A meeting between Czech President Václav Klaus and members of the European Parliament erupted in sharp dispute on Friday, with the president of the EP Hans-Gert Poettering stepping in to try and calm the situation, the news site aktuálně.cz reported. According to aktuálně, Mr Klaus was angered when questioned by Green Party MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit and wanted to cut the meeting short. Mr Cohn-Bendit is said to have asked the president about his stance on the Lisbon treaty, as well as about his ties to Declan Ganley, the head of the conservative think-tank Libertas (Mr Klaus, a euro-sceptic, met with the Irish businessman last month in the face of EU criticism). Daniel Cohn-Bendit later described Friday’s meeting at Prague Castle as “crazy” and Mr Klaus’s behaviour as “paranoid”. The president’s spokesman Jiří Weigl rejected Mr Cohn-Bendit’s account of the incident and called his actions a “provocation”.
The ruling Civic Democrats have begun a three-day conference to decide on the next party leader and set the party’s course for the coming months. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, chairman of the Civic Democrats since 2002, is being challenged by Prague Mayor Pavel Bém, highly critical of the Civic Democrats’ current direction. After receiving far higher regional backing, Mirek Topolánek is currently expected to retain the post. Unlike Mr Topolánek, who is for the continuation of the current coalition with the Christian Democrats and the Greens, Mr Bém said he would prefer a minority Civic Democrat government. Around 500 delegates will vote on Sunday to decide on the party’s next leader.
The EU Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana has expressed confidence that the upcoming Czech EU presidency will be “a big success”. He made the comment on Friday after meeting with the Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. The two discussed the role of the EU as well as the importance of a planned meeting between the heads of EU member states and incoming US president Barack Obama. The Czech Republic will hold the EU presidency when Mr Obama is sworn in. Along with relations with the US, other issues that the Czech presidency will face will include the global economic crisis as well as contributing to stability in the Balkans, where the Czechs have several hundred troops in peacekeeping missions.
The president of the European parliament Hans-Gert Poettering has revealed that Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek will address the European Parliament next month when the Czech Republic takes up the six-month EU presidency, and will be followed by Czech President Václav Klaus in February. In Prague on Thursday Mr Poettering stressed he considered Mr Topolánek - and not the Czech president - the head of the European Council. Mr Poettering also said he expected Mr Klaus would deliver a speech that would contribute to the EU’s strengthening.
Czech carmaker Škoda Auto reportedly could lay-off as many as 870 employees, the Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes has reported. The car manufacturer is facing an economic slow-down due to global financial crisis and freezing production for three weeks in December. The potential lay-offs represent some three percent of Škoda Auto’s workforce.
Czech scorers left their mark in NHL action on Thursday, racking up a number of goals in league games. Phoenix’s young center forward Martin Hanzal earned his first hat-trick to lead the Coyotes to a 6:3 win over Toronto, while David Krejčí scored the winner for Boston 3:1 over Tampa Bay. Other Czechs who scored on the night included Patrick Eliáš and Petr Sýkora in their respective games.
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.