Czech President Václav Klaus, a firm opponent of greater European integration, has strongly criticised the European Union in the European Parliament. Speaking before lawmakers on Thursday, Mr Klaus criticised the EU for attempting to shift the brunt of decision-making to Brussels to the detriment of individual states and also criticised the EU’s approach on the economy. His speech was greeted at points by applause but also by boos and opposition: some MEPs demonstratively left the room. Mr Klaus’s appearance follows that of Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek in January, who spoke in the European Parliament shortly after the Czech Republic took up the rotating EU presidency.
In related news, President Václav Klaus would not tell journalists in Brussels on Thursday whether he was ready to sign the Lisbon treaty designed to reform the running of the EU. He was asked the question at a press conference following his speech in the European Parliament, saying that “chess players did not announce their move in advance”. He did say he expected a serious debate on the Lisbon treaty in the Czech Senate, which has now to discuss the issue, after the Czech lower house passed the treaty this week. Mr Klaus is a fierce opponent of the document which needs to be approved by all 27 EU members to come into effect.
In other European news, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek is due to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday, in an attempt to ease tensions over alleged French protectionism. Tensions between Paris and Prague, which now heads the EU presidency, have risen in recent weeks, not least after the French president suggested French carmakers with operations in other EU countries relocate back to France. The comment sparked fears of protectionism and drew criticism from Mr Topolánek and other politicians. On Wednesday, the Czech prime minister said that the planned meeting, to take place in Berlin, would end speculation the two leaders were unable to find “common ground”.
Ludmila Brožová-Polednová, the 87-year-old former communist prosecutor found guilty of helping condemn democratic politician Milada Horáková to death in 1950, has put forward a complaint in her case. The Czech internet site aktualne.cz reported the news on Thursday, suggesting it was an apparent attempt by Mrs Brožová-Polednová to put off serving her jail time of six years. The Prague high court confirmed the move on the part of Mrs Brožová-Polednová’s lawyer, saying it would rule on the matter after receiving the defendant’s complete file, now being examined by the Supreme Court. Mrs Brožová-Polednová has tried to have her sentence deferred because of ill health.
A driver who crashed a snowcat vehicle on a mountain slope in Rokytnice nad Jizerou, in the Krkonoše (Giant) Mountains has been charged with endangering public safety. The driver lost control of his vehicle last Saturday, injuring 11 passengers, five of them children. Several emergency crews were called in to respond. The vehicle had a limit of eight spaces for passengers, but there were 17 aboard at the time. If found guilty in the case, the driver of the vehicle could face between three to ten years in prison.
A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry has revealed that a first group of foreign guest workers - who lost their jobs in the Czech Republic due to the economic crisis - left for home from Prague's Ruzyně airport on Thursday. The group included 16 Mongolian nationals who made use of the Czech state offer of free airline tickets and a 500-euro allowance. The 16 left for Frankfurt where they will change flights to Beijing; from there they will continue to Ulan Bator. The Interior Ministry registered more than 200 applications for free tickets and the allowance, mainly from Mongolian nationals, in the first three days of the project. The allowance and travel tickets are incentive for unemployed guest workers to return home rather than remain and work illegally in the Czech Republic.
The Czech Academy of Sciences will officially launch the operation of the COMPASS tokamak, a 21-ton experimental nuclear fusion reactor at a special ceremony on Thursday. The academy is reportedly hoping to make the Czech Republic a central European centre for nuclear fusion research. The world’s largest tomakak, the Iter, is located in Cadarache, France.
Czech cross-country skiing star Lukáš Bauer has completed a final training run ahead of the men’s 15 kilometre classic race at the Nordic World Ski Championship underway in Liberec. The skier admitted he wasn’t satisfied with his training run on Thursday ahead of the race, but made clear he remained optimistic. The 15 km classic takes place on Friday.
The rescue service has called a high degree avalanche alert in the Jeseníky Mountains in the north-east of the country, as in the Krkonoše Mountains a day earlier. Areas in danger of seeing avalanches are not on tourist trails. The last two days have seen some 70 centimetres of new snow in the Jeseníky Mountains.
The lower house of the Czech Parliament has voted to ratify the European Union’s Lisbon treaty. One hundred and twenty-five of the 197 MPs present gave their backing to the document, which reforms how the EU is run. Thirty-six Eurosceptic deputies from the ruling Civic Democrats voted against Lisbon, as did the vast majority of the opposition Communist Party. The Czech Republic was the last of the EU’s 27 members to vote on the treaty. However, Wednesday morning’s vote is not the end of the matter. The Senate, where there is a significant bloc of Eurosceptic Civic Democrats, is expected to vote on the treaty in April. If approved by the upper house, Lisbon ratification must then be signed by President Václav Klaus. Mr Klaus, a firm opponent of further European integration, 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.