A fierce row has broken out in the Czech government over the prime
minister’s refusal to sign up to the EU fiscal compact. Sharp criticism
of the decision from the country’s foreign minister, who said it would
damage Czech interests, elicited a fierce counter-attack from Prime
Minister Petr Nečas. At a press briefing in Prague on Tuesday evening Mr.
Nečas slammed the foreign minister for what he called a rash and
ill-considered remark. He moreover criticized the work of the Foreign
Ministry and advised the foreign minister to devote more time to
his duties properly.
In his own defense Mr. Nečas said that in Brussles he had acted precisely within the mandate he had received from the centre-right cabinet
Mr. Schwarzenberg who on Tuesday criticized the prime minister for harming the Czech Republic’s interests, speaking ahead of a four-day official visit to Israel, said he wanted to address the situation upon his return. The Czech foreign minister has repeatedly stressed the importance of staying in the European mainstream and recently even threatened to leave the cabinet should the country decide to go its own way. Mr. Schwarzenberg hinted that the real reason behind the country’s refusal to sign up to the treaty was discord within the prime minister’s Civic Democratic Party, whose conservative faction opposed the move.
The Czech Republic and Britain were the only two EU members who said they would not be signing the EU fiscal compact which aims to coordinate budget policy and enforce fiscal discipline across the block. The treaty, finalized at Mondays EU summit, spells out the enhanced role of the European Commission in scrutinizing national budgets and will empower the European Court of Justice to monitor compliance and impose fines on rule-breakers. The Czech prime minister said he could not sign up to the treaty for constitutional reasons. He also noted that the treaty held no advantages for Czechs and said the country’s eurosceptic president Vaclav Klaus had already made it clear he would not ratify such an agreement. The Czech prime minister has not ruled out that the country might join the treaty sometime in the future.
President Vaclav Klaus has welcomed the prime minister’s rejection of the fiscal compact as a wise and responsible decision. On his web-page Mr. Klaus said that the authors of the treaty were using the debt crisis to push through a deeper degree of integration which would rob EU member states of more important powers. He said he hoped Prague would maintain a firm stand on the matter and not join the treaty at a later date.
The Czech Finance Ministry has revised its economic growth forecast for 2012 down to 0.2 percent and is not ruling out a recession. The revised forecast, down from a predicted 1 percent growth, is based on growing problems in the euro-zone which are expected to impact the export-dependent Czech economy. The government is expected to draft an amendment to the 2012 budget which was tailored to 2.5 percent growth.
Prague City Hall has said it will erect an emergency shelter for the city’s homeless in order to provide some protection in the freezing cold weather. Ten homeless people have already died of exposure in the Czech capital this winter and the worst bout of arctic weather is still to come. Meteorologists say that night time lows at the close of the week could drop to minus 35 degrees Celsius and according to some forecasts the freezing cold weather could last until mid-February. There are over three and a half thousand homeless people in the Czech capital and its few facilities for the homeless are bursting at the seams.
The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, EULEX has appointed Jaroslava Novotná as its new Chief Prosecutor. Novotná has worked as a prosecutor for more than thirty years both at home and abroad, most recently working in the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office in the Czech Republic. She has particular expertise in dealing with cases related to drugs trafficking and organised crime. EULEX was established in 2008 with the aim of helping to secure the rule of law in Kosovo. It includes a team of prosecutors from EU countries who cooperate with their local opposite numbers in the prosecution of organised crime, war crimes, terrorism, ethnic violence and corruption. There are currently two other Czech prosecutors working in Kosovo.
The Prague branch of the Civic Democratic Party elected Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda its chairman on Monday. A total of 68 out of 95 delegates supported Mr. Svoboda, who had only one contender, former City Hall councillor Jiří Janeček. The newly elected chairman announced that the Civic Democrats should strive to renew their dominant position in Prague. Mr. Svoboda replaces Boris Šťastný, who submitted his resignation on the same day. Mr. Svoboda, a gynaecologist and obstetrician, joined the Civic Democrats in September 2011. The head of the Civic Democratic Party, Prime Minister Petr Nečas welcomed the outcome of the vote on Tuesday and expressed the hope that Mr. Svoboda would help the Prague Civic Democrats regain public trust.
Over 4 500 people are expected to join Thursday’s protest march against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement signed in Tokio last week. The protest is organized by the Czech Pirate Party which says it will seek ways to boycott the treaty which the Czech Republic signed up to. The agreement aims to establish international standards on intellectual property rights enforcements. Within hours of its signing last Thursday hackers attacked the websites of the Czech government and that of OSA, a Czech copyrights holders association. The march is to set out from Klarov at 2pm on Thursday and lead to Prague Castle and back by the same route.
Two trains were in danger of colliding on Tuesday morning after running opposite each other on the same track. The passenger train was reportedly travelling on its regular Pardubice –Rosice route east of Prague when the express train was guided onto the same track some distance away. The trains were stopped at a safe distance from each other. A team of railway inspectors is investigation the case.