The lower house of the Czech Parliament has approved plans for the country’s foreign missions in 2010. The document, which was approved by 122 of the 173 deputies present, now has to pass through the country’s Senate. According to the plan, some 550 Czech soldiers will be deployed in Kosovo in 2010, while 535 will be sent to serve in Afghanistan. The bill for the Czech Republic’s foreign missions next year is thought to amount to around 3 billion crowns (156 million USD). According to Defence Minister Martin Barták, the proposals were the result of a number of compromises. Only the Communist Party and four Social Democrat deputies voted against the proposals.
The Czech EU presidency has condemned reports of a number of judicial executions in Iraq, and has called upon the country to suspend capital punishment. In a statement, the bloc’s Czech presidency called reports of 20 recent executions ‘disturbing’, it added that it was alarmed that more such executions may be planned. The international community has been calling on Iraq to suspend capital punishment since it resumed the practice after a short pause in 2004.
The Czech capital Prague will not seek to host the Olympic Games in 2020, the City Council decided on Tuesday. The decision was made as part of a plan to cut the City Council’s spending in light of the financial downturn. The proposal still has to be voted on by the City Assembly on Thursday, but with the ruling Civic Democrats and opposition Social Democrats both behind the plan, it is thought that it will pass with a comfortable majority. Councilors from the opposition Social Democrats condemned the amount the city had already spent on its Olympic bid, but maintained that they were behind the plan to cancel Prague’s Olympic candidacy. Prague already applied to host the 2016 Olympics, but failed to make the final shortlist. So far, the Czech capital has spent some 70 million crowns (3.6 million USD) on its 2020 Olympic bid.
Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer has said that he believes the country’s next European commissioner should be agreed upon only after early elections to be held this autumn. When asked whether this would mean that the Czech Republic missed out on some of the more significant posts within the commission, however, the Czech prime minister said he feared that may be the case. The two biggest parties in the Czech Parliament, the Social Democrats and the Civic Democrats, have said that they do not want Mr Fischer’s caretaker cabinet to decide upon the country’s next European commissioner, while the smallest party in Parliament, the Greens, say that they want negotiations to start right away. According to the Czech Green Party, the post of European commissioner should not be a cushy job for a retiring politician.
The chairman of the Czech lower house Miroslav Vlček has cancelled his second Middle East mission, though not, he says, because of the criticism he faced upon return from his first. Mr Vlček headed a European Union delegation to Israel and Palestine, among other Middle Eastern locations, last week. While Mr Vlček visited the Islamic University in Gaza last Tuesday, members of his delegation met representatives of Hamas. The Palestinian group is currently on an EU list of terrorist organizations. Speaking after the meeting, Mr Vlček said he had not known of his colleagues’ intentions to meet with Hamas and distanced himself from the encounter.
In related news, it was revealed on Tuesday that a third Czech Social Democrat deputy attended last week’s meeting with Hamas representatives in the Gaza strip. Helena Opolecká was with former Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and Vladimir Laštůvka at the controversial meeting alongside Italian reformed communist MP Luisa Morgantini.
Czech President Václav Klaus will chair the first ever EU-Pakistan summit in Brussels on Wednesday, it has been announced. The Czech president will hold the meeting alongside European Commission President Jose Barosso and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. Top of the agenda is expected to be the fight against terrorism in Pakistan. Recently, the EU’s anti-terrorist coordinator Gilles de Kerchove said that the security risk Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan posed Europe was ‘evident’.
The former deputy mayor of Vsetín who was handed a one year suspended prison sentence for perverting the course of justice in the case of politician Jiří Čunek has been cleared of all charges by an appeal court in Olomouc. Jaromír Kudlík was handed a suspended sentence last December when a court ruled that he provided a false alibi for Mr Čunek, who stood accused of accepting a 500,000-crown bribe. On Tuesday, the Regional Court in Olomouc overturned this ruling. Former Head of the Christian Democrats and former Regional Development Minister Jiří Čunek was accused of accepting bribes from local property developers before all charges against him were dropped. Members of the Czech judiciary came under fire for the role that they played in Mr Čunek’s case.
The main risk for the development of the Czech economy in the coming two years is a deepening recession in other parts of Europe, the Czech National Bank said in its annual report on the country’s financial stability published on Tuesday. A worsening recession in Western European countries could lead to a marked fall in the number of Czech exports and have a knock-on effect on employment figures. The National Bank said it expected a number of firms to go bankrupt and industrial production to fall in the Czech Republic if the situation remained bleak elsewhere in the European Union. The bank also said a prolonged spell of recession in Europe could lead to a diminishing of Czech households’ spending-power as unemployment rose.
The number of Czechs suffering from a short-term illness has fallen in the first quarter of this year by a remarkable 31 percent. The number of Czechs registered as having a long-term illness has also fallen by around 25 percent, suggest statistics published in the newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes on Tuesday. Czechs are no longer the sickest nation in Europe, suggest the statistics, compiled by Czech Social Security Administration. The sharp drop in registered illnesses coincides with a change in the law, which decrees that no sick-pay should be awarded to an invalid during his/her first three days of illness.
The first English-language anthology of Czech plays written after the Velvet Revolution in 1989 has been brought out in New York. The collection, titled ‘Czech Plays: Seven New Works’, was issued by the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center with the help of the New York Czech Centre. It presents the work of, among other playwrights, David Drábek, Lenka Lagronová and Jiří Pokorný. According to the head of the Prague Theatre Institute, Pavla Petrová, who has also played an active role in the publishing of the book, the collection represents what has been happening in Czech theatres in the past 20 years. Twenty-five thousand copies of the book have been printed, it can be found on the internet as well as in bookshops.
Expect more rain this Tuesday with clearer skies into the middle of the week, temperatures should remain constant at around 18-22 degrees Celsius.