Czech President Václav Klaus has come up with a new condition for signing the EU-reforming Lisbon treaty: an exception to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights similar to the one secured by Poland and the UK. At a Friday-afternoon press conference, Mr Klaus stated he was unhappy to have to address the issue before the completion of a constitutional challenge to the Lisbon Treaty. He said his address was forced by Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s announcement of certain, further unspecified, details that the Czech president said were intended to be confidential.
The eurosceptic Czech president along with his Polish counterpart have still not signed the reform treaty, which was expected to come into force at the beginning of 2010. Klaus is likely to be the last European head of state to do so after Polish President Lech Kaczynski said he would sign the treaty this Saturday. The Czech president is now waiting for the Constitutional Court to give its verdict on a new complaint about Lisbon lodged by a group of right-wing Senators.
The announcement confirms speculation published earlier Friday by the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita, that Mr Klaus’ demand to “footnote” the treaty is based on concern that Czech courts would lose jurisdiction over such cases as property disputes with Sudeten Germans to foreign judges with no knowledge of the history of the region. In the opt-out to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, Mr Klaus seeks a guarantee that would subordinate the Charter to Czech law. The Beneš Decrees formed the legal grounds for the displacement of the native German population from Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of WWII.
The Green Party chairman Ondřej Liška made a statement on Friday saying it is time to consider the removal of the president from office. Mr Liška said that President Klaus has overstepped his constitutional authority in conditioning his signing of the Lisbon Treaty once it had already been ratified by Parliament. The removal of a president from office as per the Czech constitution requires an act of parliament that he is unfit for office, or his impeachment on grounds of treason. Other politicians however, such as Karel Schwarzenberg or TOP 09 and Cyril Svoboda of the Christian Democrats, while not condoning the president’s decision, have said it is within the law.
The two main Czech political parties, the Social Democratic Party and the Civic Democratic Party, have announced that the country’s ruling interim government will not have to ask for a confidence vote in Parliament, effectively prolonging the technocratic caretaker administration until elections. Speaking after a meeting on his mandate with the main party leaders on Friday, Prime Minister Jan Fischer said he would be submitting his policy programme to the next session of Parliament, including his cabinet’s priorities and plans for the remainder of its term.
The parties also stated the priorities they would like to see top the government’s policy programme. Jíři Paroubek of the Social Democrats said that the government should focus on decreasing unemployment, job creation and the energy policy. Green Party chairman Ondřej Liška stated the government should fight for transparency in partisan finances. Michaela Šojdrová of the Christian Democrats stated her party’s desire for anti-corruption, anti-gambling and family support legislation. Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolánek made a general statement that the government should deal first with issues that cannot be delayed.
Meanwhile, Mr Klaus has signed the government’s austerity package into law, allowing the state to work with a reduced deficit of 163 billion crowns for 2010. The so-called “Janota Package”, named after its patron, interim Finance Minister Eduard Janota, amends some 15 legislative acts from the areas of tax, social security and healthcare applicable for 2010 and that year alone. Had the package not passed, the budget deficit for 2010 would have reached 230 billion crowns.
A survey released Friday by the polling agency CVVM says that 45% of Czechs would not be opposed to a governing coalition including the Communist Party. Roughly the same number (47%) would be opposed. The survey also suggests that nearly a third of citizens are in favour of banning the party outright, while 65% believe it should have the same rights and obligations as other political parties.
A baboon from the Brno zoo, well-known for having escaped its enclosure in 2007, has escaped again. Heiko, a male Gelada baboon, was apparently so panicked by the sight of a tranquiliser gun that he braved an electric fence. Zoo employees had been preparing to use the gun on one of the sheep with which Heiko lives, however the animal seems to have developed a fear of the rifles after being chased by them for four days two years ago. On that occasion, the baboon took advantage of a power outage to scale the enclosure and wander the locals’ gardens. He was eventually found on a golf course, enjoying a package of biscuits with one of the golfers.
Auctioneers in Prague on Friday sold what appears to be the world’s most expensive magazine. The special edition of “Royal Report”, decorated with diamonds and pearls, was sold for four million crowns. Its new owner will also receive a year of “gold” editions, use of a private jet, and four paid vacations anywhere in the world. The magazine’s founder has said that the proceeds from the sale of the magazine would go to charity. The monthly lifestyle magazine has been on the Czech market for the last two years and it’s regular edition boasts some 14,000 subscribers.
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