Czech Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexander Vondra is on an official visit to Ireland. He is scheduled to hold talks with Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin and the Irish minister for European affairs Dick Roche. Talks are expected to focus on the Lisbon treaty, which neither country has yet ratified, the global crisis and transatlantic ties. The Czech Republic which currently holds the rotating EU presidency has been criticized for dragging its feet on the Lisbon treaty with observers pointing out that it will be difficult for Prague to put pressure on Dublin since it has not ratified the treaty itself. Minister Vondra has made it clear that each member state must be allowed to proceed at its own pace in this matter, although he will reportedly ask for some guarantees regarding a new referendum on the treaty in Ireland.
Over three hundred towns and villages in the Czech Republic still fail to meet strict EU norms regarding water-cleaning and sewage facilities. The delay is caused by a lack of finances and the Czech government is planning to ask the European Commission for extra time in order to avoid tough sanctions. Meeting the norms would cost approximately 44 billion crowns, only a third of which could be covered from EU structural funds.
The search continues for a Czech tourist who has gone missing in Slovakia’s Tatra Mountains. The man was reported missing on Friday and is believed to have got lost in bad weather after he and another hiker parted ways on their way down a treacherous mountain slope. Three other Czechs got lost in a snow-storm on Saturday but stayed together and managed to find their way back to home base on Sunday morning after spending a night out in the open. The Slovak mountain rescue service has called a high degree avalanche alert and has warned tourists not to venture out until the weather improves. Heavy snow is expected in the course of the next two days.
The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, told journalists on Sunday that his government’s crisis-management plan was important enough for him to stake his government’s future on it. The prime minister said he was seeking support for the plan across the political spectrum and hoped to see it approved by a vast majority of deputies in both houses of Parliament. The stimulus plan, which was made with the help of the country’s top financial experts, envisages higher government spending on education and research, cutting firms’ social security costs when they employ new graduates, and contracting out the upkeep of the country’s infrastructure to private enterprises, among other things. The government is expected to approve the plan on Monday and the prime minister will present it to Parliament on Wednesday.
Czech Radek Štepánek beat top seed and defending champion Andy Roddick 3-6 7-6 6-4 to reach the San Jose Open final on Saturday. Štepánek, who won in Brisbane last month, saved 10 of the 11 break points he faced against Roddick on his way to notching up his first career victory in five meetings over the three-times San Jose champion. The world number 21, who lost to Roddick in last year's final, will meet another American, Mardy Fish, in Sunday's title match.
About 20 young people staged a demonstration against the regime of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Prague’s Old Town square on Sunday, calling on the Czech Republic, which now presides over the EU, not to invite him to a planned summit of EU and east European leaders. The summit which is to take place in May should officially launch the so-called Eastern Partnership project aimed at boosting cooperation with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine.
The driver of the snowcat that crashed into a ravine in the Giant Mountains, injuring 11 passengers, may be charged with causing grievous bodily harm. He was found to be transporting 17 passengers in the vehicle although norms only allow eight. The police are now awaiting the outcome of a technical inspection of the vehicle. The driver claims that a technical error was behind the accident, saying that he suddenly lost control of the snowcat which swerved off the road and toppled over into a ravine. Three people sustained serious injuries and remain in intensive care.
Close to a quarter of all Czechs say they have already experienced the bite of the financial crisis, according to the outcome of a survey conducted by the STEM agency. Fifty-one percent of respondents said they expected to feel its impact in the coming months. Twenty six percent said they weren’t worried. According to the STEM agency older and less qualified people have been the hardest hit as have people working for export-orients companies.
Police in Ostrava detained twenty-one football hooligans on Saturday after rival fans smashed a pub ahead of the evening’s football game between Baník Ostrava and Opava. Eyewitnesses say the pub quickly filled up with around fifty fans and a verbal dispute soon sparked a free-for-all. Although the police was on the spot within minutes the pub’s interior was completely demolished. Four of the rowdies detained were Polish nationals.
Petr Mach has been elected chairman of the Party of Free Citizens, a new eurosceptic party that aims to win over dissatisfied right-wing voters. The Party of Free Citizens is gearing up for the June elections to the European Parliament with a campaign directed against the Lisbon treaty. It is also in favour of a referendum on euro adoption. The party’s constituent assembly received greetings and good wishes from President Václav Klaus who indicated that some of its stated goals, were close to his own heart. President Klaus’ youngest son Jan is a member of the new party. The party’s founder and chairman Petr Mach is the executive director of the Centre of Economics and Politics. He has in the past worked closely with the Czech president who is known for his eurosceptic views.
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