The Chamber of Deputies is expected to vote on ratifying the European
Union’s Lisbon treaty on Tuesday evening. The Czech News Agency reported
that most of the parties in the lower house were in favour of holding a
vote, after a debate on the matter was postponed twice, once in December
and once two weeks ago. It is expected some euro-sceptic MPs from the
ruling Civic Democrats will not vote in favour, along with the Communists,
who are pushing for a referendum. The Senate is due to vote on Lisbon
ratification in April.
Even if both houses of Parliament back the ratification of the Lisbon treaty, the Czech president, Václav Klaus, has indicated he will not sign the document 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.
Prague’s High Court has ordered Miroslav Macek to pay David Rath CZK 100,000 in damages for slapping Mr Rath on the back of the head on stage at a medical conference in 2006. Mr Macek, a former Civic Democrat politician, had previously been ordered to publicly apologise to Mr Rath, a Social Democrat MP and the governor of Central Bohemia. Tuesday’s verdict cannot be appealed. The incident, which was followed by a short scuffle, was seen on video by many people around the world; it was the culmination of a spat between the two that started when Mr Rath publicly accused Mr Macek of marrying for money.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, has described the government’s new
fiscal stimulus package as rational and adequate. However, in a statement
conveyed by a spokesperson, the president said no rescue package could
protect the Czech Republic from the impacts of a global recession. Mr
Klaus, an economist by profession, said the plan was strong on the supply
side of the economy and did not threaten the stability of the public
finances. He said it would be good if further measures were added,
including de-regulation in the business sector.
The government approved the stimulus package on Monday. It must now go before the Chamber of Deputies, where the coalition does not enjoy a secure majority.
The power giant ČEZ will charge households and firms at least 6 percent less for electricity in 2010, Mladá fronta Dnes reported. That would represent the biggest drop in 20 years. However, ČEZ could reduce prices by up to 13 percent, if wholesale energy prices continue to fall, the newspaper said. The company is set to launch an advertising campaign entitled ČEZ against the Crisis and For Helping the Czech Economy.
The Czech Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Jan Winkler, died suddenly on Monday, aged 51. A spokesperson for the Czech Foreign Ministry said that the Czech Republic had lost one of its most capable diplomats. Mr Winkler died of natural causes. The Foreign Ministry said that it had already sent a letter of condolence to his family. Mr Winkler became Czech Ambassador to Britain in 2005. He served at the Foreign Ministry in Prague between 2003 and 2005.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has said that the Czech Republic will exceed the eurozone’s budget deficit limit in 2009 because of the financial crisis. The Maastricht criteria call for countries sharing the single euro currency to keep public deficits below three percent of GDP. But speaking on Slovak Television on Sunday, Mr Topolánek said that this limit would be exceeded because of the cost of a crisis-management plan the government is seeking to put in place. The Czech Republic is yet to announce a target date for euro entry, but the prime minister has said that he will set a deadline by November this year.
The anti-crisis plan that the government approved on Monday will cost some 40.5 billion crowns (197 million USD), Hospodářské noviny has reported. The newspaper wrote that Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek fine-tuned the anti-crisis package with his team of advisors on Sunday. The stimulus plan envisages higher government spending on education and research, cutting firms’ social security costs when they employ new graduates and contracting out the upkeep of the country’s infrastructure to private enterprises. On Sunday, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said he would be prepared to stake his cabinet’s future on the approval of the plan.
Under new legislation which comes into effect on Monday, foreigners who have lost their job as a result of the Czech economic downturn will be able to claim a free plane ticket home and 500 euros expenses from the Czech government. Interior Minister Ivan Langer has said that he hopes around 2000 foreign workers will take up the government’s offer in the next eight months. The government predicts that up to 12,000 foreign workers could lose their jobs in the next couple of months. The Interior Ministry has set aside 60.7 million crowns (2.6 million USD) in a bid to encourage these foreigners to return home. Interior Minister Ivan Langer has said that rising unemployment rates amongst foreigners could lead to an increase in organized crime, while human rights groups say that the government’s plan will prove ineffective.
More than 40 people were injured on Monday morning when two trains collided near Frýdek-Místek, northern Moravia. Two of the most seriously injured were airlifted to a hospital in Ostrava, where their condition is now said to be stable. A further ten were taken to hospital in Frýdek-Místek. Trains are still disrupted between Paskov and Vratimov, with a replacement bus service in place. According to the railway inspectorate, the crash was caused by one of the train-drivers, who ran a red light.