The Austrian daily Der Standard has suggested that Czech President Václav Klaus could be a bigger threat for the future of the Lisbon treaty than the “No” vote in the recent Irish referendum. The Irish rejected the document, aimed at reforming the running of the 27-member bloc, earlier this year. Mr Klaus, a well-known euro-sceptic, has long criticised the treaty. The daily contends that the Czech president is trying to prevent the treaty by “all possible means”, taking note of the fact that the president will meet with an outspoken opponent of the document, in an upcoming visit to Ireland. Given the Czech president’s stance, a number of MEPs as well as other observers in recent weeks have questioned the Czech Republic’s ability to provide strong leadership during its six-month EU presidency. It takes up the presidency on January 1.
Austria’s stock market operator Wiener Borse has gained a 92.4 majority stake in the Prague bourse, according to a deal reached between the operator and a group of Prague Stock Exchange shareholders in October. The news was released on Friday, but the cost of the deal remains unknown. The Prague bourse is one of the biggest in central and eastern Europe and some sources earlier in the year estimated the bid at least at 200 million euros. Austria’s stock market operator, Wiener Borse also holds majority stakes in the Budapest and Ljubljana Stock Exchanges.
Negotiations on new regional governments in all 13 of the country’s regions contested in recent elections are close to completion. On Friday the Communist Party announced that it will tacitly support a minority Social Democrat regional government in central Bohemia. The decision means that Social Democrat shadow health minister David Ráth will serve as regional governor. As it stands, the Communist Party will share power with the Social Democrats in two regional governments, plus support minority governments in four others.
The Czech ambassador to Vienna, Jan Koukal, has described as “unfortunate”,“misleading”, and "immoral" a film broadcast by Austria’s ORF on Thursday, depicting a “what if” scenario of a nuclear accident at the Czech Republic’s Dukovany plant. Mr Koukal said the work was shot in a way that it “hurt Czech-Austrian relations”. The film was broadcast as part of a four-hour bloc marking the 30th anniversary of Austria’s referendum on nuclear power. Nuclear safety has long been an important issue between Austria and its neighbour. The film broadcast on Thursday is said to present a biased depiction of the Czech authorities as incapable in their response to the depicted disaster. Earlier, the Czech Embassy in Vienna rejected a claim that an embassy official had been invited to screen the material in advance.
One of the biggest fires seen in Prague in decades has been brought under control, a spokesperson for the city’s fire service said in the early hours of Friday morning. The fire spread to a large area of the Vietnamese run SAPA market in Libuše in Prague 6 after breaking out at a clothing and footwear warehouse on Wednesday night. People living in the area were told to keep their windows closed because of dangerous fumes emanating from the market. The smoke could be smelled across a large area of Prague. The cause of the fire is being investigated.
A new poll released by the CVVM agency has suggested that two-thirds of Czechs remain opposed to the planned stationing of a US radar base on Czech soil. Also, more than 70 percent of those queried said they wanted a referendum to be held on the issue. The government, headed by the Civic Democrats, led negotiations with the US leading to the signing of two treaties on the base (to be ratified in Parliament), but opposition remains, including even among some in the smaller coalition parties. The Chamber of Deputies is expected to vote on the issue next year. The US is seeking to deploy its base to the Brdy military zone, to complement 10 interceptor rockets in Poland, part of a broader defence shield pursed by the US.
Fugitive Czech businessman, Tomáš Pitr, sentenced to five years in prison for tax evasion, may be in hiding in Switzerland. The news site Novinky.cz reported the story based on apparent evidence from the Interpol office in Bern. A Prague judge reportedly confirmed that the Swiss had reason to believe Mr Pitr might be in the country. Mr Pitr is one of the Czech Republic’s wealthiest businessmen; he disappeared when he was to begin his prison time. His crime in the Czech Republic would be barred by now under Switzerland’s statute of limitations. This summer there were reports from visitors at Euro 2008, in Switzerland and Austria, claiming Mr Pitr and members of his family had been sighted at the tournament.
The Prague High Court has annulled an acquittal from earlier this year clearing Czech MEP and former TV magnate Vladimir Železný of tax evasion over a stake in the CET 21 holding company. CET 21 held TV Nova’s broadcasting licence. The defendants in the case were charged with giving false information in the tax returns for 1996. Police have estimated damages in the case at around 38 million crowns. The Prague Municipal Court will now have to open new proceedings.
Slavia Prague lost 1:0 to England’s Aston Villa in their first group stage game in football’s UEFA Cup on Thursday night. In an entertaining match, the visitors went ahead on 26 minutes after a Steve Sidwell shot took a deflection off John Carew to leave the Slavia goalkeeper Martin Vaniak stranded. Vaniak made a couple of important saves before his team mates rallied in the second half, though they were unable to convert any of a number of chances to draw level. Over 20,000 fans attended the game at Slavia’s new Eden stadium.
The Czech National Bank has surprised analysts by lowering the benchmark
interest rate by three quarters of a percentage point – far more than the
expected cut of one quarter of a percentage point. Thursday’s decision
was influenced by subsiding inflation and fears of an economic downturn in
the wake of the global financial crisis. At 2.75 percent, the Czech
Republic’s key interest rate is the lowest in the whole of the European
Union. The last time the central bank intervened so strongly was in 2002,
when it cut rates from 3.75 percent to 3 percent.
The Czech National Bank has also revised its prediction of growth in the Czech economy next year, from 3.6 percent to 2.9 percent.