MEPs from the biggest party in the Czech coalition government the Civic
Democrats abstained in a vote on the Treaty of Lisbon at the European
Parliament on Wednesday. A report on the document being debated by MEPs
expressed regret that some elements of an earlier failed EU constitution
were not preserved in the Lisbon Treaty, which has replaced it. Czech MEP
Jan Zahradil, a senior Civic Democrat, said that expression of regret
the report ran counter to the Czech government’s position. However,
Social Democrat MEP Libor Rouček described the Civic Democrats’
as embarrassing, given that the party leads the Czech government, which
signed the treaty.
The Czech Republic will hold the rotating presidency of the EU in the first half of 2009, when the Treaty of Lisbon may come into effect, if it has been ratified by all member states by the end of this year.
Prague is set to see its first large military parade since the fall of communism on October 28, the 90th anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia, Mladá fronta Dnes reported. The minister of defence, Vlasta Parkanová, said she herself had been cool on the idea initially, as it brought to mind communist-era shows of strength. Minister Parkanová said, however, that a parade of elite soldiers, rescue units, police and fire fighters would remind the public of their aim, the security of the citizen.
The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, will make a two-day visit to Canada at the end of next week, the official website of his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper, announced. Both leaders are due to discuss their countries’ joint operations in Afghanistan and participation in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Mr Harper’s website said. Mr Topolánek will travel to Ottawa and Toronto after visiting Washington, where next Wednesday he will hold talks with US President George Bush.
The Christian Democrats are to raise the question of direct presidential elections with the other parties in the governing coalition, the Civic Democrats and the Greens. The party say they would like moves towards changing the constitution to allow a public vote to be made as quickly as possible. The Christian Democrats’ call comes after a recent bitterly fought parliamentary vote in which Václav Klaus was re-elected Czech president. The biggest party in the coalition the Civic Democrats are in favour of maintaining the current system. By contrast, the Greens and the Social Democrats are in favour of a direct vote, while the Communists say they could also back the change, if there were a cap on campaign spending.
Evžen Snítilý, who went against the Social Democrats’ party line and voted for Václav Klaus in last Friday’s presidential election, says he has no plans to give up his seat in the Chamber of Deputies. Mr Snítilý was immediately expelled from the party’s deputies group after signalling his intention to vote for Mr Klaus, with senior Social Democrats accusing him of corruption. He has rejected party calls for him to step down as a deputy, saying he had no reason to do so. Mr Snítilý says he remains a Social Democrat at heart; however, party leaders are reportedly worried he may join two other rebels who crossed the floor to support the governing coalition after the last elections.
A Czech Roman Catholic priest has received a suspended sentence for child sexual abuse. Zbyněk Schneider, who is 39, was also found guilty of spreading child pornography on the internet. The priest, who worked at a Catholic youth centre in Plzeň, admitted to downloading child pornography but denied disseminating it, abusing young girls and taking photographs of them.
Zdeněk Miler, the creator of the world famous cartoon character Mole (Krtek), is celebrating his 87th birthday on Wednesday. He worked as a cartoonist at the Baťa film studio in Zlín during the war, before launching his most famous creation in 1957 in a film entitled How the Mole Got His Trousers. Mr Miler made around 70 films before retiring in 2002.
The next 30 days are likely to be unseasonably warm and rather wet, meteorologists said on Wednesday. Day-time temperatures will frequently be around 10 centigrade. Dagmar Honsová of Prague’s Meteopress told the news website Novinky.cz that it really seemed as if this winter was now coming to an end.
The Czech Republic will recognise Kosovo’s independence should the majority of European states formally do so, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has said. A large majority of European states announced their intention to recognise Kosovo’s independence in Brussels on Monday, but the system for formal recognition, and the length of the process, will now vary from country to country. The Czech Foreign Minister said that he did not want to set any date for the recognition of an independent Kosovo; he said it also depended upon the way that Kosovar authorities now moved forward.
The Czech Republic plans to sign an agreement with the United States, outlining conditions for future visa-free relations between the two countries, despite EU pressure on Prague not to do so. The Czech deputy PM for European affairs, Alexandr Vondra, told journalists on Monday that Prague was not negotiating behind the EU’s back, but that simply waiting for further developments was not a way forward, in his opinion. Brussels is trying to persuade the Czech Republic to at least delay signing an accord with the US on entering into its visa-waiver programme. Some EU countries are worried that US demands within the agreement infringe data protection laws. It is feared that if the Czech Republic signs an agreement, then there will be increased pressure upon other EU members to follow suit.