The Czech EU presidency has called a special summit to address the danger of protectionism in Europe. Speaking at a meeting of finance ministers in Brussels on Tuesday, the Czech finance minister, Miroslav Kalousek, said protectionism presented the biggest risk for Europe in the present day and said it was vital to improve coordination in crisis management within the EU. The planned summit is to take place before the end of the month and its main goal is to examine various aspects of the EU recovery plan and assess its efficiency. The move comes in the midst of a row between France and other member states over proposed protectionist measures.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has indicated that Washington would be prepared to revise its missile defense plans if it did not have to counter a growing missile threat from Iran. During talks with Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg in Washington on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton said that unless Iran changed its position, the US would have no choice but to push ahead with its missile defense plans. She said that plans to station elements of the US missile defense shield in the Czech Republic and Poland remained on track but admitted they could be delayed as a result of the global crisis. The Czech foreign minister said earlier that Prague would understand and accept the need for a postponement for economic reasons. Although the respective agreements on the siting of a US tracking radar in the Czech Republic have been signed, the project still needs to win approval in the Czech Parliament.
The Czech Senate has postponed a debate on the Lisbon treaty until April on the recommendation of its foreign affairs committee. The committee recommended that debate on the treaty be adjourned until the adoption of a mandate that would secure that not only the government but both houses of Parliament would have to approve any future transfers of power to Brussels. The lower house of Parliament has also twice postponed the treaty’s ratification and is due to re-open debate on it next Tuesday. Although the Czech Republic now presides over the European Union it is the only member state which has yet to vote on the Lisbon treaty.
Czech President Václav Klaus has set the date for the 2009 European parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic. They will take place on June 5 and 6. Political parties and movements must submit their lists of candidates by March 31, that is 66 days ahead of the elections. This year Czechs will not elect 24 MEPs but only 22 since the number of seats in the EP decreased from 785 to 736 after the EU enlargement in 2007.The European Parliament has set the election date for June 4-7, giving member countries room to decide exactly when they will hold the vote.
The Czech authorities are expecting the arrival of 16 Burmese refugees from Malaysia who will be granted asylum in the Czech Republic within a state-funded resettlement programme. The families fled to Malaysia after facing severe persecution in their homeland but their future there was uncertain since the country is struggling to deal with thousands of refugees. Last October the Czech government joined countries such as Canada, Denmark and Holland in helping to alleviate the problem, taking in 23 Burmese asylum seekers. The Czech authorities have organized similar projects for expatriates from countries of the former Soviet Union. Last year the Czech Republic took in a group of Cuban refugees.
The lower house of Parliament will hold an extraordinary session next Tuesday to discuss a programme of state bonds in aid of Latvia's economy, The Czech Republic is to lend Latvia 200 million euros to help it weather the economic crisis. The seven-year interest-free loan is to be financed by state bonds. Latvia has asked the EU for aid to the tune of 7.5 billion euros. Individual member states are to provide 3.1 billion euros, the rest will come from the International Monetary Fund. According to figures published by the European Commission Latvia's economy will decline by 6.9 percent, the steepest drop in the EU.
Mošnov international airport in Ostrava was closed down for security reasons early on Tuesday after a suspicious looking object was found on the premises. The find was reported at 5am on Tuesday in the airport’s main lounge and the entire premises were evacuated. Experts later ascertained that the aluminum package was harmless. A number of flights were delayed as a result of the security operation. Police are investigating the incident.
A civil servant at the Kladno town hall has been handed a three year suspended sentence for assisting feigned marriages. In the course of 2004 and 2005 the woman helped 50 Vietnamese nationals gain permanent residence in the Czech Republic through feigned marriages. In 2007 Parliament approved a tighter foreigners’ law under which all mixed marriages are subjected to close scrutiny.
Prime minister Mirek Topolánek has said that French President Nicolas
Sarkozy’s proposal to ‘re-localise’ French carmakers’ foreign units
is a threat to the ratification of the EU’s Lisbon treaty. In an
interview with Hospodářské noviny on Monday, Mr Topolánek called
President Sarkozy’s words ‘incredible’ and said that they put Czech
ratification of the EU reform document in jeopardy. The Czech Republic,
which holds the rotating EU presidency, is home to a joint venture between
France’s PSA Peugeot Citroen and Toyota, which produced some 324,000 cars
in 2008. It is also the only EU member state still to vote on the
ratification of the Lisbon treaty. The lower house has postponed a debate
on the treaty until February 17 at the earliest.
On Monday, French newspaper Le Monde reported that President Nicolas Sarkozy took back his comments about re-localising the French car industry, under pressure from Czech PM Mirek Topolánek. Mr Sarkozy’s suggestion that PSA Peugeot Citroen should focus on its French operations and not its plant in Kolín, Central Bohemia, also angered the Czech Chamber of Commerce, with its head Petr Kužel saying the move threatened the free market.
In the same interview with Hospodářské noviny, Mr Topolánek said that his cabinet was counting upon economic growth falling by up to two percent in 2009. The prime minister said that he was drawing up proposals with a group of financial experts to counter this fall in growth, and that these proposals would be unveiled on February 18. On Sunday, the governor of the Czech National Bank, Zdeněk Tůma also predicted a sharp downturn in the Czech economy this year. He predicted that the economy could be hit by up to 0.3 percent negative growth in 2009.
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