Confidence in the Czech economy rose in March according to the monthly survey carried out by the Czech Statistical Office. It is the first time sentiment has improved since February 2008. Confidence rose by 1.7 points compared with February but the index is still 33 points lower over the last 12 months. The index was set at 100 in 2005. The survey showed a mixed outlook about the next months from different sectors of the economy. Construction and services see a continuing slowdown in activity but trade and industry detect signs of a pick up over the next three months.
In his first official comments on the government’s fall, President Václav Klaus said on Wednesday that it was not a catastrophe. The President added that it was the fourth time he had been confronted by such a situation during his six years in office. The President will now take centre stage in deciding how to solve the political vacuum. There is some speculation Mr Klaus contributed to the government’s fall by giving assurances to rebel Civic Democrats with some commentators also pointing to his unprecedented appearance at the Social Democrat Party congress days ahead of the confidence vote. The President’s relations with Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek have been strained. He cut his links to the Civic Democrat Party in protest at the government’s policies late last year.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has given assurances that the fall of his government will not impact on its ongoing EU presidency. Speaking at a European Parliament session in Strasbourg on Wednesday, Mr Topolánek said the toppling of his government the day before would not affect its remaining three months piloting EU affairs. Mr Topolánek admitted earlier however that the country's position in negotiations would now be weakened. A government spokesman said the Czech Prime Minister will tender his centre-right coalition’s resignation on Thursday. Chances are that he will be put in charge of a caretaker government at least until the end of the EU presidency in June. The government fell Tuesday after the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, won the minimum 101 lower house lawmakers to support their no-confidence motion.
The head of the Czech competition office has confirmed a half million crown fine on the country’s association of undertakers for trying to coordinate the charges for funeral services. The head of the Brno-based office rejected an appeal against the original fine imposed last June. The office uncovered proof that the association’s rules curbed competition between different funeral firms. Companies that cut their prices were faced with inspections from the association and were banned from publicising their lower charges. The result was a death blow to competition. The association has warned that it too could be buried if the fine is collected.
One of the first polls published since the government’s fall has actually pointed to a Civic Democrat victory in June elections to the European Parliament. The poll by CVVM gave the Civic Democrats 31 percent against the second-placed Social Democrats with 29 percent. The Communist Party would get 12.5 percent, the Greens 6.5 percent and Christian Democrats 5.0 percent according to the March survey. It indicated that only around half of Czechs would actually turn out to vote.
Czech European Affairs Minister Alexandr Vondra has admitted the government’s fall will complicate ratification of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty. The Czech upper house of Parliament, the Senate, has still to ratify the treaty with its support far from certain. EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Wednesday that the Czech Republic is under an obligation to ratify the stalled treaty which aims at streamlining decision-making in the 27-strong EU. The EU Commission earlier expressed its “full trust” in the continuing Czech EU presidency. The Irish Republic, whose citizens rejected the Lisbon Treaty in a referendum, and the Czech Republic are the only two states whose parliaments have not fully ratified the treaty.
An EU court has backed Czech state-owned brewery Budějovický Budvar in its long-running trademark battle with US beer giant Anheuser-Busch. The Luxembourg-based European Court of First Instance threw out an appeal made by Anheuser-Busch against an earlier decision preventing it from registering the Budweiser trademark in the EU saying the Czech brewer already had rights to use the description in Germany and Austria. The two companies have been waging a trademark war over the right to use the “budweiser” name for over 100 years. Anheuser-Busch can still appeal to the EU’s highest court.
Separately, the outgoing coalition’s second biggest party, the Christian Democrats, have dismissed any idea that a government of experts could take over temporarily. They clarified their stance on the current political crisis following a meeting of party leaders, headed by chairman Jiří Čunek, on Wednesday. A government of experts is being pushed by the main opposition, the Social Democrats, as a stopgap measure but had already been dismissed out of hand by Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek’s Civic Democrats.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek fiercely attacked US steps to tackle the economic crisis saying it was not on the right path and its chosen course was “a way to hell.” Mr Topolánek said the huge cash injections planned were a repeat of the mistakes made in the 1930’s and had been discredited by history. The US has been trying to drum up support for greater coordinated global intervention to boost the sluggish world economy. EU countries have already shown their unwillingness to match Washington’s massive spending after they earmarked 400 billion euros to kick start growth. The issue is likely to be high on the agenda of the G20 meeting of the most developed countries in London next week.
The government of Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has fallen after losing
a vote of no-confidence tabled by the opposition Social Democrats. The
motion was carried by the bare minimum of 101 votes, when rebel Civic
Democrat MPs Vlastimil Tlustý and Jan Schwippel and ex-Greens Věra
Jakubková and Olga Zubová cast their votes with the 97 Social Democrat
and Communist MPs in the lower house.
Prime Minister Topolánek said on Monday that if the government fell he would expect President Václav Klaus to charge him with forming a new government; if that failed, he would then push for fresh elections in the summer. Mr Topolánek has rejected the idea of a caretaker government. However, much remains unclear about what will follow Tuesday’s dramatic vote.
The fall of the government comes almost exactly halfway through the Czech Republic’s six-month presidency of the European Union. The prime minister told Czech Television he believed the presidency could function effectively, even without a stable government.
The three-party coalition government, made up of Mirek Topolánek’s Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Greens, was appointed in January 2007.
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