct according to its updated growth forecast. The European Commission on Wednesday announced it had begun action against the Czech Republic and either other EU states for exceeding the budget deficit limit of 3.0 percent limit of Gross Domestic Product. The deficit next year will be 5.5 percent if the finance ministry package is pushed through parliament.
Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolánek called Thursday for all parties, apart from the Communists, to thrash out a new programme for the caretaker government of Prime Minister Jan Fischer. The former prime minister added in a press conference that it should be a fully functioning government and set out six target areas for action. These include setting a budget for 2011 and sweeping in changes that would allow the country to better draw on European funds. He added that the European Affairs Ministry could be merged with the Foreign Ministry. Mr Topolánek said that his party was not asking for specific personnel changes within the government or making other demands as a condition for its support. Last week the party demanded the replacement of Social Democrat nominated Minister of the Interior, Martin Pecina, saying he had overstepped his powers and was running the ministry badly. Party leaders should meet on Friday to discuss the government programme until new elections in the middle of next year.
The extremist Czech Workers’ Party has complained that it did not receive details of a government proposal to disband it because the letter was held up with the post office and they were not even told about it. The government launched a second attempt to ban the party after its first attempt failed because it failed to muster a convincing case. The Ministry of Interior has described this as a priority. The Workers’ Party originally had until November 15 to comment on the government’s plans but party leader Tomáš Vandas said on Thursday that he wanted this extended by around two weeks. He said the main reason was the thickness of the 80-page proposal.
The United States is reported to be preparing to site the command and
control headquarters for a new missile defence system in the Czech
Republic. According to the Washington Post, Secretary of State for Arms
Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher made the comments about
the Czech headquarters at a conference on Wednesday. She added that the
US’ allies are now coming round to President Barack Obama’s decision
dump the former administration’s anti-missile defence plans and come up
with new ones.
President Obama announced last month that the US no longer wanted to go ahead with bilateral plans to site a missile tracking radar in the Czech Republic twinned with interceptor missiles in Poland. The new defence system would be prepared with NATO, be rolled out quicker and have a wider coverage to protect US allies in Europe, the US minister said. US Vice-President Joe Biden is due to visit the Czech Republic between October 20 and October 24 to discuss the new anti-missile defence plans. A spokesman for the Czech Foreign Ministry said it had not yet received any specific proposals.
More than 200 scientists and artists took to the streets on Wednesday at Prague’s Jan Palach Square for an event called “The Future is Not for Sale”, protesting state education and art policies. In speeches and slogans the crowd of students, professors and professionals attacked what they called the marginal interest of politicians in supporting science and education and the work of the governmental Council for Research, Experimental Development and Innovation, the members of which include politicians and businessmen. The current government has been criticised on a number of occasions for having proclaimed education a pillar of social development in their policy statement, and later cutting the education budget by 12 billion crowns.