Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said the Czech Republic would not
support further ratifications of the Lisbon Treaty. Mr Schwarzenberg told
the Austrian daily Der Standard on Thursday that if the EU summit in
Brussels comes up with such a proposal, the Czech Republic will not support
it. The Czech foreign minister also said that it was very important for all
EU institutions to “resist the temptation” and not pressure countries
which have not yet ratified the Lisbon Treaty. Mr Schwarzenberg is
attending an EU summit looking at ways out of the crisis caused by
Ireland’s rejection of the reform document.
The Czech Republic is one of five EU countries which have not yet began the Lisbon Treaty ratification process. The Constitutional Court is due to rule after the summer on whether the document is in line with the Czech constitution.
Health Minister Tomáš Julínek has decided to divide his health care reform package into several parts that will go to Parliament separately. The Czech Parliament will first vote on drafts on patient and emergency services that might come into force in January 2009. More controversial bills on health insurance and university hospitals, which have been heavily criticized by the opposition and some government MPs, will come later. Minister Julínek also said he wanted to hold further talks with the opposition and professional organisations over the controversial parts of the government’s health care reform.
Some Czech shops have been selling rice with illegal genetic modification, a spokesman for the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection authority told journalists on Thursday. The rice was packed by a Czech company but it came from an Italian producer that didn’t declare the foodstuff as genetically modified. The importer now has to withdraw nearly 38,000 packs of the GM rice from the Czech market.
The Czech Army will begin testing Pandur armoured personnel carriers. Test of the Austrian made vehicles will start at an army base in Šternberk, Moravia, on Tuesday, and will take several weeks. The Defence Ministry will also start negotiating a new contract with the Austrian arms producer for the purchase of 107 Pandur APCs. In one of the biggest army deals in history, the Czech Army originally wanted to buy almost 200 of the armoured vehicles. The government abrogated the initial contract last year because the Austrian manufacturer did not manage to supply the APCs in time.
Town Hall in Mělník, 30 km north of Prague, is interested in acquiring a monumental statue of Jan Palach which had earlier been rejected by the government. The statue was made by Paris-based Hungarian artist András Beck in 1969 after the student Jan Palach burnt himself to death in Prague to protest against the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops. Jan Palach, a native of central Bohemia, went to secondary school in Mělník.
Czech opera singer Eva Urbanová in the title role of Libuše by Bedřich Smetana opened the 50th year of Smetana’s Litomyšl International Opera Festival in Litomyšl, eastern Bohemia on Wednesday night. The performance took place in the courtyard of the Litomyšl chateau, where the composer Bedřich Smetana was born in 1824. The opera festival will continue until July 5.
The Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair will launch flights between Prague and Nottingham by the end of October, company representatives told journalist in Prague on Thursday. Ryanair hopes to annually transport 60,000 passengers between the two cities; tickets for the new flight should sell at 669 crowns, or just over 40 U.S. dollars, including taxes.
A court in Brno has continued hearing a complex case of child abuse which has shocked the Czech Republic. One of the victims in the case, Ondřej has given testimony, stating that he was often caged and beaten with a bamboo pole by his mother. Barbora Škrlová, one of five defendants in the case has given tearful testimony alleging that she was sexually abused, while also admitting her involvement in physical abuse against the young boy and his ten year old brother Jakub from the town of Kuřim. The abuse came to light last year after a neighbour picked up a signal from a child minding video device in the flat of Klára Mauerová; it showed that one of her sons, aged seven, was being kept naked in appalling conditions in a cupboard. It is also suspected that several other defendants took part in the abuse of the children. In the wake of that discovery, it emerged that Ms Mauerová had tried to adopt 33-year-old Barbora Škrlová in the guise of a 12-year-old girl. The alleged abusers have been linked to a sect headed by Barbora Škrlová’s father; her brother is among the accused. On Tuesday Klára Mauerová admitted to mistreating her children, saying she had been manipulated by her sister Kateřina and Barbora Škrlová into taking what she called a harsh approach to child-rearing.
Representatives from various Czech trade and labour unions have announced that they will undertake the largest demonstrations since 1990. The protests, planned for 24th June, are taking place to oppose government reform plans. The Czecho-moravian Association of Trade Unions which is leading the protests believes that planned government reforms in the fields of health, education and other arenas will damage the social and economic stability of the country. Prime Minister Topolánek has accused the trade unions of having close ties with the opposition Social Democrats.