The Czech government has issued a statement saying that the opt-out from
the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights granted to the Czech Republic by EU
leaders on Thursday will not put Czech citizens at a disadvantage or in any
way put their rights at risk. The statement comes in response to
suggestions that the opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights
demanded by President Vaclav Klaus would in future prevent Czech citizens
from defending their rights in European courts of law.
The opt-out, similar to those granted to Britain and Poland, was approved as a last-minute concession to Czech President Václav Klaus who refused to sign the Lisbon treaty without guarantees that it would not allow ethnic Germans forced out of the former Czechoslovakia after World War II to reclaim their property. The president says he is satisfied with the arrangement but there have been mixed reactions from the country’s political parties.
The Social Democrats say that an opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights will weaken the position of Czech citizens and argue that the government should have asked for legal guarantees pertaining to the Beneš decrees alone. The Green Party has expressed the view that the concession won by the government could back-fire. Meanwhile, the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions is so concerned by the possible implications of the exemption it is considering strike action to try and prevent the opt-out from coming into force.
Caretaker Prime Minister Jan Fisher on Friday sharply rejected suggestions that the Czech delegation had failed to defend the country’s interests in Brussels. Mr. Fischer said that his team had done the best possible job under the circumstances, had not overstepped its mandate and had not in any way put at risk the rights of Czech citizens. Responding to criticism from the Social Democrats, Mr. Fisher said that trying to arrange an exemption pertaining to the Beneš decrees alone would have buried the Lisbon treaty. He said the Social Democrats knew perfectly well what the Czech government delegation would strive to achieve in Brussels and had not voiced any criticism ahead of the trip.
Czech President Václav Klaus said on Friday he was pleased with the wording agreed by European Union leaders on an opt-out clause in the bloc's reform treaty and would raise no further conditions for ratification. Under Czech law the president must now wait for a Czech Constitutional Court ruling on a challenge against the treaty raised by a group of right-wing senators. The verdict is expected on Tuesday, and most lawyers expect the court to say the charter does not conflict with the Czech Constitution. It threw out a similar challenge by the same group of senators last year.
A Czech health expert has warned that the country may be on the brink of a swine flu epidemic. Václav Chmelík, who helped draw-up a pandemic crisis plan for the Health Ministry said he expected a rapid increase in swine-flu cases in the coming weeks, predicting that the epidemic could reach a head within two months. To date health authorities have registered 351 cases, close to 40 of them in the last week alone. Sixteen cases were reported at a high school in the south Bohemian town of České Budějovice, after a group of students and teachers became infected on a school trip to Bavaria. The disease claimed its first victim in the Czech Republic earlier this month when a 31 year old woman from Karlovy Vary died of multiple organ failure shortly after being diagnosed with swine flu.
Czech electricity giant ČEZ closed offers at midday on Friday for a massive contract to build two new nuclear reactors at its existing Temelín facility in the Czech Republic with the option of building a further three at other sites in Europe. The company is said to have received several dozen offers for what has been described by local media as the energy contract of the century. The offers will now be examined with those who make the grade to continue in the tender likely to be declared in January, he added. A contract winner could be declared in 2011 with construction estimated at around 10 years. ČEZ did not set out concrete specification for the reactors saying that would tilt the tender in favour of one company or another.
According to the outcome of an October survey conducted by the STEM agency, caretaker Prime Minister Jan Fischer is by far and away the most popular politician in the country, trusted by 79 percent of Czechs. Mr. Fisher has surged ahead of President Klaus who has topped the popularity ladder for years and who now has a 61 percent credit rating. Other Czech politicians have a credit ratings between 20 and 40 percent.
Seven people, among them six Polish nationals, were seriously injured in a pile up on the R 48 highway near Český Těšín on Friday morning. The crash involved seven vehicles, among them a lorry, a bus and a Polish minibus. Over a dozen people suffered light injuries. Police are investigating the cause of the accident.
Former Czech legendary football striker František Veselý died of heart failure on Friday at the age of 65. The famous right-winger was a member of the Czechoslovak team that won the European championship in 1976. Veselý played a big part in this success, scoring one goal and assisting another in the semifinal match against the Netherlands. Veselý has played as many as 920 matches in his career, including 34 for Czechoslovak national team. He played for Slavia Praha from 1953 to 1980.
EU leaders started a two-day summit meeting in Brussels on Thursday. One
of the major tasks facing them is to discuss a last minute demand for an
exemption from part of the EU’s reforming Lisbon treaty sought by Czech
President Václav Klaus. President Klaus wants firm guarantees that the
treaty can not be used by Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after World
War II to reclaim property. Diplomatic sources told the Czech News Agency
that a deal on the exemption should be thrashed out on Thursday evening.
But Hungary, which has opposed the exemption, says it will decide on its
final stance during the summit.
The Czech Republic is the last of the EU’s 27 to ratify the Lisbon treaty which should take effect at the start of next year. Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer said on Wednesday that President Klaus had given guarantees he will not erect new barriers to ratification if his exemption is delivered and the country’s highest court gives it the all clear. The Czech Constitutional Court is expected to rule on Tuesday over a complaint about whether the Lisbon treaty is in conformity with Czech law.