Most EU leaders certainly hoped it wouldn’t come to this: a failure by a single country to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon, the third rejection of proposed reforms to the European Union in three years. Once again, the EU faces renewed crisis with unanswered questions over how – and how effectively – the bloc will function in the future. But while acknowledging the set-back, most EU representatives still want the ratification process to go ahead. By contrast, long-term critics such as Czech President Václav Klaus have already declared the treaty, like
Whoever in the Irish government thought of holding a referendum on Friday the 13th might now be regretting it. Unofficial vote tallies from the popular vote on the Lisbon Treaty suggest the Irish people have said ‘No’ to the European Union’s plans for institutional reform. The collapse of Lisbon would have far-reaching consequences not only for the Union itself but also for the Czech Republic, which is due to take over the reins of the EU on January 1st 2009, the day the new rules were supposed to come into force.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that his U.S. counterpart Condoleezza Rice would visit the Czech Republic in early July to sign a treaty – or treaties – on the planned deployment of a U.S. radar base on Czech soil. But in an interview for the Reuters news agency, Mr Schwarzenberg admitted he wasn’t sure ratification would get through the Czech parliament before George W. Bush leaves office. He also said he would offer his resignation if the proposal was defeated by MPs.
Plans to build a US radar base in the Czech Republic have been in the news lately, after a protest hunger strike undertaken by two members of a group called No to Bases. Jan Tamáš and Jan Bednář, who started eating solid food again on Monday, are now being replaced by various public figures on short symbolic fasts. Their influence has also spread outside the Czech Republic, inspiring Bruce Gagnon, an activist with the US-based Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space; Mr Gagnon has not eaten for a week and a half – on the phone
The favoured Czech holiday destination par excellence is Croatia – with its miles of sandy beaches, beautiful coastal towns and exquisite Mediterranean cuisine. Well, actually, not many Czechs go for the cuisine - in fact a huge number of Czech tourists bring their own food with them. That obsessive self-catering seems to have irritated the Croatian authorities to such an extent that they’ve now banned tourists from bringing in meat and dairy products, to the fury of thrifty Czech visitors.
At midnight on Monday, protesters Jan Tamáš and Jan Bednář will suspend their three week hunger strike over the government’s plans to allow a US anti-missile radar base into the country. Their cause has received international publicity and sparked controversy in Prague where some politicians have called them blackmailers, while others have offered to take up their cause. On Monday Dominik Jůn caught up with a clearly malnourished Jan Tamáš to find out how he felt and whether the protest had had the desired result.
The Czech Republic has become the 20th country of the European Union to recognize independent Kosovo. When the decision was announced last week, it was criticized by some Czech politicians who claimed the government of the former Serbian province has not yet fully shown its commitment to upholding democratic principles and protecting Kosovo’s religious and ethnic minorities. Radio Prague asked the head of the Czech Liaison Office in Pristina Janina Hřebíčková what the situation in Kosovo was like at the moment.
The Czech Republic inches ever closer to January 1st, 2009, when – for the first time – it will take the helm of the European Union. The agenda for the EU presidency over the next eighteen months will be shared between France, the Czech Republic and Sweden, and the deputy minister for European affairs Alexandr Vondra is hosting his French and Swedish colleagues this week to put the finishing touches to a 70-page document setting out EU policy.
The Czech government is working on a proposal that will give Poland back the land it was stripped of in the 1950s, at the order of the Soviet leadership. While the territory to be returned to the Czech Republic’s northern neighbour is very small and Polish claims are not disputed, some mayors that will be affected by the settlement hope their own interests will also be taken into account.
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