The opposition Social Democrats have asked the Czech government to speed up the ratification of the new EU treaty, signed in Lisbon on Thursday. Deputy speaker of the lower house Lubomir Zaoralek said his party suspected the government – particularly the Civic Democrats – of wanting to delay the treaty’s ratification as much as possible which, he said, would cast doubt on the country’s commitment to the treaty and tarnish the Czech Republic’s image.
The Christian Democratic Party –one of the three parties in government- is resolutely opposed to the abolition of early retirement of women dependent on the number of children raised, party deputy Tomas Kvapil told journalists. Under a reform bill drafted by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs the retirement age for both men and women would in future be 65. The Christian Democrats say the possibility of early retirement for women with children should be preserved as one of the government’s pro-family measures.
The opposition Social Democrats say they will support Czech-American economist Jan Svejnar in the February presidential elections. The 55-year-old professor who teaches at Michigan University and served as an advisor to ex-president Vaclav Havel, has emerged as the sole rival of incumbent president, Vaclav Klaus. Mr. Svejnar officially announced his candidacy on Friday. Although Jan Svenjar has also been promised support from the Green Party, Vaclav Klaus remains the favourite in the race having received the backing of the Civic Democrats, the strongest party in Parliament. Mr. Klaus’ fate will most likely be decided by the Christian Democrats who are still divided over their choice. The Communist Party says it wants an independent candidate but is hesitant to support Jan Svejnar.
Czech and US negotiators said on Friday they had made progress in talks aimed at a deal over the siting of a US tracking radar on Czech soil, but refused to set a target-date for their completion. Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Tomas Pojar told journalists the finish line was within view and a final deal looked possible within a few months, or even weeks. If the deal is approved by Parliament, the proposed US radar would be twinned with 10 interceptor missiles in neighbouring Poland which, according to Washington, could counter the threat of an attack from “rogue” states such as Iran.
The newborn baby boy who was found in a garbage can early on Thursday morning and rushed to intensive care is said to be on the road to recovery. Doctors said his temperature was back to normal and he was now breathing without the help of a machine. The baby was brought in with severe hypothermia, a head injury and bruises. His life was saved at the eleventh hour by a homeless man who found him in the garbage can and alerted the police. The police are still searching for the baby’s mother who will most likely be charged with attempted murder. There are five baby boxes operating in the Czech Republic where people can leave unwanted newborns.
Environment Minister Martin Bursik has hailed the outcome of the UN-led talks on climate change in Bali as a defining moment in climate diplomacy. Following grueling all-night talks, the conference of 190 nations agreed to launch negotiations on a new pact to fight global warming after a reversal by the United States enabled a breakthrough. The agreement reached is a “roadmap” for two years of talks to adopt a new treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012, widening it to the United States and developing nations such as China and India. Under the deal, a successor pact will be agreed at a meeting in Copenhagen in late 2009. Although some environment activists say the agreement reached is “toothless” delegates say it was as much as could be expected under the circumstances.
Moscow has warned that a US missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland could provoke retaliation from Russia. Speaking at a news conference in Moscow on Saturday Russia’s Chief of Staff Yuri Baluyevsky said the firing of an anti-missile rocket from Poland could be seen by Russia’s automated system as the launch of a ballistic missile, which could provoke an answering strike. Russia’s top general expressed dissatisfaction with the course of negotiations between Moscow and Washington on this matter, saying the two states were locked in a “direct stand-off”.
Jaroslav Tvrdik is to be the chief manager of the Social Democratic Party in the 2008 regional and senate by-elections. Party leader Jiri Paroubek made the announcement on Saturday after a meeting of the party leadership. Mr. Paroubek said that his party’s success in the elections depended on a high voter turnout. He said he would be happy if the Social Democrats won 10 to 12 seats in the 81 member Senate.
The majority of EU member states want to sign a pact on closer ties with Serbia to stop it from turning towards Russia, Czech European Affairs Minister Alexander Vondra said at the close of a Kosovo-dominated EU summit in Brussels. He said that with the EU supporting moves towards independence by the Serbian province of Kosovo, the block was keen to demonstrate that Belgrade has a future in Europe. If Dutch objections are overcome, diplomats said the trade and aid pact could be signed at the next meeting of EU foreign ministers on January 28 in Brussels.
In related news, on Thursday EU leaders signed the Treaty of Lisbon, to replace the EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in national referenda in 2005. The new document will now need to be ratified by individual member states by 2009. Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek commented in Brussels on Friday, saying the process would “not be easy”. He signalled that a potential sticking point was the implementation of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.
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