The Czech government should not join Britain in its negative stand on the EU fiscal treaty, according to opposition Social Democrat deputy head Lubomir Zaorálek. Mr. Zaorálek said Britain’s arguments against the treaty ensue from the country’s specific position in the EU, while the Czech negative position is unjustified and unclear and the country is therefore perceived as an unreadable and unreliable member of the alliance.
The presidential candidate who currently tops the polls with a 24 percent rating, former prime minister Jan Fischer, has told the internet news site lidovky.cz that if he were in office he would sign the EU’s fiscal pact. Asked to state his position on the matter, Mr. Fischer said that while he did not find the treaty in its present form ideal, it was certainly acceptable. The current president Vaclav Klaus is a fierce critic of further EU integration and has made it clear that he will not under any circumstances ratify the treaty.
There has been fresh criticism of a pardon granted by President Vaclav Klaus. It concerns Anna Benešová, former director of the private Metropolitan University in Prague, who was given a suspended sentence for bribery and fraud. The daily Lidové noviny noted on Friday that the woman pardoned had ties with the president’s wife Livia, and pointed out that the reason cited for her pardon, which was to enable her to care for her seriously ill husband, was nonsensical since a suspended sentence did not prevent her from doing so. The paper noted that the president’s pardon had given Benešová a clean criminal record.
Poor conditions continue on Czech roads, which have been plagued by heavy snow and ice since Wednesday. Traffic police reported problems on all main motorways on Friday and many roads in the higher altitudes are completely impassable. Rail and bus passengers are advised to check their itineraries as a number of routes are blocked by accidents or snow. With temperatures rising above zero during the day people in cities have been warned about falling snow and icicles from rooftops.
The mountain rescue service in the Krkonoše and Jeseníky mountains on Friday called a high degree avalanche alert. Rescuers say that in the wake of the thaw the danger of avalanches has become acute. Fresh snow and high winds are further complicating the situation. Skiers and snowboarders have been warned not to stray from marked trails and to always alert someone about their planned movements.
A train running from the ski resort of Harrachov to Tanvald is reported to have gone out of control due to break failure on Thursday. The train reportedly went through four stations at high speed and finally stopped at the bottom of a steep incline of the track. The matter is being investigated. A similar incident occurred in January. The Harrachov -Tanvalt track is the steepest rail route in the country.
A court has sentenced a twenty-six year old man to 12.5 years in prison for attempted murder on two counts and illegal possession of a firearm. The young man turned the gun against two homeless men who approached him to beg for money in June of last year. He shot both of them in the stomach. Were it not for passersby who called an ambulance the men would have died where he left them. Both underwent immediate surgery.
Prime Minister Petr Necas is to meet with his British counterpart David Cameron in London just ahead of the EU fiscal pact summit on March 1. It is expected the prime ministers are will fine tune their stances before the EU countries sign a final version of the fiscal union treaty. The Czech Republic and Great Britain are the only EU member states to refuse to join the treaty, which is intended to help solve the current euro zone crisis and strengthen the fiscal discipline and coordination of economic policies within the EU. The Czech Prime Minister’s opposition to the deal has provoked a sharp dispute with coalition partner Karel Schwarzenberg and has been widely criticised in the public forum. Mr Nečas argues that he does not have a mandate to back the treaty because it transfers some national powers to Brussels, and wants Czech citizens to vote on it in a referendum.
Heavy snow and high winds continue to disrupt traffic around the country, with practically all regions reporting serious problems. Around 30 people had to be evacuated from their cars by emergency crews overnight and 50 roads remained closed to traffic on Thursday morning. Czech Railways reports numerous delays and many buses are also running behind schedule. Although the country’s main motorways are open traffic police have asked drivers not to set out on the road if at all possible since fresh problems are cropping up all the time. Many roads are blocked by stranded trucks and traffic is moving at snail’s pace in the worst affected regions. On Wednesday a pile up of 50 cars closed the main highway from Prague to Brno for several hours.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Czech investigators made mistakes in the case of a Roma man who apparently committed suicide while in custody. The court awarded roughly half a million crowns to the man’s family in compensation for damages, on the grounds that his death was never thoroughly and independently investigated. The 2002 case involved a 23-year-old Roma man suspected of having stolen a videotape recorder. After several hours in detention he leapt from an eight-metre high window while being escorted. Lawyers from the League of Human Rights argued that the investigation had been carried out by the same police officers who had the man in custody and failed to describe what had gone on during the six hours he was detained. The European court found that he police had erred in not using handcuffs and leading the man past a window without bars.