With Ireland reporting a clear “yes” vote in Friday’s repeat referendum on the Lisbon treaty, the focus is now on the Czech and Polish presidents who have yet to ratify the document. Polish President Lech Kaczynski has said he would sign the treaty on Monday but in Prague President Václav Klaus has given no indication whether he plans to sign it or not. He pointed out that he is bound by law to await the outcome of a Constitutional Court ruling on whether the treaty is in line with Czech legislation, a process that could take between six weeks and six months.
Speaking shortly after news of the Irish vote came through, Mr. Klaus said he was not happy with the outcome and criticized the fact that the Irish had been asked to vote on the treaty twice, until they produced the expected answer. The Czech president who is a staunch opponent of the treaty and what he calls a federalist Europe is now expected to come under severe pressure to sign the treaty both from the EU and on the domestic scene.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, welcomed the outcome of the Irish referendum as “a good day for Europe” and said he wanted to meet with Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer and EC chief Jose Manuel Barosso to discuss the way forward on Lisbon. Meanwhile, Mr. Barosso called for patience saying that the EU must respect the ongoing constitutional procedures in the Czech Republic and expressing the belief that as soon as the Constitutional Court delivered a verdict President Klaus would conclude the treaty’s ratification.
The Office of the Government has released a statement saying that every effort would be made to conclude the ratification of the Lisbon treaty as soon as possible. "The Prime Minister is convinced that ratification will be completed in a way that the Lisbon Treaty can take effect by the end of 2009," the statement said.
Meanwhile, the group of right-wing senators who filed the complaint against the Lisbon treaty say they are not prepared to withdraw it. Civic Democrat senator Jiri Oberfalzer told the ctk news agency that it was their constitutional right to take the treaty to court and that the Irish vote had nothing to do with that decision. Withdrawing the complaint would have enabled the president to sign the treaty without further delay. Advocates of the treaty accuse the senators of conspiring with the president to delay its ratification for as long as possible, with a view of holding out in the hope of a Conservative victory in the UK’s spring elections and a referendum on the treaty in Great Britain.
Rescue teams are still searching for the bodies of four construction workers believed to be trapped under the rubble of a Prague apartment building which collapsed during reconstruction work on Friday. All four were working on the third floor of the building when the ceiling caved in, crashing through the one under it. The building was otherwise empty. So far, the only evidence of those trapped within are two construction helmets fire fighters uncovered in one area. Rescuers are operating under difficult conditions, carefully digging their way through the rubble with the help of sniffer dogs. The rescue operation had to be discontinued for several hours during the night for fear that other parts of the building were in danger of collapsing. Props were put in to make the site safer. It is not yet clear what caused the tragedy.
The Czech Health Ministry has issued a statement urging Czechs to get their seasonal flu jab this year despite a scare over whether it might not do more harm than good. The ministry said that its recommendations remained unchanged in the face of a Canadian study which suggests that a seasonal flu jab could actually increase the risk of contracting swine flu. Leading experts in the field have questioned the reliability of the study which was based on the fact that a high number of people who contracted swine flu had been vaccinated against seasonal flu.
High stress levels and a sedentary life-style is lowering the average age of cardiac patients in the Czech Republic. In the past 15 years the average age of heart attack patients has dropped from 63 to 49 and cardiologists say 30-year-old cardiac patients are no longer an exception. One in twelve sufferers die of cardiac arrest, one if four get it again. Doctors blame a lack of physical activity and an unhealthy diet for the fact that 70 percent of adult Czechs have high cholesterol levels, one in three are overweight, and one in five obese.
Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania will host a 500-million-euro ($728.5 million) pioneering laser facility with a wide range of advanced scientific applications, Hungary's Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai told a news conference on Thursday. European Union authorities have awarded the project, called the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI), jointly to the three former communist bloc members. Scientists at the center will conduct research in nuclear physics, astrophysics, cosmology, high-energy physics, as well as areas like cancer research. Construction and the bulk of the financial investment are slated to start in 2011. Once completed in 2015, the facility will employ 300 researchers and another 600 support staff.
Washington is preparing to send a high-level delegation to Prague to mitigate tension resulting from its decision not to go ahead with a much debated missile defense project in the Czech Republic and Poland, the Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Saturday, citing well informed diplomatic sources. The paper notes that many in the Czech Republic considered the decision an ignominious concession to Moscow and an indication that the US was abandoning Central and Eastern Europe to Russian interests. The US delegation will most likely be led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but Vice-President Joe Biden is also being considered, the paper says.
Police in Moravia are investigating an incident in which seven men attacked and beat to death a man they suspected of theft. The men dragged the victim from his home and beat him to try and get him to admit where he had hidden the stolen property. After being severely beaten the man is reported to have chocked on his own blood. One of the attackers is reported to be a local policeman. The two who instigated the attack face severe punishment possibly a life sentence.
The coming days should be mostly dry and sunny with day temperatures between 13 and 17 degrees Celsius.