Former Czech president Vaclav Havel on Friday expressed regret over Washington’s decision to abandon the missile defense project in central Europe. He said he had considered it a certain form of protection against Russia’s attempts to regain influence in a region it still considered as its backyard. Several politicians from central and eastern Europe, including Mr. Havel, wrote an open letter to President Obama earlier this year warning him about Russia's growing ambitions and expressing fears that the United States was abandoning the region.
Next year’s state budget deficit could be as low as 157 billion crowns if the draft package of austerity measures is approved in its present form, Finance Minister Eduard Janota told the ctk news agency after negotiations with political parties' representatives on Friday. The revised package provides for an increase in both VAT rates by one percentage point. It will reportedly save 12 billion crowns in social and mandatory spending on the side of expenditures. The cost-cutting measures would only apply for 2010. The government is to discuss and approve the package on Monday. Political leaders will be debating the proposed cuts further. After two attempts at early elections were scupperd Prime Minister Jan Fischer made it clear that his caretaker government will only remain in office if politicians agreed on a budget with a maximum deficit of 170 billion crowns i.e. 5 percent of the GDP.
The Czech champions Slavia Prague were beaten away 2:0 by Genoa in their opening game of the group stage of football’s Europa League on Thursday evening. Slavia conceded for the first time after four minutes and found no way back after the Italians went 2:0 up just inside the half hour mark. Sparta, meanwhile, were leading Eindhoven 2:1 with only minutes remaining when they conceded a penalty, allowing the Dutch side to leave Prague with a point.
At a press briefing in Brussels on Thursday night Slovak Prime Minister
Robert Fico warned Prague it was undermining its position in the EU by
delaying the ratification of the Lisbon treaty. Following a summit of EU
leaders on Thursday, Mr. Fico said he had heard a number of very strong
statements on the subject by prime ministers of leading EU member states.
The Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, later confirmed that there was
increasing concern in Brussels on the subject, and that EU leaders were now
more worried about the Eurosceptic Czech president signing the treaty that
they were about the outcome of the Irish referendum.
The Lisbon treaty has been ratified by both houses of the Czech Parliament, but President Václav Klaus has made it clear he will delay signing it for as long as possible.
Defense Minister Martin Barták is holding talks with US officials on new areas of cooperation after Washington abandoned plans to build a radar base in the Czech Republic. Minister Barták is expected to meet with his US counterpart Robert Gates later today to discuss the implications of the change of plan and the possibility of maintaining agreed on science and research projects. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout on Thursday also emphasized the country’s interest in cooperating closely in some other sphere of activity, for instance space research.
The Czech economy will contract by more than 2.7 percent and less than 5 percent this year, according to figures published by the Czech Finance Ministry on Friday. Outlooks for 2010 suggest a growth of 0.7 percent on average. A significant acceleration is only expected in 2011 - 2012 when the economy should grow by 2.5 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively.
A group of right-wing senators have announced they will file a new constitutional complaint against the Lisbon treaty on September 29th. Senator Jiri Oberfalzer of the Civic Democrats said the group was petitioning the Constitutional Court to assess the treaty’s compliance with the Czech constitutional order. The complaint is likely to further delay the treaty’s ratification. Parts of the treaty came under the court’s scrutiny last year following a similar complaint by senators, but the court then ruled that the respective passages were in line with the Czech Constitution.
The Czech crown reached it strongest point on Thursday since November of last year, briefly trading at less than 25 CZK/EUR and 17 CZK/USD. Trading ended slightly above that mark. According to analysts the current strengthening of the Czech crown is due primarily to an optimistic mood among investors on the global markets and will likely continue for a while. At the same time, a number of economists point out that the strong crown has no basis in the domestic economic situation and they expect the exchange rates to diverge before the end of the year.
Members of the Civic Democratic Party met Thursday with Finance Minister Eduard Janota to discuss the details of his savings measures for the 2010 state budget. As opposed to his original plan, which aims for a 170 billion crown deficit, Mr Janota said he was willing to drop limits on building savings and raise VAT rates by one percent as well as real-estate tax. The VAT increase would apply only for 2010. A spokesman for the Ministry of Finance said that Mr Janota is willing to meet with interested members of all parties to discuss the package.
The Social Democratic Party, which opposed the radar plans, called the announcement a victory for the Czech people and said that the development proved their argument that there was no rationale for a missile defence shield in the Czech Republic. Former prime minister and Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolánek said that the cancellation of the radar was a direct result of the fall of his government, uncertainty around elections and the perception of the Czech Republic as an unreliable partner. Former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who signed a bilateral agreement on the radar with the Americans last year, said the decision was intended primarily as an incentive for Russia and Iran ahead of six-nation nuclear talks with Iran planned for October. Spokesman of the No to Bases civic initiative Jan Májíček said that the American administration would have decided differently had both bilateral radar agreements been ratified, and that the active resistance of Czech citizens had prevented that. The No to Bases initiative was to begin a bus tour on Thursday protesting the radar.
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