The lower house of the Czech Parliament is postponing a debate planned for
next Tuesday on ratifying the European Union’s Lisbon treaty, the
chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, Miloslav Vlček, told reporters. The
matter had already been postponed once, in December. The lower house is now
set to discuss Lisbon after meetings of its foreign affairs and
constitutional-legal committees planned for February 15.
Even if it is ratified in Parliament, the Czech president, Václav Klaus, has indicated he will not sign the EU’s reform treaty unless it is approved by Ireland; Irish voters rejected Lisbon in a referendum last June and are due to vote on it again this year.
President Václav Klaus has signed into law a new Penal Code featuring several significant changes, including reducing the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 14 and increasing sentences for serious crimes and corruption. It also classifies new crimes like stalking, certain types of drug taking in sport and animal negligence. However, the minister of justice, Jiří Pospíšil, is already planning an amendment to return the age of age of criminal responsibility to 15, at the request of the Christian Democrats, who said they would not vote for the new code otherwise.
A ceremony was held at the Czech Senate on Tuesday marking Holocaust Memorial Day. Hundreds of people who survived Nazi concentration camps attended the memorial, held on the 64th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Others in attendance were the Czech Republic’s chief rabbi Karol Sidon, the head of the Czech Roman Catholic church, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, and the new minister of human rights and minorities, Michael Kocáb.
A public memorial was held in Prague on Tuesday for the architect Jan
Kaplický, who died suddenly two weeks ago at the age of 71. Among a number
of speakers at the ceremony at the Prague Crossroads deconsecrated church
was Dagmar Havlová, wife of Václav Havel, who read a letter from the
former president to Mr Kaplický’s daughter Johanka to be read on the
girl’s 12th birthday; she was born just hours before her father’s
death. The architect’s family have organised a private funeral and have
not released any details.
Jan Kaplický, who was born in Prague and spent much of his life in London, was the founder of the innovative Future Systems design studio. He is perhaps best known for the Selfridges building in Birmingham and the media centre at the Lord’s Cricket Ground in the British capital.
President Václav Klaus has discussed plans for Pope Benedict XIV’s visit to the Czech Republic later this year with the country’s papal nuncio, Diego Causero. The pontiff is expected to spend three days in the Czech Republic in the latter part of September, though no official dates have yet been released. Leaders of the Czech Roman Catholic church have proposed that Pope Benedict begin his visit on September 27, meaning he would be in the country for St Wenceslas’s day, which is September 28. His predecessor Pope John Paul II came to the Czech Republic three times.
A former hospital worker found guilty of killing seven patients is also responsible for three other murders and one attempted murder, a spokesperson for the police told the news website novinky.cz. However, Petr Zelenka, who administered lethal doses of the drug heparin to patients at a hospital in Havlíčkův Brod, will not face more charges, as he is already serving a life sentence in prison.
Europe’s biggest maker of pianos, Petrof in Hradec Kralové, has laid off 82 workers. At the start of this month the company said it was planning to make half of its staff of nearly 400 redundant, due to the impacts of the global financial crisis. Petrof, which began producing pianos in the 1860s, exports 95 percent of its output.
The ice hockey star Jaromír Jágr is in the Czech Republic’s squad for the Swedish Games, part of the four-nation Euro Hockey Tour. Czech coach Vladimír Růžička said Jágr’s availability was excellent news as it gave his team a greater chance of winning their first event on the tour this season. The Omsk forward’s first international tournament since 2006 is also good news for Czech hockey officials, who can expect a considerably bigger gate for a game against Finland at Prague’s O2 Arena next Thursday.
The Czech government has announced measures to cope with the impact of the global financial crisis on the Czech economy. Speaking after a late night session with members of the National Economic Council, a group of leading economic experts who are to advise the cabinet in crisis management, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said the government’s crisis plan would be aimed at creating new job opportunities as well as boosting investment in research, education and infrastructure. The finance minister said the plan would include both legislative and executive measures and would almost double the country’s budget deficit. Revised figures forsee a growth of only 1.4 percent in 2009, down from the 5 percent predicted earlier.
In connection with the crisis, the Czech Interior Ministry has drafted a plan to help send foreigners who have lost their jobs back to their home country. The ministry says it is willing to cover their travel expenses and give them an additional 500 euros for a voluntary return since it fears that if left to fend for themselves 15 percent would be sucked into the underworld and 80 percent would find work on the black market. The first to have been affected by the crisis are Vietnamese and Mongolian workers. The ministry’s proposal reckons with the departure of about 2,000 foreign workers and if approved by the government would require 55 million crowns of state funds.