Liberal MEPs from Germany and France are calling upon the European Commission to look into the so-called ‘muzzle law’ recently implemented in the Czech Republic. As of April, the Czech press has been forbidden from publishing the names of victims of crime during the investigation process. Under the new law, the national media has also been banned from publishing transcripts of police wiretaps. On Tuesday, German MEP Alexander Alvaro called the law an ‘unprecedented curtailment of freedom of speech and press freedom’. Alongside a French colleague, he called upon the European Commission to look into whether the law was at variance with EU statutes. Meanwhile in the Czech Republic, a group of senators, lead by Christian Democrat Petr Pithart, is planning to take a complaint about the new law to the Constitutional Court.
Speaking in Brussels on Tuesday, outgoing Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said he believed that the European Union was currently experiencing ‘the worst days and weeks of the financial crisis’. Mr Kalousek continued, however, that the ‘first signs of stabilisation’ could already be seen, and that he hoped by next year markets would be showing signs of a revival. The meeting of finance ministers which Mr Kalousek addressed was held a day after the bloc released a new prognosis for its economy this year. According to the European Commission, the bloc’s economy will shrink by four percent in 2009, with Europe remaining in recession in 2010. On Tuesday, the Czech finance minister said he remained ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the European economy’s recovery in the months to come.
Two thirds of young Czechs, aging from 12-24, praise the country’s accession to the European Union in 2004 as having been a ‘good thing’, an international poll conducted by the GfK agency suggests. According to the study, young Slovaks are even more enthusiastic about their country’s EU membership, with three quarters saying that joining the bloc was the right thing to do. The Austrian study found that 56 percent of young Austrians were for their country’s EU membership. The poll also found that young Slovaks were the most willing in central Europe to work abroad. Some 84 percent of Slovaks said they would consider moving abroad to work, while 73 percent of Czechs said they would consider a stint working in a foreign country.
Some 150,000 cars were deleted from the vehicles registry in the period spanning between last December and this March, and imports of used cars exceeding permitted emissions levels have almost stopped, outgoing Environment Minister Martin Bursík said on Tuesday. The cars were scratched from the register after a system of fees for maintaining such environmentally-unfriendly vehicles was introduced. The state has so far collected 65 million crowns (3.3 million USD) in fees under the scheme. Mr Bursík referred to the scheme as one of his biggest achievements during his time in office. Speaking on Tuesday, he also mentioned his biggest failures. He said he was unhappy that he had not managed to impose a ban on lorry traffic on Fridays in the Czech Republic.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will travel to Prague on Wednesday to launch negotiations on a broad trade pact between Canada and the EU's 27 member states. Prime Minister Harper will be meeting with the outgoing Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, whose country currently presides over the EU, and with the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso. The talks are expected to cover a broad range of issues including international financial challenges, trade, climate change and security.
Interim Prime Minister Jan Fischer announced his cabinet on Tuesday. He
presented his list of ministers to President Václav Klaus on Tuesday
afternoon, who accepted Mr Fischer’s suggestions, saying they spelt an
end to the political uncertainty in this country in recent months. The
final names were added to Mr Fischer’s list on Tuesday morning, when
Eduard Janota agreed to become finance minister, and Mr Fischer accepted
the nomination of Daniela Kovářová as justice minister and Miroslava
Kopicová to head the country’s Education Ministry. Mr Fischer’s
caretaker government of experts will take over from the outgoing cabinet on
May 8. The caretaker cabinet will steer the country to early elections, to
be held in October.
Mr. Fischer said on Monday the main goal of his administration would be to successfully finish the country’s EU presidency and to draft the 2010 state budget, keeping the budget deficit below 150 billion crowns.
Nearly 280 foreigners who have lost their jobs in light of the economic crisis in the Czech Republic have signed up at the foreigner’s police in Western Bohemia to take part in the government’s voluntary repatriation scheme, it was revealed on Tuesday. The majority of those who have signed up for the scheme, which offers participants a flight ticket home and 500 euros to cover expenses, are Mongolian nationals, a police spokesperson said in Plzeň. Since the scheme was unveiled in February, nearly 1,500 foreigners have signed up for repatriation. According to the news website Novinky.cz, the Czech government envisaged around 2,000 people participating in the programme. Outgoing Interior Minister Ivan Langer has asked for more funds so as to enlarge the scheme.
The Czech Chamber of Deputies has passed a reading of a constitutional bill which would bring about early elections in the Czech Republic. The bill proposes that early elections take place in this country on October 10 at the latest. On Tuesday, it was sent to a final reading, the final vote on the matter is expected to take place next week. The bill in questions sets out deadlines for calling and organizing elections. Under the proposal, August 26 will be the latest date at which a general election can be called. The bill was voted for by 151 of the 175 deputies present, the rest abstained.
In a question and answer session on the Czech Republic’s EU presidency website on Tuesday, outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said that he believed the fall of his cabinet in March had damaged the image of the Czech Republic abroad. Furthermore, Mr Topolánek said, the fall of the Czech government halfway through the country’s EU presidency had given big countries a reason to doubt the competence of small countries when presiding over the bloc. Mr Topolánek said that he had enjoyed his time as head of the EU, but that he felt the post of Czech prime minister had entrusted him with more powers. The outgoing prime minister is set to be replaced by interim leader Jan Fischer on May 8.
One of the country’s best known TV journalists was fired on Monday after posting a video on his blog making light of the swine flu outbreak that has killed 26 people. Jiří Dlabaja, who worked for the country’s most-watched television station Nova, is pictured asking five of his colleagues what stories they are working on. Each one grimaces and makes pig-like noises, including Dlabaja himself. The station’s director, Petr Dvořák, described the incident as a serious lapse in standards, as the video spread out over the internet. Mr Dvořák said his station had decided to crack down as the footage was shot ‘during working hours and in the newsroom’.
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Czechs observe day of mourning for pop idol Karel Gott
Thousands pay tribute to deceased national pop icon Karel Gott