The Czech Constitutional Court has ruled that the European Union’s
Lisbon treaty is in line with the Czech constitution, paving the way for
the country’s parliament to vote on ratifying the document. The court had
considered the constitutionality of the EU’s reform treaty at the request
of the Senate. The Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, welcomed
the verdict, saying it was good news for the Czechs and good news for the
whole of Europe. The zech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, said he
expected debate on the subject to continue. As for when the Czech
Parliament will vote on ratifying Lisbon, the prime minister said the date
was in the hands of parliamentary committees. Previously he had said the
vote would be held in the first three months of next year, though there
have been suggestions it could be held by the end of this year – that is,
before the Czech presidency of the EU begins on January 1. The Green Party
have called for a special session of Parliament so a vote on ratification
can be held as quickly as possible.
Meanwhile, it is possible legislators could send the Lisbon treaty to the Constitutional Court for consideration again. The court was asked to examine six articles of Lisbon and did so – it could in theory now be asked to look at other parts of the document.
Speaking after the verdict, the Czech president, Václav Klaus said he
expected some lawmakers would send the document to the Constitutional Court
again. Mr Klaus, a fierce critic of further European integration, described
the court’s ruling as to a great extent political, and not purely legal.
He also suggested the outcome had been decided before the session that
concluded on Wednesday morning.
Earlier this week Mr Klaus indicated he would not sign the Treaty of Lisbon unless it was ratified by Ireland. The Irish voted no to the document in a referendum in June and it is unclear how the country will proceed. Without the ratification of all 27 members, Lisbon cannot come into effect.
The Czech government is preparing a plan of action to be implemented if economic growth slows to below 2 percent next year, the minister of finance, Miroslav Kalousek, said on Wednesday. Speaking after a meeting of the Chamber of Deputies’ budget committee, the minister refused to reveal any details of the plan, saying he did not want to create “virtual reality”. On Tuesday the International Monetary Fund warned that GDP growth in the Czech Republic could fall below 2 percent in 2009. The European Commission’s estimate is that it will slow to 3.6 percent. The Czech economy saw record growth of over 6.5 percent in both 2006 and 2007.
The Czech Senate has held its first meeting since elections to decide on a third of its seats in October. All 27 new senators made a pledge of allegiance at the beginning of Wednesday’s session. Přemysl Sobotka of the Civic Democrats was re-elected chairman; he was the only candidate for the post. The Civic Democrats have 36 seats in the 81-seat chamber, followed by the Social Democrats with 29.
A Vietnamese stallholder has been found guilty of attempting to murder a customs officer. A court in Plzeň handed down a 12-year-sentence to Minh Chien Toa, 40, for stabbing and kicking in the face a customs officer who attempted to search his stall near Cheb in west Bohemia. The man will be expelled from the Czech Republic after serving his sentence.
The film The Class (Entre les murs), which took the top prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, closes the Prague section of the Czech Republic’s annual French film festival on Wednesday night. The screening is due to be attended by the picture’s director Laurent Cantet and three of its young stars.
Czech farmers are planning to protest in January against the low purchase price of milk, the country’s agrarian chamber said on Wednesday. Milk producers will hold demonstrations at both supermarkets and dairies, the chamber’s president Jan Veleba said, adding that they may even blockade such facilities. Mr Veleba said producing milk had become unprofitable and the current low prices could lead to the liquidation of some livestock.
Czech Post has brought out a new stamp marking the first Czech presidency of the European Union, which begins on January 1. Over a million of the 17-crown stamps are to be produced. The country’s postal service has also produced a first day cover, which like the stamp itself is based on the visual designs prepared for the presidency.
The Czech Constitutional Court has opened its hearing to determine whether
the EU’s Lisbon treaty complies with the country’s own constitution. No
decision, however, has been reached after the first day of proceedings,
with the session adjourned until Wednesday morning. The Czech Republic,
which takes over the EU’s rotating presidency on January 1 next year, is
the only member state not to have started the ratification process. On
Tuesday morning, Czech President Václav Klaus, a fierce opponent of
Lisbon, made a statement in court arguing the document is not in line with
Czech law. He urged Czechs not to push through the treaty on the basis of
what he called ‘foreign pressure and the short-term interests of several
Czech politicians’. On Monday, the Czech president suggested that he
would not sign the Lisbon treaty until it had been ratified by Ireland.
The Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra represented the government in Tuesday’s court session; he disagreed with the president, calling the Lisbon treaty an ‘acceptable document’ for Czechs. The court adjourned at around 12:00 CET, with officials saying a decision would be made on Wednesday.
The Czech Republic has not yet been hard hit by the global financial crisis, but its economy will slow next year, suggested the International Monetary Fund in a report published Monday. The IMF predicted that the Czech economy would grow by less than two percent in 2009, down sharply from the previous forecast of four percent. In 2007, the economy expanded by a record 6.6 percent. Subhash Thakur, head of the IMF’s mission in the Czech Republic, said the economy was well protected against the crisis by its solid growth in recent years, a strong currency and recent public finance reforms.