In related news, President Václav Klaus would not tell journalists in Brussels on Thursday whether he was ready to sign the Lisbon treaty designed to reform the running of the EU. He was asked the question at a press conference following his speech in the European Parliament, saying that “chess players did not announce their move in advance”. He did say he expected a serious debate on the Lisbon treaty in the Czech Senate, which has now to discuss the issue, after the Czech lower house passed the treaty this week. Mr Klaus is a fierce opponent of the document which needs to be approved by all 27 EU members to come into effect.
The Czech Academy of Sciences will officially launch the operation of the COMPASS tokamak, a 21-ton experimental nuclear fusion reactor at a special ceremony on Thursday. The academy is reportedly hoping to make the Czech Republic a central European centre for nuclear fusion research. The world’s largest tomakak, the Iter, is located in Cadarache, France.
Ludmila Brožová-Polednová, the 87-year-old former communist prosecutor found guilty of helping condemn democratic politician Milada Horáková to death in 1950, has put forward a complaint in her case. The Czech internet site aktualne.cz reported the news on Thursday, suggesting it was an apparent attempt by Mrs Brožová-Polednová to put off serving her jail time of six years. The Prague high court confirmed the move on the part of Mrs Brožová-Polednová’s lawyer, saying it would rule on the matter after receiving the defendant’s complete file, now being examined by the Supreme Court. Mrs Brožová-Polednová has tried to have her sentence deferred because of ill health.
Czech President Václav Klaus, a firm opponent of greater European integration, has strongly criticised the European Union in the European Parliament. Speaking before lawmakers on Thursday, Mr Klaus criticised the EU for attempting to shift the brunt of decision-making to Brussels to the detriment of individual states and also criticised the EU’s approach on the economy. His speech was greeted at points by applause but also by boos and opposition: some MEPs demonstratively left the room. Mr Klaus’s appearance follows that of Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek in January, who spoke in the European Parliament shortly after the Czech Republic took up the rotating EU presidency.
The rescue service has called a high degree avalanche alert in the Jeseníky Mountains in the north-east of the country, as in the Krkonoše Mountains a day earlier. Areas in danger of seeing avalanches are not on tourist trails. The last two days have seen some 70 centimetres of new snow in the Jeseníky Mountains.
A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry has revealed that a first group of foreign guest workers - who lost their jobs in the Czech Republic due to the economic crisis - left for home from Prague's Ruzyně airport on Thursday. The group included 16 Mongolian nationals who made use of the Czech state offer of free airline tickets and a 500-euro allowance. The 16 left for Frankfurt where they will change flights to Beijing; from there they will continue to Ulan Bator. The Interior Ministry registered more than 200 applications for free tickets and the allowance, mainly from Mongolian nationals, in the first three days of the project. The allowance and travel tickets are incentive for unemployed guest workers to return home rather than remain and work illegally in the Czech Republic.
In other European news, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek is due to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday, in an attempt to ease tensions over alleged French protectionism. Tensions between Paris and Prague, which now heads the EU presidency, have risen in recent weeks, not least after the French president suggested French carmakers with operations in other EU countries relocate back to France. The comment sparked fears of protectionism and drew criticism from Mr Topolánek and other politicians. On Wednesday, the Czech prime minister said that the planned meeting, to take place in Berlin, would end speculation the two leaders were unable to find “common ground”.
Czech cross-country skiing star Lukáš Bauer has completed a final training run ahead of the men’s 15 kilometre classic race at the Nordic World Ski Championship underway in Liberec. The skier admitted he wasn’t satisfied with his training run on Thursday ahead of the race, but made clear he remained optimistic. The 15 km classic takes place on Friday.
President Klaus has signed into law an amendment modifying the controversial health legislation that introduced blanket health fees for all Czech citizens at the beginning of 2008. In line with the amendment health fees will no longer be mandatory for those under the age of 18. The approval of the bill was preceded by heated debate in both houses of Parliament after members of the two smaller parties in government – the Greens and the Christian Democrats – joined the opposition in calling for minors to be exempted from the payments. The burden of health fees has also been lowered for pensioners and socially weaker groups of the population. The Social Democrats remain strongly opposed to the idea of health fees as such and have pledged to strike them down altogether when they return to power.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is to visit Prague next Monday, the CTK news agency reported. He is expected to meet with Czech President Václav Klaus and Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who led an EU delegation to the Middle East at the start of the year. As the country presiding over the EU, the Czech Republic has been actively involved in seeking a solution to the Middle East crisis. The Palestinian president was originally expected in Prague on February 2nd but the visit was postponed in order for him to attend peace talks in Cairo.
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