The Constitutional Court is to announce its verdict on whether the Lisbon
treaty is in line with the Czech constitution two weeks later than
originally planned, at the request of President Václav Klaus. The court
had been due to deliver its ruling on November 10, but will now do so on
November 25. Mr Klaus, a fierce critic of the treaty, will be abroad in
November; he said he wanted to be in the country when the judgment is
announced, so he can take part in the public debate on the matter. The
Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, said recently he hoped the Czech
Parliament would vote on Lisbon by the end of the year.
The Czech Republic, which takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union in January, is one of the few EU states not to have ratified the reform treaty. However, the document’s whole future has been in doubt since it was rejected by voters in Ireland in June.
Mirek Topolánek has said he will decide in the next few days whether to
defend his position as leader of the Civic Democrats at a party congress
December. Mr Topolánek has come under strong pressure since the party did
poorly in recent regional and Senate elections. The prime minister told
Czech Television it was more likely he would stand, adding that he would
make his decision after seeing if any candidate he approves of comes
forward in the near future. So far the only person standing for the post
a vocal critic of Mr Topolánek’s, Prague Mayor Pavel Bém.
A survey of regional Civic Democrat functionaries carried out by the newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes suggests Mr Topolánek has considerably less support than either Mr Bém or Evžen Tošenovský, one of the 12 Civic Democrat governors who lost their posts in the recent elections. Mr Tošenovský has not declared his candidacy, but there is speculation he will stand.
On Thursday Civic Democrat MP Oldřich Vojíř said he would take part in the leadership battle if Mr Topolánek, with whom he identifies with politically, does not.
Meanwhile, a close associate of Mr Bém’s, Petr Bendl, has announced he will run for first deputy chairman of the Civic Democrats, a post currently occupied by the Prague mayor.
The Bohemian National Hall in New York is being officially opened on Thursday evening. The hall was built by Czech immigrants on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in the late 19th century and served as an important social centre for many decades. However, it fell into disrepair and was sold to the Czech state for the token price of one dollar in 2001. Since then the Czech Republic has funded an extensive reconstruction of the impressive five-storey building, which will now house the Czech Center and other Czech institutions in New York.
The Czech Medical Chamber has issued new rules on what doctors are allowed to accept from pharmaceutical firms. The regulations are intended to make relations between doctors and drugs manufacturers more transparent and to limit corrupt practices. From now on doctors are barred from receiving advantages for prescribing certain medicines and cannot accept unjustified hospitality. Medics will not be allowed to travel to any conference held at an immoderately long distance from the Czech Republic, and free accommodation at conferences must not exceed the dates of the events in question. Failure to uphold the new rules could result in a fine or a five-year suspension from the Czech Medical Chamber.
Prime Minister Topolánek has accepted an invitation to hold a working lunch with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, in Paris on Friday, the news website novinky.cz reported. The two leaders are due to discuss the rotating presidency of the EU, the global financial crisis and the Lisbon treaty. There has been speculation that France would like to extend its EU presidency, thus depriving Prague of its first turn in the president’s chair. However, Czech officials have dismissed the idea, saying EU rules are EU rules. Suggestions France could play a leading role in an informal eurozone group within the EU have also been questioned by the Czech government; the Czech deputy prime minister for European Affairs, Alexander Vondra, said such a development would divide the bloc rather than unifying it. The Czech Republic has not adopted the common European currency.
The price of shares on the Prague Stock Exchange has risen sharply for the second day in a row. While on Wednesday values on the Prague bourse rose by 13.6 percent, the biggest single day’s growth in almost 15 years, on Thursday share prices rose by 9.17 percent, which was the second biggest increase in Europe after Russia.
Car makers in the Czech Republic will lay off around 10,000 people at the
end of this year and the start of 2009, the director of the country’s
automobile industry association said on Thursday. Speaking at a conference
in Brno, Antonín Šípek also said the international financial crisis
meant around 20,000 fewer cars would roll off production lines in the
Republic. Companies supplying car makers are also expected to be hit by
economic downturn. Around 120,000 Czechs are employed in the automobile
industry, which has been one of the main motors of the country’s economy
in recent years.
The newest car plant in the country, a Hyundai factory in Nošovice, north Moravia, is to go into operation on November 3. A company spokesperson said Hyundai expected to receive a permit it needs to produce automobiles by Monday.
The Finance Ministry has reduced its expectation of GDP growth in 2009. Its analysts now predict the Czech economy will grow by 3.7 percent next year, down from the 4.8 they forecast in July, prior to the international credit and banking crisis. The draft budget for 2009 was drawn up on the basis of the July estimate. The ministry has revised its GDP forecast for this year from 4.6 percent to 4.4 percent. 2007 saw record Czech GDP growth of 6.6 percent.
A man died in Bruzovice, north Moravia on Thursday morning when strong winds caused part of the roof of a factory in the town to collapse. Gales and heavy rain on Wednesday night and Thursday saw rescue workers called out numerous times. Fallen trees delayed trains and blocked roads, while some households were without power.
Two men died when a steel silo of chemical fertiliser collapsed near Český Krumlov in south Bohemia on Thursday. Four employees were filling the silo when part of it gave way; only two of them managed to escape before the whole structure came crashing down. A special team has mounted a clean-up of the nitrogen fertiliser which spread over the surrounding area, including an adjacent road.