French President Nicolas Sarkozy has criticized the Višegrad group states
for meeting ahead of key EU sessions to consult their positions on the topic of the day. According to the news site euobserver.com Mr. Sarkozy advised the Višegrad group not to make a habit of this. The four post-communist states – the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary – have regularly consulted their positions in the run up to EU membership and as EU newcomers in order to better defend their interests.
The Czech National Bank on Thursday published a revised economic forecast according to which the national economy is expected to fall by 4.4 percent this year but to grow by 1.4 percent next year. The bank’s previous forecast released in August, expected GDP to fall by 3.8 percent this year and to grow by 0.7 percent next year. National Bank Governor Zdeněk Tůma said the economy had already hit the bottom and was on the rebound. Next year we expect moderate growth tempered by the budgetary policy and growing unemployment, Tůma said.
Prime Minister Jan Fischer will take the signed Lisbon treaty to Rome next Friday, whereby the ratification process by the Czech Republic will be completed, a government spokesman told the ctk news agency on Thursday. Prime Minister Fischer is due to pay a two-day visit to the Vatican and will use the opportunity to take the treaty to Rome in person, the spokesman said. The Czech Republic is the last country to complete ratification of the Lisbon treaty which is due to take effect on December 1.
The daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported Thursday it had uncovered a group of right-wing extremists planning terrorist attacks on various targets in the Czech Republic. According to the paper, the planned attacks included kidnappings of ideological enemies and police officers, as well as an attack on a power station. The group reportedly included some 30 individuals being trained in anonymity in hand-to-hand combat by professional soldiers. Police have declined to comment on the matter. In late October, police carried out a series of raids on individuals involved in fascist movements across the country. Mladá fronta cites the organised crime department of the Czech police as saying they have been monitoring the group in question on suspicion of terrorism.
A Prague court has sent a forty-eight-year-old man to ten years in jail for sexually abusing the ten-year-old daughter of his live-in-girlfriend. The abuse reportedly took place while the woman, a Ukrainian national, was out working. It is said to have gone on for three years while the man threatened the child that she and her mother would be sent back to Ukraine if she reported him. The mother claims she had no idea of what was happening.
The Senate on Thursday rejected a bill which would have blocked the privatization of Ruzyně Airport. The bill supported by the Social Democrats, the Communist Party and the Christian Democrats, will now go back to the Chamber of Deputies where the said parties have enough votes to put it through in a second vote.
Social Democrat senators have slammed the government for negotiating an
opt-out to the Charter of Fundamental Rights attached to the Lisbon treaty
without Parliament’s approval. In a stormy session of the upper chamber,
Senate deputy chairwoman Alena Gajdušková of the Social Democrats said
was not the Lisbon treaty but the Czech government which was undermining
the country’s sovereignty by overstepping its mandate in this matter.
Minister for European Affairs Štefan Fůle strongly rejected the
accusations saying that the government had acted fully within its mandate.
He said that the heads of the upper and lower chamber had both been
at the government session devoted to the Lisbon treaty and had not voiced
any reservations with regard to the government’s strategy.
The opt-out granted to the Czech Republic is to be attached to the next EU accession treaty and is thus not expected to come into force for several years. The Social Democrats have said they will try to prevent it coming into force. Tuesday’s fierce two-hour debate in the Senate is indicative of the controversy surrounding the opt-out which was adopted at the eleventh hour as a last minute concession to President Vaclav Klaus.
Czechs still lead EU statistics in the use of soft drugs, such as marihuana and ecstasy, according to a report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Forty-four percent of Czechs under twenty-four say they have used marihuana, compared to the EU average of 30 percent, and fifteen percent say they have used ecstasy, where the EU average in 6 percent only. One positive aspect highlighted in the report is that the Czech Republic is one of the few EU countries in which drug-related crime has decreased.
Two Czechs who were arrested in Cuba in March of this year after starting a fight and shouting insulting remarks about Fidel Castro are to be tried next week, according to a report published in the Florida-based El Nuevo Herald. Zdeněk Tovara, 25, and Jaroslav Jiřík, 32, were arrested during a scuffle at Havana’s international airport and have been charged with causing public disorder, damaging property and resisting arrest. The two reportedly turned up at the airport drunk and started a fight, causing damage to property is some of the airport shops. They were also heard shouting obscenities about the Cuban communist leadership. El Nuevo says that if found guilty the men would face up to five years in prison.
The Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday established a parliamentary commission to investigate the Plzeň law faculty scandal involving plagiarism and a fast-track diploma scheme that has been the focus of much attention in recent weeks. The Social Democratic Party, which tabled the proposal, said they fear the college’s new dean, Civic Democrat Jíři Pospíšil, constitutes no guarantee of an independent investigation into the matter. Mr Pospíšil assumed the post of dean without giving up his parliamentary mandate, which some argue will make him unable to investigate the diplomas of his fellow MPs. The majority of Civic Democratic MPs voted against the commission, in which they will have equal representation with the rival Social Democrats. A number of Czech politicians have been implicated in the scandal over fast-track-diplomas, with prominent Civic Democrat Marek Benda the latest to come to attention in the highly publicised affair.
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