The 16th Meeting of the Parties of the Montreal Protocol on the ozone layer has ended in Prague with a compromise agreement on the use of the chemical methyl bromide. The substance which is used to treat fruits and vegetables is believed to damage the ozone layer sixty times faster than the banned CFCs. The participants of the conference agreed that their countries would lower their consumption of the chemical in 2005. The limits for 2006 will be agreed on next year in June. The world's annual consumption of methyl bromide has declined from 64,000 tonnes in 1991 to about 26,000 tonnes. Apart from protecting crops, methyl bromide is also used as a solvent and disinfectant.
The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Germany and Spain have urged the French to say "yes" to the EU constitution, ahead of a key ballot by France's opposition Socialists on whether to back the treaty. In a joint article in the daily Le Monde, prime ministers Gross, Schroeder and Zapatero said the European Constitution contained "only progress and no steps back" and that it would create a stronger European Union of which France was an important part. "France needs Europe and Europe needs France for a more democratic, stronger and more effective Europe" the joint article says. The December 1st vote will decide whether the French Socialists will back the treaty in a referendum due next year.
A report by the National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addictions says that the number of people addicted to heroin and the Czech-made methamphetamine pervitin has dropped by some 7, 500 since the year 2000 when the centre registered over 37,000 users of heroin and pervitin. However, the number of young people experimenting with recreational drugs is on the rise. Forty-four percent of 16-year-olds admit they have tried marijuana and 8 percent say they have experience with club drugs.
The Constitutional Court is to judge whether the introduction of the European arrest warrant is in compliance with Czech law. Deputies of the opposition right wing Civic Democratic Party claim that extraditing citizens is in violation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, and thus in violation of the Czech Constitution. The party has urged the Constitutional Court to address the matter as soon as possible since the criticized provisions in the penal code have already taken effect. As of November 1st, Czech citizens suspected of serious crimes such as terrorism, paedophilia, or murder can be extradited to other EU states.
The Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has criticised the ruling of Ukraine's central election committee that proclaimed the current Ukrainian Prime Minister, Viktor Yanuchovych, as the winner of the recent presidential election. Mr Svoboda said the second round of the election did not meet democratic standards, adding that he did not believe the results reflected the genuine will of the Ukrainian people. The former Czech president, Vaclav Havel, urged the Ukrainian opposition to persevere and said they had the support of all credible national and international organizations.
All political prisoners of the former communist regime are to receive pension bonuses by way of compensation. The government recently approved bonuses for political prisoners and labour camp inmates between the years 1948 and 1968 but has now extended the decree to cover people persecuted in the last twenty years of communist rule. Prisoners of conscience should in future receive regular bonuses to their pensions, 50 crowns for every month that they spent in a communist prison or labour camp.
According to Czech doctors, more than half of Czech children have high cholesterol levels and their number is on the rise. Only about one-fifth of adults in the Czech Republic suffer from high cholesterol levels and their number is decreasing. Doctors say that while adults are aware of the benefits of a healthy diet they fail to make sure their children eat healthily and get enough exercise. Children with high cholesterol levels face a higher risk of heart attack later in life.
In future, regional and high courts should decide on the extradition of Czechs to other EU countries on the grounds of the European arrest warrant. Requests for extradition should be addressed to the regional state attorney's office or the municipal state attorney's office in Prague. However the European arrest warrant will only apply to crimes committed after November 1st 2004 and only to serious crimes such as terrorism, paedophilia, murder or trade in weapons and drugs.
Czech immigration and border police have launched a nationwide operation targeted at illegal migrants in the Czech Republic. Police officers are searching dormitories, building sites and railway stations for illegal immigrants, focusing mainly on the citizens of Ukraine and other countries of the former Soviet Union.
Rivals of postal services operator Ceska posta should have easier access to the market, in line with an amendment to the law on postal services passed by the Lower House of Parliament. To get a license for the provision of postal services one will no longer have to prove expert skills. On the other hand, Ceska posta should have a clearer monopoly on the delivery of direct mail. The amendment aligns Czech legislation with EU directives.