Daily news summary News

19-10-2009

Slovakia seeks Lisbon exemption as price for its support

Slovakia has declared that it will not support Czech President Václav Klaus’ demand for an exemption from the Lisbon treaty unless the same exemption applies to it as well. Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák said the country could not support something that put it at a disadvantage. Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer said on Monday he was convinced a wording could be found to suit Slovakia.

President Klaus has declared he will not ratify the Lisbon treaty unless he is given a firm guarantee in the form of an exemption from its Charter of Fundamental Rights that Germans expelled after WWII cannot use it to reclaim property. The so-called Beneš decrees that paved the way for these expulsions applied in Slovakia as well with German and Hungarian minorities forced to leave. Slovakia has already ratified the Lisbon treaty with the Czech Republic the last country to do so. Bratislava’s move increases fears that the ratification process could start to unravel.

Government prepares for constitutional clash

The government is prepared for a constitutional confrontation with President Václav Klaus if he persists in blocking the Lisbon treaty, the magazine Respekt reported on Monday. It says the government is considering asking the Czech Constitutional Court to rule whether President Klaus can continue to refuse signing the EU’s reforming treaty if his current demands are met and the court rules that the treaty is not in conflict with Czech law. Respekt says the government would ask the court's permission for the prime minister to ratify the treaty if it ruled against the president. The government is prepared to inform EU leaders of its stance at a summit at the end of this month, it adds.

President Klaus suggested in an interview on Saturday that the Lisbon treaty had gone too far to be stopped and that he could not delay ratification until British elections next spring.

Change at the top of Czech Airlines

The supervisory board of Czech Airlines decided changes at the top of the struggling state-controlled carrier on Monday. The current head of the state-owned company running Prague airport, Miroslav Dvořák has been brought in for outgoing president Radomír Lašák. The board itself has a new head, economist Miroslav Zámečník. Mr Lašák said pilots had agreed to 15 percent wage cuts, stewardesses 10 percent and other staff 5.0 percent in talks before he left. But Mr Zámečník said deeper cuts were needed. The government is due by the end of the month to decide whether to go ahead with Czech Airlines' privatisation and accept the sole bid from the Unimex-Travel Service consortium.

Czech government discusses gas crisis threat

Czech ministers have predicted that gas supplies are almost certain to be cut this winter because of the ongoing disputes between Russia and Ukraine. Deputy minister for energy Tomáš Hüner said the crisis of last January was almost certain to be repeated. The government discussed a report on the likelihood of another crisis and emergency measures to be taken if it occurs on Monday. The report prepared by the foreign affairs, interior and industry ministry highlight the risk of heat being cut to 2.5 million Czechs who rely on central heating plants powered by gas. The country has gas reserves for around 40 days but these could run down quicker in bad weather. The government has resolved to test emergency procedures in November.

Czech police press more charges over bridge collapse

Czech police have pressed charges against more people in connection with the deaths of eight passengers when a bridge collapsed on the international high speed train they were travelling on in August 2008. The Czech News Agency said charges have been pressed against three people working for an engineering company and three for a building company. Both companies were working on the bridge in northern Moravia. Charges were also lodged against an employee of the regional highway directorate and an external worker for the engineering company. Until now only two employees of the engineering company have been charged with not taking action although they knew that the bridge was structurally dangerous.

Former Plzeň University law faculty chiefs dismissed

Two people at the centre of a scandal over the functioning of the law faculty at Plzeň University have been given notice by the acting head of the faculty, former justice minister Jíří Pospíšil. Mr Pospíšil said on Monday that there had been shortcomings in how former dean Jaroslav Zachariáš and vice-dean Ivan Tomažič performed their work. They were still teaching at the law faculty. The faculty of the University of West Bohemia has been the focus of a long running scandal about plagiarism and fast-track degrees since mid-September.

Defence ministry buys new pistols after problems in Afghanistan

The Czech Ministry of Defence has ordered 1,000 Austrian-made Glock pistols because the current Czech-made pistol being used by forces in Afghanistan is unsuitable. Minister of Defence Martin Barták made the announcement in a reply to a Communist MP. He said that experience showed the current weapon, the aged VZ 82, ill suited to the tough conditions. The Austrian pistol is currently used by Czech special forces and military police.

PM sees Czech Commissioner choice within three weeks

The Czech choice of a new European Commissioner should be made within two or three weeks, Prime Minister Jan Fischer said on Monday. Mr Fischer stressed that he still had not received a formal request from the European Commission to start the process and that there was no hurry. The traditional main parties have all advanced their own candidates for the plum post. The Social Democrats want current commissioner and former prime minister Vladimír Špidla to stay on. The Civic Democrats have put forward former European affairs minister Alexandr Vondra. The Greens have advanced economist Jan Švejnar, the Christian Democrats Pavel Svoboda and Communists Vladimír Remek.

Snow calamity called off

Authorities in the northern town of Jablonec Nad Nisou on Monday called off the snow calamity declared after more than half a metre of snow fell. The town was the worst hit by unexpected snowfall on Friday which caused chaos to transport and at one stage cut power supplies to around 60,000 homes. Electricity supplier ČEZ called off its state of emergency in Jablonec and nearby Liberec saying that only a few hundred homes were still without power.

Weather

Cloudy weather with showers should clear up by Tuesday and Wednesday. Maximum daytime temperatures could climb as high as 10 degrees Celsius on Thursday.

19-10-2009