Ireland’s foreign minister, Michael Martin, has criticised Czech
President Václav Klaus over ‘inappropriate’ comments made at a meeting
with eurosceptics, on the final day of Mr Klaus’s state visit to Ireland.
At a meeting with Declan Ganley, the man who led the ‘No’ campaign
against Ireland ratifying the Lisbon treaty, the Czech president said that
he was afraid that ‘freedom and democracy’ would not be enhanced by the
treaty’s ratification. On Wednesday, Ireland’s foreign minister called
Mr Klaus’s comments ‘very clearly political’ and deemed them an
‘inappropriate intervention in the context of such a state visit’.
President Klaus is one of Europe’s most high profile critics of the
Lisbon treaty, which is intended to reform how the EU is run.
The Czech Green Party sharply criticised Mr Klaus on Tuesday, saying his ultra-conservative views, which he propounds without regard to his constitutional position, created an unrealistic picture of the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic is one of the few EU members not to have ratified the Lisbon treaty, aimed at reforming how the bloc is run. The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, said last week that Parliament would vote on the matter during the first few months of next year: that is, during the Czech presidency of the union. However, the document cannot come into force unless Ireland, whose people rejected it in a referendum in June, changes its position.
The Czech football captain Tomáš Rosický, who has not played since January due to a ligament injury, has undergone surgery for the second time. The operation took place in Germany on Monday. A statement on the website of his club Arsenal said it was a routine operation that had gone according to plan. After Rosický underwent surgery for the first time in May, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said he expected to see him back in action in September. There has been media speculation about whether the midfielder, who is 28, will ever play top level soccer again.
Culture Minister Václav Jehlička has proposed that it should be harder to get divorced in the Czech Republic. The culture minister suggests that couples should be able to sign a contract before marriage, relinquishing their right to divorce. Lawyers have reacted to the proposal by calling it a step in the wrong direction. Mr Jehlička has handed his proposal to the Justice Ministry for further examination, though a ministry spokesperson said that it is unlikely the suggestion will be worked into any draft legislation. Mr Jehlička’s party, the Christian Democrats, have distanced themselves from the proposal.
The Chamber of Deputies has approved a law criminalizing the denial of communist crimes. Under the new law, those who deny crimes committed by Nazis and Communists against humanity could face up to three years in prison. The opposition Communist Party voted overwhelmingly against the bill, and when it was passed, party leader Vojtěch Filip reacted by saying the approval was one of the worst things to have happened to the party in Parliament. A similar bill was rejected in 2006, when MPs were unable to agree on the wording of separate, unrelated passages of the document. The bill now goes to the Senate for approval.
The Czech Republic has dropped down the World Economic Forum’s rankings for gender equality. This year, the Czech Republic was ranked 69th in the list of 130 countries assessed. In 2007, Czechs ranked 64th. It was Nordic countries which this year topped the list, with Norway ranking first in terms of gender equality, Finland coming second, followed by Sweden and Iceland. A spokesperson from the Czech Women’s Lobby said that she did not see the situation in this country getting worse, but nor did she see it getting better. Countries were assessed on four criteria: women in the workplace, education, politics and the health care system.
Three men have been arrested following the assault of an Israeli rabbi in Prague on Tuesday night. The attack happened in Prague’s Jewish Quarter at around 21:00 on Tuesday. If found guilty, those arrested could each face up to five years in prison. The three, aged between 21-23, are alleged to have shouted anti-Semitic remarks at the victim before pelting him with stones and assaulting him. Following the arrests, a police spokesperson said that two of the detained were also thought to have been behind another anti-Semitic attack in Prague on Monday night.
A German association started burying the remains of 5,500 German soldiers and civilians killed during World War II in Cheb on Wednesday. The remains have all been discovered over the last ten years. A spokesperson for the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgraberfursorge said that the first 330 soldiers would be buried on Wednesday. The rest would follow over the next two or three weeks, he added. The graveyard in Cheb is still largely unfinished and is expected to be inaugurated in 2010. The Czech Republic was one of the last battlegrounds in World War II, with Prague the last major city to be liberated. Liberation brought reprisals against German soldiers and to many of the estimated three million German-speaking civilians who had lived in the former Czechoslovakia.
Voting on a number of reforms to the Czech Republic’s healthcare system has been delayed, after the proposals were sent to an expert committee for further analysis. Health Minister Tomáš Julínek’s proposed reforms will now be decided upon next week, it was agreed. The Civic Democrats’ coalition partners, the Christian Democrats, were unhappy with a clause in the reforms pertaining to abortion, while the coalition’s Greens were unhappy with proposed changes to the Czech healthcare insurance system. The group of experts, made up of coalition MPs, now has a week to remove or alter the more controversial facets of the healthcare reforms, Mr Julínek said.
The Czech government unveiled the logo for its upcoming EU presidency on Wednesday, in the second phase of its pre-presidential information campaign. The logo reads, in simple block-coloured writing, EU2009.cz – the internet address for the official website of the Czech presidency. The logo takes over from the government’s first advertising campaign to publicise the presidency, which courted controversy at home and abroad. The first advert centred upon a sugar-cube - said to be a Czech invention - and featured an ambivalent slogan meaning in one reading ‘we’ll give Europe a taste of its own medicine’.
After initially rejecting the idea, opposition leader Jiří Paroubek now says he does not rule out becoming the chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, the newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes reported. At the weekend, Prime Minster Mirek Topolánek floated the idea of the leader of the Social Democrats chairing the lower house, in order to ensure the smoother running of the Czech Republic’s first presidency of the EU, from January to July next year. The current chairman is another Social Democrat, MP Miloslav Vlček.
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