Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has said that Ireland's apparent rejection of the EU reform treaty, while a complication for the European Union, will not threaten the standard functioning of the 27-member bloc. The Czech leader stressed that the final results and further steps would need to be discussed at the European Council meeting in Brussels. EU leaders meet next week. The prime minister also stressed the “No” vote needed to be taken no less seriously than the rejection of the original EU constitution, turned down by French and Dutch voters in 2005. He did make clear at a press onference on Friday that the Czech Republic would continue preparing for its EU presidency as planned for January 1 next year. The Lisbon Treaty was meant to reform the functioning of the EU, introducing a long-term president of the European Council as well as a stronger foreign policy head. To be adopted the treaty needed to be ratified in all 27 EU states.
The lower house has established a commission with the aim of helping to prepare a draft property settlement between the Church and state. The results are to be presented by the end of the year. The lower house moved to establish the commission after the government proved unable to push through its own property settlement recently. That legislation was blocked by the opposition as well as three rebel coalition MPs including the Civic Democrats’ Vlastimil Tlustý. They have argued the government used incorrect data in calculating the compensation sum of 83 billion crowns. The prime minister disagreed but backed formation of the commission. The body is to have a total of 12 members across the political spectrum (four from the opposition Social Democrats, four from the ruling Civic Democrats, two from the Communist Party, while coalition members the Christian Democrats and Greens will have one each).
A special session planned in the lower house on Friday was blocked by a majority of MPs. The opposition Social Democrats and Communist Party were aiming to debate the state of the Czech judiciary in connection with steps taken by officials including the supreme state attorney in a high profile corruption case. Most members of the ruling coalition were against, arguing such a session would interfere with the judiciary’s independence. The vote came up short seeing support from 98 out of 199 deputies present. Two coalition MPs - Věra Jakubková and Olga Zubová of the Green Party – did vote in favour.
Czech dailies Lidové noviny and Mladá fronta Dnes have reported that sixty percent of roads in the Czech Republic are high-risk, based on statistics on traffic accidents between the years 2003-2005. The project, part of the European Road Assessment Programme, takes the form of a map highlighting traffic density as well as accident frequency in areas. Most high-risk routes are primary roads. Multi-lane routes, meanwhile, have been assessed as the safest. Statistically, some of the most dangerous routes in the country include a road connecting Prague with nearby Kladno, as well as a route from Prague to Mělník, north of the capital. The map did not focus on the situation in the capital city.
Several thousand employees at three state hospitals in Brno, Moravia, are to join a strike planned for late June. The manner of joining the strike is still being negotiated, but workers at one of the facilities will cease work for one hour on the day – that is on June 24th. Workers are protesting conditions in the health sector, including reforms planned by the health ministry. One of the hospitals is fighting for its survival, expected to be closed under current plans. Regional hospitals in the area, meanwhile, will reportedly not be taking part in the strike.
Czech doctors, in an extraordinary operation at the Vinohrady hospital this week, managed to save the mangled leg of a patient who had suffered a car crash. Doctors managed to save the 31-year-old patient’s foot after it was practically severed at the ankle, through extensive reconstructive surgery. Specialists were able to reconnect severed veins, arteries and nerves. Afterwards one of the surgeons said such operations are “once in a decade”. The patient is now in recovery.
The Czech crown hit a new record high of 24.13 crowns to the euro on Friday as it continued in recent strengthening against Europe's single currency. After gaining 0.10 crowns against the euro, the currency weakened to around 24.20 in later trading. The strengthening crown has placed the Czech National Bank in a difficult position over whether it should raise interest rates in a bid to curb ongoing inflationary pressure. While a rate increase could help it counter prices rises, it would also fuel the crown's appreciation, which the bank has already described as exaggerated, and brake economic growth.
A representative at the Czech foreign ministry has revealed that some 17 Czech police officers, fluent in Serbo-Croatian, will serve on the Croatian coast between the end of June and the beginning of September. They will be there to assist Czech tourists as well as to ease communication with local authorities. Croatia remains the top summer destination for many Czech vacationers: this year there are estimates that more than 1 million Czechs will visit, up from more than 700,000 last year.
The Czech Republic has booked a slot at the Beijing Olympics with quarter-final victories in the women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Madrid. The Czechs had to overturn a 10-point deficit early on before defeating Japan 76-64. Forward Eva Vítečková and shooting guard Hana Machová led the way with 26 and 19 points respectively.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has staked his political future on the Czech Parliament approving plans for a US radar base in the Czech Republic. Mr Schwarzenberg said that if the government failed to push a bilateral agreement on the base through Parliament in the coming months, then he would step aside to let a “better” foreign minister succeed where he had failed. In an interview with Reuters news agency, Mr Schwarzenberg said he was not sure of the government’s chances of success with the radar base treaty since the majority of the population is against the base and a large number of MPs are strongly opposed.