Social Democrat senators have slammed the government for negotiating an
opt-out to the Charter of Fundamental Rights attached to the Lisbon treaty
without Parliament’s approval. In a stormy session of the upper chamber,
Senate deputy chairwoman Alena Gajdušková of the Social Democrats said
was not the Lisbon treaty but the Czech government which was undermining
the country’s sovereignty by overstepping its mandate in this matter.
Minister for European Affairs Štefan Fůle strongly rejected the
accusations saying that the government had acted fully within its mandate.
He said that the heads of the upper and lower chamber had both been
at the government session devoted to the Lisbon treaty and had not voiced
any reservations with regard to the government’s strategy.
The opt-out granted to the Czech Republic is to be attached to the next EU accession treaty and is thus not expected to come into force for several years. The Social Democrats have said they will try to prevent it coming into force. Tuesday’s fierce two-hour debate in the Senate is indicative of the controversy surrounding the opt-out which was adopted at the eleventh hour as a last minute concession to President Vaclav Klaus.
Czechs still lead EU statistics in the use of soft drugs, such as marihuana and ecstasy, according to a report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Forty-four percent of Czechs under twenty-four say they have used marihuana, compared to the EU average of 30 percent, and fifteen percent say they have used ecstasy, where the EU average in 6 percent only. One positive aspect highlighted in the report is that the Czech Republic is one of the few EU countries in which drug-related crime has decreased.
Two Czechs who were arrested in Cuba in March of this year after starting a fight and shouting insulting remarks about Fidel Castro are to be tried next week, according to a report published in the Florida-based El Nuevo Herald. Zdeněk Tovara, 25, and Jaroslav Jiřík, 32, were arrested during a scuffle at Havana’s international airport and have been charged with causing public disorder, damaging property and resisting arrest. The two reportedly turned up at the airport drunk and started a fight, causing damage to property is some of the airport shops. They were also heard shouting obscenities about the Cuban communist leadership. El Nuevo says that if found guilty the men would face up to five years in prison.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has criticized the Višegrad group states
for meeting ahead of key EU sessions to consult their positions on the topic of the day. According to the news site euobserver.com Mr. Sarkozy advised the Višegrad group not to make a habit of this. The four post-communist states – the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary – have regularly consulted their positions in the run up to EU membership and as EU newcomers in order to better defend their interests.
The Czech National Bank on Thursday published a revised economic forecast according to which the national economy is expected to fall by 4.4 percent this year but to grow by 1.4 percent next year. The bank’s previous forecast released in August, expected GDP to fall by 3.8 percent this year and to grow by 0.7 percent next year. National Bank Governor Zdeněk Tůma said the economy had already hit the bottom and was on the rebound. Next year we expect moderate growth tempered by the budgetary policy and growing unemployment, Tůma said.
Prime Minister Jan Fischer will take the signed Lisbon treaty to Rome next Friday, whereby the ratification process by the Czech Republic will be completed, a government spokesman told the ctk news agency on Thursday. Prime Minister Fischer is due to pay a two-day visit to the Vatican and will use the opportunity to take the treaty to Rome in person, the spokesman said. The Czech Republic is the last country to complete ratification of the Lisbon treaty which is due to take effect on December 1.
The daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported Thursday it had uncovered a group of right-wing extremists planning terrorist attacks on various targets in the Czech Republic. According to the paper, the planned attacks included kidnappings of ideological enemies and police officers, as well as an attack on a power station. The group reportedly included some 30 individuals being trained in anonymity in hand-to-hand combat by professional soldiers. Police have declined to comment on the matter. In late October, police carried out a series of raids on individuals involved in fascist movements across the country. Mladá fronta cites the organised crime department of the Czech police as saying they have been monitoring the group in question on suspicion of terrorism.
A Prague court has sent a forty-eight-year-old man to ten years in jail for sexually abusing the ten-year-old daughter of his live-in-girlfriend. The abuse reportedly took place while the woman, a Ukrainian national, was out working. It is said to have gone on for three years while the man threatened the child that she and her mother would be sent back to Ukraine if she reported him. The mother claims she had no idea of what was happening.
Art restorers from the Prague City Gallery have begun examining the inside of the Jan Hus Monument on the city’s Old Town Square. It is the first time that the bronze statue has been opened since it was erected in 1915. The first day’s work has apparently shown the statue to be in extremely poor condition, and a team of restorers and structural engineers will be examining its interior for the next several months before selecting a restoration company. The statue of the 15th century church reformer and intellectual is one of the country’s most famous monuments.
A special poll published by the agency CVVM for the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution suggests that 45% of Czechs believe that societal standards are better today than before 1989, primarily thanks to greater access to information and freedom of movement. All age groups surveyed reported similar results, though 25% of those under the age of 30 responded that they did not know. The survey also showed high faith among young people in today’s political system as compared to that of the communist regime, with only 14% responding that things were “good as they were”. Roughly a third of people aged over 30 have an ambiguous feeling about the changes since the 1980s, and almost one third of seniors aged 60 or more believe life was better before the revolution. There was vast consensus as to the significance of the Velvet Revolution, with 74% responding that the main cause was the desire for freedom over economic concerns, and almost the same number stating that the revolution is worth commemorating.
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