A report by US authorities says that Czech border areas have the highest concentration and largest number of outdoor markets selling pirated goods in the world. In its annual report the Office of the US Trade Representative has placed the Czech Republic on a watch list of 46 countries violating intellectual property rights. US authorities are concerned with pirated and counterfeit goods sold in retail markets on the border between the Czech Republic and Germany and Austria; some of these markets are reportedly located on government-owned property. Czech customs officials said on Wednesday that the report was one of the reasons behind a raid by hundreds of police and customs officers on the largest Vietnamese marketplace in Prague, which took place in late November.
The European Court of Justice criticized the Czech Republic on Thursday for the absence of gender equality laws. The court concluded that the Czech Republic had failed to incorporate EU rules on gender equality into its own legislature. The Court will now send the issue back to the European Commission, which filed the lawsuit against the Czech Republic. If the country fails to adopt the laws, the procedure will begin anew and might result in heavy fines. A gender equality act was approved by the Czech Parliament in March of this year but was vetoed by President Klaus.
The Czech Republic has become one of the first countries to join an international ban on the use of cluster ammunition. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg signed the treaty in the Norwegian capital of Oslo on Wednesday. The document will enter into force six months after it has been signed by the first 30 countries. Major producers of cluster ammunition, including the United States, China, Russia and India, have however refused to join the ban. The Czech Army discarded its Soviet-made cluster bombs in the 1990s.
The head of the Czech Union of Judges, Tomáš Lichovník, admitted on Thursday that Czech justice system had room for corruption. Speaking at a conference held by Transparency International Czech Republic, Mr Lichovník said the problem lay in the fact that court proceedings were not swift; the conflicting sides may therefore attempt to influence the judge to give their case a priority, or to deliberately postpone it. The head of the Union of Judges said however that corruption did not affect the actual deliberation process.
The Czech Transport Ministry is set to take over several buildings and plots of land in the German port of Hamburg, the daily Právo reported on Thursday. The property, which once belonged to a bankrupt Czech shipping company, was disputed at Czech and German courts; last week the Czech state reached an agreement with the company’s bankruptcy trustee which paved the way for the takeover. The disputed facilities were rented out to Czechoslovakia after WWI; the lease will expire in 2027. The ministry has yet to decide on the use of the property.
A growing number of Czechs believe the Czech Republic will handle the upcoming EU presidency well, a poll by the CVVM agency revealed on Thursday. While a month ago, 49 percent of Czechs believed that their administration was up to the job, the number has now risen to 55 percent. However, only around one third of Czechs say they are interested in the Czech EU presidency.
Regional governors oppose a plan by the Czech health ministry to reduce the number of the country’s trauma centres from 14 to 10. The newly elected head of the Regional Governors’ Association, Michal Hašek, has asked the health minister to meet with the governors and explain the plan to them. Heath Minister Tomáš Julínek came up with a new scheme that seeks to re-organize Czech traumatological care; under the new plan, trauma centres in Prague, Brno, Pardubice and Zlín should become regular hospitals.
The Škoda car maker is going to start serial production of its new Yeti SUV in May next year, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Thursday. The new Yeti model will be officially launched at the motor show in Geneva, Switzerland in March. A Škoda spokesperson said the current crisis on the automobile market had not affected the plant’s production plans.
The leader of the opposition Social Democrats says the government cannot
rely on their support during the Czech Republic’s EU presidency unless
the process of ratifying the European Union’s Lisbon treaty begins before
the end of the year. Jiří Paroubek issued the warning just two days
before a much-anticipated conference of the governing Civic Democrats,
where Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek will defend his post as party
chairman. Mr Topolánek, who is a supporter of Lisbon, said earlier this
week that there would be no attempt to make Civic Democrat lawmakers pledge
to back the treaty at the conference, which begins in Prague on Friday.
Mr Paroubek’s Social Democrats have called a special session of the Chamber of Deputies to debate ratification of the EU’s reform document next Tuesday. The prime minister says, however, he will not be pushed into voting on that date. He had previously said a vote could be held in the first three months of 2009: that is, after the Czech Republic’s first six-month presidency of the EU has begun.
Mirek Topolánek’s challenger for the leadership of the Civic Democrats, Pavel Bém, is opposed to Lisbon. He is expected to bring up a previous party resolution pledging not to hand any powers over to Brussels during this weekend’s congress. Mr Bém is close to Czech President Vaclav Klaus, one of Europe’s most vocal opponents of the Treaty of Lisbon. Even if the Czech Parliament approves it, Mr Klaus has indicated he will not sign the document until it has been ratified by Ireland, where voters rejected the document in a referendum in June.
Ahead of this weekend’s vote for the post of chairman of the Civic Democrats, Prime Minister Topolánek is some way ahead of Pavel Bém in terms of pledged support from regional branches. Mr Bém, who is the mayor of Prague, currently occupies the post of first deputy chairman of the party. He launched a challenge against Mr Topolánek in the wake of a drubbing for the party in Senate and regional elections in October.
Meanwhile, Pavel Bém has released a humorous video ahead of the leadership vote. It is based on a popular TV advertisement starring the comedian Petr Čtvrtníček, who himself appears in and directed Mr Bém’s video.