The European Union and China have agreed to increase co-operation in the field of environmentally friendly development with a view to decreasing greenhouse gases. At a summit at Prague Castle on Wednesday afternoon, held as part of the Czech Republic’s six-month presidency of the EU, the two sides also signed a science and technology partnership that European officials hope will reduce copyright piracy in China, and a joint statement on an EU-China clean energy centre. The meeting, chaired by Czech President Václav Klaus, was attended by China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
The last scheduled EU-China meeting was cancelled in December over Beijing’s opposition to a meeting between Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, when France held the rotating EU presidency.
At a news conference after Wednesday’s summit, Czech President Václav Klaus said human rights would be part of the “strategic dialogue” between the EU and China. For his part, Prime Minister Wen said the most important thing was to preserve the principles of mutual respect and non-interference in one another’s internal affairs.
Protests against the human rights record of the Chinese regime were held in the Czech capital on Wednesday. A small demonstration took place at China’s embassy in Prague, while human rights watchdog Amnesty International organised a “parallel summit” to discuss abuses in the country.
Official campaigning has begun in the Czech Republic ahead of elections to the European Parliament being held on June 5 and 6. The 33 parties standing have been presenting their manifestos, while public broadcasters Czech Television and Czech Radio will feature the groups’ campaign ads between now and June 2. A poll conducted by STEM for Czech Television suggested that parties’ ability to deal with the financial crisis will be the main criterion for voters in the June polls. Meanwhile, another survey by the same agency indicated 24.2 percent of voters would cast their ballots for the Social Democrats, while 20.9 percent would back their biggest rivals, the Civic Democrats.
Some 27 percent of Czech voters turned out in elections to the European Parliament in 2004, soon after the Czech Republic joined the EU.
Czech Television is planning to file a lawsuit against the neo-Nazi National Party after the group sent the station a racist campaign ad promising the “final solution of the Gypsy problem”, the news website novinky.cz reported. Czech TV broadcast the clip on Wednesday, because legally they had no choice, a spokesperson said. Both Prime Minister Jan Fischer and Minorities Minister Michael Kocáb condemned the election spot and called on the minister of the interior, Jan Pecina, to order an investigation into the matter.
A caretaker Czech government due to lead the country until early general elections will not send the issue of a planned US radar base to the lower house of parliament, the Czech foreign minister, Jan Kohout, told Wednesday’s edition of the newspaper Lidové noviny. Mr Kohout said the subject was not on the interim government’s agenda and would be dealt with by whoever is elected in October. While the Senate approved Czech-US treaties allowing for the placing of a radar base in central Bohemia, ex-prime minister Mirek Topolánek withdrew the matter from the agenda of the Chamber of Deputies due to a lack of support.
It is not clear whether America plans to go ahead with the construction of an anti-missile shield project developed by the previous administration. In Prague in April President Barack Obama merely reiterated his previous position that it could go ahead if it was proven to work and was cost effective, and if a threat from Iran remained.
Fifty-five percent of Czechs regard Jan Fischer as a good prime minister, suggests an opinion poll carried out this week by the STEM agency for the newspaper Právo. Just over a quarter of respondents took the opposite view of the caretaker prime minister. Meanwhile, three quarters of those polled said they believed Mr Fischer’s caretaker cabinet would win a confidence vote. His government, which was appointed on May 8, has 30 days to win confidence in the lower house.
In an interview with the AFP news agency, Prime Minister Fischer said his government would seek a ban on the far-right Workers’ Party. A request from the previous government to have the group declared illegal was rejected by a Czech court. Mr Fischer also said his interim cabinet would not set a date for adoption of the common European currency. The caretaker prime minister is due to unveil his government’s policy priorities in the next few days.
In a study by Switzerland’s International Institute for Management Development, the Czech Republic ranks 37th out of 57 states in terms of readiness to deal with the impacts of the financial crisis. The Institute’s “stress test” focused on how well equipped countries are to face the crisis and to increase their competitiveness in the near future. Denmark did best in the survey.
The Janáček’s May International Music Festival gets underway in Ostrava on Wednesday evening. The north Moravian city is the centre of the 34th Janáček’s May festival, which also takes place in six other towns in the region over a period of three weeks. The focus this year is on female vocalists. The great Czech composer Leoš Janáček was a native of the north Moravian region and died in Ostrava in 1928.
It should be quite sunny with rain at times over the next few days. Temperatures are expected to reach a maximum of 30 degrees Celsius.