A debate on when to hold a vote on ratifying the European Union’s Lisbon
treaty dominated the opening of an extraordinary session of the Chamber of
Deputies on Tuesday. While the Christian Democrats, the Greens and the
Social Democrats have called for a vote on Lisbon to be held without delay,
the Civic Democrats and the Communists would like to see the matter
postponed for a second time. Discussions on when to put ratification of the
EU’s reform treaty to a vote are set to continue on Wednesday.
Other key subjects on the agenda of the lower house session are plans to build a US radar base in central Bohemia, Czech military missions overseas and reform of the country’s health care system. The Greens have proposed that the subject of whether to allow the radar be removed from the agenda; they say before a vote takes place they want to hear the opinion of new US president Barack Obama on America’s missile defence shield project, of which the radar would be part.
The Czech deputy prime minister for European affairs, Alexandr Vondra, says Prague has not given up on the possibility of hosting an EU-US summit that would be attended by President Barack Obama. Mr Vondra described as mere speculation newspaper reports that the summit would not be held in Prague as part of the six-month Czech presidency of the European Union. The April meeting between American and European leaders may be held in Strasbourg or Brussels, according to press reports. Mr Vondra said, however, that the matter was still open. There has also been speculation that the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, may come to the Czech capital during the spring.
A Prague court has a request from a former prosecutor found guilty of the judicial killing of democratic politician Milada Horáková in a 1950s Communist show trial to have her sentence adjourned, the news website novinky.cz reported. Ludmila Brožová-Polednová, who is in her 80s and almost blind, received six years for her role in the deaths of Milada Horáková and three other people. However, she has not begun serving her sentence, citing health grounds. Prague Municipal Court judge Petr Braun said on Tuesday that prison doctors would now decide on whether she was capable of going to jail. Ms Brožová-Polednová can appeal the ruling.
The Czech crown fell sharply against the common European currency on Tuesday, ending the day at 28.50 to the euro. The crown is at its weakest point since June 2007 and has lost six percent of its value this year, Vladimír Pikora of Next Finance told the Czech News Agency. He said he expected it to fall further towards the euro in the next few days.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek says government measures to combat the financial crisis will focus on maintaining employment and making loans accessible to small and medium-sized businesses. He made the comments after a meeting of the government’s National Economic Council, a body set up to discuss ways to address the impacts of the credit crunch. Minister Kalousek said the cabinet would present proposals to fight the crisis during the Chamber of Deputies session that began on Tuesday.
The Czech MEP Miloslav Ransdorf has been stripped of his immunity by the European Parliament so he can face investigation for his part in a traffic accident in Prague. The Czech authorities asked the European Parliament’s legal committee to lift Mr Ransdorf’s immunity after he knocked a woman down at a zebra crossing in 2007. The Communist Party politician did not oppose the move.
The fugitive Czech businessman Radovan Krejčíř has been ordered to pay CZK 48 million in compensation to a company he was found guilty of defrauding. The Olomouc High Court also confirmed a previous sentence of 6.5 years in prison for swindling the company Frymis out of nearly CZK 75 million. Mr Krejčíř, who is wanted on further charges of fraud and conspiring to murder, fled the Czech Republic in 2005 after escaping from police during a search of his home. He is currently in South Africa, where local authorities have refused requests for his extradition.
The Czech ice hockey player Robert Lang will be out of action indefinitely after undergoing surgery to repair a severed Achilles tendon. Lang suffered the injury when he absorbed a hard check along the boards in a game between Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins. Lang, who is 38, has played in the NHL for 15 years and is Canadiens’ top scorer this season.
The Czech minister for minorities and human rights, Michael Kocáb, is planning to raise the issue of human rights in China at an EU-China summit to be held in Prague during the Czech presidency of the European Union. Mr Kocáb said that while Czech politicians had consistently criticized China for its poor human rights record in the past, the Czech Republic would now be speaking on behalf of the whole European Union. Michael Kocáb, who took office last month within a broader cabinet re-shuffle, also pointed out that enhanced trade between the EU and China might help alleviate the effects of the current financial crisis.
The opposition Social Democrats want a vote on the Lisbon treaty when the lower house of Parliament convenes for its next session on Tuesday. The lower house debated the reform document in December but the session was adjourned until February 3. The Social Democrats are also considering pushing for a referendum on the treaty. The party’s leader Jiří Paroubek hopes that such a move would find favour with some rebel members of the governing Civic Democrats who would help him bring down the government in a vote of no-confidence. The referendum would take place simultaneously with early elections, later this year. Mr Paroubek said he was confident Czechs would approve the Lisbon treaty if they were given a chance to vote on it. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said on Monday that he would like Parliament to ratify the treaty by the end of February. The Czech Republic, which currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the EU, is the only member of the 27-member bloc not to have voted on the EU’s reform treaty.