At the Forum 2000 human rights conference in Prague on Monday, Václav Havel criticized the recently-decorated Nobel peace prize winner Barack Obama for refusing to receive the Dalai Lama until after a state visit to China in November. In his speech, the former Czech president praised the way the world had developed in the 20 years following the fall of the Iron Curtain. He complained, however, that Western society prized economic growth above all else, with human rights being just the ‘cherry on the cake’ in today’s world. Forum 2000, which was co-founded by Mr Havel in 1997, runs until Tuesday.
Czech industrial output slid in August by 8.4 percent year-on-year, the Czech Statistical Office said on Monday. This was the slowest decrease since October 2008, statisticians said; in July, output fell at an annual rate of 18.2 percent. The improvement in figures was due to a pick-up in car production, which grew by 17.7 percent year-on-year in August. Analysts said that last month’s figures looked ‘promising’, but warned that output may fluctuate further over the months to come. In August, industrial sales fell by 12.7 percent against a year ago while the value of new orders was 13.6 percent lower as the global downturn continued to take its toll.
Greenpeace activists scaled the roof of the Czech Republic’s government offices on Monday to protest against proposals to reshape the country’s energy policy. They were later removed by police. According to the activists, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s proposals could see the limits set on coal mining in the Czech Republic reassessed. Two years ago, locals in the towns of Horní Jiřetín and Černice voted against the liquidation of their towns, while Czech Coal said it was willing to invest up to 22 billion crowns (1.3 billion USD) into the excavation of the area. Industry and Trade Minister Vladimír Tošovský is proposing that the government prevents a gas crisis this winter by mining more Czech coal and building more nuclear power plants.
Leader of the Social Democrats Jiří Paroubek, meanwhile, has defended President Václav Klaus’s current stance on the Lisbon treaty. Speaking on Monday, Mr Paroubek said that lawmakers seeking to impeach the president for his failure to act either didn’t understand, or were in blatant breach of, the country’s Constitution. The Constitutional Court is currently reviewing the Lisbon treaty at the request of a group of right-wing senators allied to President Václav Klaus. Mr Klaus has said that he will not sign the treaty until the court has reached a verdict, and has recently added that he wants the Czech Republic to be awarded an opt-out from the treaty before he puts his signature to the document. On Monday, Mr Paroubek said that it was in the interest of Lisbon ratification that lawmakers did not bring an impeachment case against the Czech president, and that such a move would have damaging consequences for Czech society.
Czech school children participate in the most out-of-school activities in Europe, a survey commissioned by GE Money Bank has found. Czech children spend between five and eight hours a week in sports and other hobby clubs, which is almost double the amount of time their counterparts in Germany, France and Slovakia spend on such activities. The only European nation in which children are nearly as active is Great Britain, the survey suggested. American and Australian children topped the list, spending between nine and 12 hours in out-of-school activities a week. The survey found that extra-curricular clubs were particularly cheap in the Czech Republic, costing around a third of the price of their counterparts in the United States and Australia.
Finance Minister Eduard Janota has said that if the government decides to sell troubled national carrier Czech Airlines to the sole-bidder Unimex, the sale will take place next spring at the earliest. After meeting the head of Unimex, which is bidding for the airline as part of a consortium with the firm Travelservice, Mr Janota said the government’s decision on whether to sell the carrier would be finalized after next Tuesday. Unimex has said that it will pay one billion crowns (57.3 million USD) for the airline on the condition that ČSA sorts out its debts. The airline announced record debts earlier this year, and new crisis manager Václav Novak has asked the government for three billion crowns to help it restructure.
Three men have been handed jail sentences after stealing hundreds of memorial plaques from the Terezín Holocaust memorial site. The men then sold the metal plaques at a scrap-yard close by for around 50,000 crowns (nearly 2,900 USD). The thieves caused over one million crowns worth of damage to the memorial, which is now guarded by CCTV. On Monday, a court in Litoměřice handed Libor Mirga, Miroslav Daňo and Petr Hricko sentences ranging between 3.5 and 4.5 years. This high-profile theft brought about changes in Czech legislation when it came to light last year. Scrap-yards are no longer allowed to purchase metal objects that look like they may have come from a religious or a public site; they must also register everything that they do buy.
The Czech cabinet met on Monday to discuss President Václav Klaus’s conditions for signing the Lisbon treaty. After the meeting, Prime Minister Jan Fischer said that his government was willing to negotiate with lawmakers in Brussels to have Mr Klaus’s conditions met, but, the prime minister added, he would first need a guarantee from Mr Klaus that this was truly the Czech president’s last request. Mr Fischer said that he would discuss Mr Klaus’s demands at an EU summit at the end of October. Mr Klaus has said he will only sign the EU reform document if the Czech Republic is granted a special opt-out that would prevent ethnic Germans forced out of their homes after WWII from claiming back their property. The Czech Republic is the last country in the European Union to ratify the Lisbon treaty, designed to streamline decision-making in the 27-nation bloc. Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer has said Prague will ratify the Lisbon treaty by the end of the year.
Czechs are less happy with the political situation in this country than they have been since the last elections in 2006, a poll conducted by the CVVM agency and released on Monday suggests. Some 69 percent of respondents said that they were unhappy with the current political situation, while only five percent said they were satisfied, the poll found. According to CVVM, Czechs have most trust in the president of the republic, followed by the government. Worst in the poll fares the lower house of the Czech Parliament, which enjoys a trust rating of only 14 percent. The Czech Senate came off only marginally better, with a trust rating of 18 percent.
The Czech government will continue to lobby for the headquarters of the Galileo European Satellite System to be established in the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Jan Fischer said on Monday. The Galileo Supervisory Authority was set up as an EU agency in 2004. It is currently based in Brussels. A final decision on the agency’s relocation will be made next year. The Czech Republic is competing with the Netherlands to house Galileo HQ. The satellite system is expected to be put into operation properly in 2013. Mr Fischer pledged his government’s support to the project, which would see Galileo ground control based in the Czech Republic, after a cabinet meeting on Monday morning.
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