The lower house of Parliament on Thursday passed an amendment to the penal code which would leave the age of criminal liability and the age of consent as it is at age 15. The amendment was drafted by the Communist Party in reaction to the new penal code which was due to lower the age of criminal liability and the age of consent to 14 as of 2010. Experts have criticized the move and in signing the penal code President Klaus likewise called it disputable. Both the Communist Party and the Christian Democrats say it was a big mistake.
Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko will not take part in the EU’s
Eastern Partnership summit due to be held in Prague on May 7th, the CTK
news agency reported on Friday, citing a source close to the Czech EU
presidency. According to the source, Belarus will be represented by Deputy
Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko. President Lukashenko has come under fire
for his authoritarian style of rule and there were mixed feelings about
whether Belarus should be invited to the summit. President Klaus made it
clear that he would not be welcome at Prague Castle if he did arrive.
The Eastern Partnership scheme aims to forge closer ties between the EU and six former Soviet republics, a plan that has angered Moscow. It aims to accelerate political and economic reforms in the region in return for EU support and concessions of trade and travel. While the Czech EU presidency has championed the project some of the old EU member states remain lukewarm about the idea.
The Czech EU presidency has attacked plans by Germany and Austria not to open up their labour markets to citizens from new member states from Central and Eastern Europe as unjustified. The two countries have said they want to continue existing barriers which require would be workers from eight countries including the Czech Republic to apply for work permits until 2011. In a statement, the presidency pointed out that all available data show that workers from these countries pose no threat to the stability of the two countries labour markets, do not push down local wages or endanger social cohesion. The plans by the two countries, the last to retain work barriers after Belgium and Denmark announced they would lift theirs, should be studied by the European Commission.
The creation of the Czech caretaker government has hit a last minute hitch with a dispute over whose nominee should fill the post of Minister of Culture. The post was originally earmarked for the Christian Democrats but with the party not nominating candidates for the government of experts a battle has erupted over who should fill the post. From the outgoing centre-right coalition, the Civic Democrats and Greens have put forward candidates as has the left wing Social Democrats. Prime Minister designate, Jan Fischer, Thursday rejected a call from the Greens that he convene a meeting of party leaders to thrash out the issue. Meanwhile, Mr Fischer’s target to name his ministerial line-up by the end of the week appears in peril.
Czech industrial production fell by 17.5 in March compared with the same month a year earlier according to preliminary figures released by the Czech Statistical Office. Adjusted to take into account the two extra working days in March, the production fall is estimated at 20.9 percent. Production fell by 23.4 percent in February. The value of new orders of the books of companies fell by 16.7 percent in March compared with a year earlier.
In related news, Czech health minister Daniela Filipiová chaired a special meeting of EU health ministers to discuss the swine flu threat on Thursday. The Luxembourg meeting was due to take stock of the threat so far, steps taken by individual countries and what joint measures should be adopted at an EU level. One of its main conclusions was not to back a French call for a ban on flights to Mexico. The Czech presidency of the EU has said it is convinced that coordinated EU steps against swine flu are required. So far, the deadly virus has spread to several EU states, including Czech neighbours Austria and Germany. The World Health Organisation late Wednesday raised its assessment of the risk of a pandemic from four to five, the penultimate level.
The Czech Finance Ministry proposed on Thursday a 2010 budget which counts on a budget deficit of 150 billion crowns or 7.52 billion dollars. That represents 4.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product, slightly higher than the ministry’s most recent forecast and well beyond the 3.0 percent ceiling for adoption of the euro. The budget proposal counts on economic growth of 0.8 percent next year but warns that tight budget discipline must be respected to keep within the limit. This includes no increase in public sector wages and no concession to demands from regional and local government for extra cash.
The Czech Republic is preparing to offer tax incentives for the first time to domestic and foreign film companies according to the online pages of the business daily E15. A proposed new film law would allow companies to write off up to 20 percent of their spending in the country, it says. The move is needed to stop the drift of film production business and companies to the 11 EU countries already offering such incentives. One major local company film production mulling a move to Hungary is Stillking Films, the paper said.
Health officials are still investigating 21 cases of suspected swine flu in the Czech Republic after excluding three suspected cases, the Ministry of Health announced on Thursday. The country’s chief health inspector Michael Vít told Czech Television on Thursday that another four Czech tourists returning from Mexico had been isolated after suffering high temperatures. Mr Vít said the country is well prepared to deal with swine flu but added that he was pressing for increased stocks of the antivirus and that regional plans for dealing with a pandemic should be scrutinised.
In ice hockey, the Czech team lost 3:4 in the world championship game against Finland on Wednesday night. After taking a 3:1 lead, the under strength Czechs were made to pay for the high number of fouls committed during the game. It is the first defeat by the team in the championships so far. The result left the Czechs second in group D and facing a Thursday quarterfinal tie against the strong Canadians.
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