The Czech Senate on Thursday asked the Constitutional Court to examine whether the Lisbon Treaty is in harmony with the Czech constitutional order. The proposal was initiated by the ruling Civic Democratic Party, which has a majority in the Senate, and approved by 48 of 70 senators present. Senators for the opposition Social Democratic party tried in vain to have the treaty ratified without further delay. Critics from the opposition claim that the Civic Democrats are intentionally trying to delay the treaty’s ratification in view of the country’s upcoming EU presidency. The Lisbon Treaty would fundamentally alter the way the EU is run, reducing the influence of the presiding country. The Czech Republic is to take up the rotating EU presidency in 2009.
The police have arrested a man suspected of having stolen over 300 bronze name plates from the Terezín national cemetery. The plates bearing the names of wartime victims were ripped off gravestones sometime last week and were later found to have been sold as scrap metal. The incident has aroused widespread condemnation since the cemetery in Terezín, north of Prague, is a national memorial site. Terezín served as a ghetto for Czech and European Jews and housed a Gestapo-run prison during the Second World War.
Four Central and East European NATO members – the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia - on Wednesday backed bids by Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO, taking a clear stand on an issue that has divided the alliance and angered Russia. Germany, France and several other NATO members say neither Georgia nor Ukraine are ready to join. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow might re-direct its missiles at Ukraine if it were to join NATO.
Two American physicists, who are missile defense critics, have dismissed as near-useless a US radar system that Washington wants to site in the Czech Republic. George Lewis of Cornell University and Theodore Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology claim that the Raytheon radar system has such limited range that it couldn’t possibly play any useful role in European missile defense. The physicists published their claims in the May/June Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, asserting that Washington had “oversold” the radar, possibly to commit the US to a course that would later be hard to reverse. Meanwhile, Richard Lehner, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, dismissed their criticism as unfounded, saying the radar had more than enough power for its defense role.
Czechs could catch up with West European levels of prosperity within a decade if strong economic growth continues, the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) said in a report assessing the country’s progress on Thursday. Assuming real GDP-per capita growth of 2.0 percent in the euro area and 5.0 percent in the Czech Republic, the gap could close within a decade," the report said. Czech gross domestic product per person is currently about 75 percent of the euro-zone based on a comparison of the goods and services that can be purchased locally.
The town of Přibyslav in the Czech-Moravian highlands on Wednesday turned down an Australian mining company’s call that it be allowed to launch exploration for reserves of uranium in return for a cash windfall. The company offered 800,000 crowns a year (46,000 US dollars) while exploration work was underway and 1.6 million crowns a year once commercial mining commenced. Uranium prices have soared in recent years due to a resurgence in nuclear power sparked by fears of fossil-fuel driven climate change.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the most popular foreign statesman in the Czech Republic, according to a poll conducted by the polling agency STEM. Angela Merkel is followed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico. On the other hand, presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin often evoke strong negative emotions. They are disliked by 56 and 65 percent of Czechs respectively.
The Czech Republic’s injured captain Tomáš Rosický has announced an improvement to the knee problem which has cast a major doubt over his Euro 2008 participation. The Arsenal midfield star said on his website that the painful inflammation of his knee had receded but he still had to undergo rehabilitation. Rosický said he could assess his chances of full recovery better when he started training.
The Czech Republic has been given a wild card entry to become the eighth team to take part in the World Team Cup in Dusseldorf from May 18-24. The Czech Republic will be represented by Tomáš Berdych and Jiří Vaněk and will be joined by the United States, Spain, Russia, Argentina, Germany, Italy and Sweden who qualified automatically under ATP rules. The 2007 event was won by Argentina, who beat the Czech Republic in the final.
The Czech Constitutional Court has overturned a crucial component of the government’s healthcare reforms, ruling that unpaid sick leave must be abolished. As a result of recent government reforms, employees, rather than receiving the previous 40% of pay for the first three days away from work, received nothing. The government argued that the change was designed to reduce relatively high levels of illness-related leave taken by Czechs. However, in its ruling, the court found that the changed legislation was unconstitutional in that it failed to guarantee an employee’s right to security in times of illness. The court has declared that by June 30, the law must be reversed. This ruling comes as a part of a wider courtroom showdown in which the opposition Social Democrats have challenged the constitutional legality of many of the proposed reforms undertaken by the government such as fees for doctor’s visits.