Visiting EU President Herman Van Rompuy on Wednesday condemned the violence by Libyan forces against protestors, insisting that the crimes could "not to remain without consequences." At a press briefing in Prague Mr. Rompuy said the European Union could not avoid political and moral responsibility for the state of affairs in the region, although it should be the people of the Arab world who should decide about their future. He said the EU was ready to provide assistance in the transition to democracy.
The EU president visited the Czech Republic for talks aimed at paving the wave for a March EU summit on tighter budget discipline. He met with Prime Minister Petr Nečas and later with President Václav Klaus, a strong opponent of the Lisbon reform treaty. Neither side commented on the latter meeting.
Leaders of the Independent Democratic Union, meeting in Prague on Wednesday, condemned the violence in Libya, saying that nothing can justify the brutal crack-down on civilian demonstrators. John Howard, head of the international alliance of right-wing parties established to promote conservative values, said it was important to speak out in support of those striving for freedom and democracy in the Arab world. A resolution to that affect is to be approved later today.
Reacting to calls for change in the Arab world, former Czech president Vaclav Havel compared the mass protests to the movement that brought down communism in Eastern Europe. In an interview for the ctk news agency, Mr. Havel said the collapse of Arab regimes, long seen as stable, was as unexpected as the fall of their European communist counterparts in 1989. He said the Western world was now duty bound to find a new approach to the region.
The Czech government has approved a memorandum on salary hikes for doctors that helped avert a mass walk-out by thousands of Czech physicians. The deal signed by the health minister and doctors’ trade unions last week will give doctors a monthly pay rise of 5,000 to 8,000 crowns, ie. a salary hike of 10 to 16 percent. The health minister also promised that doctor’s salaries would increase by around 10 percent annually until they reach triple the national average. Most of the 3,800 doctors who handed in their notice over low pay have withdrawn their resignations.
President Klaus has vetoed a bill that would have led to a radical reorganization of the network of labour offices. The president said that the bill which aimed to centralize the activities of labour offices was ill-conceived and would lead to greater bureaucracy than exists in the present set-up. The bill will now go back to the lower house for debate.
One in six Europeans live in overcrowded conditions, according to data for 2009 published by Eurostat on Wednesday. In the Czech Republic this problem concerns 27 percent of the population, most of whom live in prefabricated flats. Eurostat says that living conditions differ radically across Europe. While in Slovenia close to 70 percent of people live in houses in Latvia, Hungary or the Czech Republic more than half the population resides in prefabricated housing estates where space is almost always a problem.
The Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan has completed the construction of a silkworm farm, including the necessary irrigation infra-structure in Powrak village in Logar province, team spokeswoman Kristyna Greplova told the ctk news agency on Wednesday. She said Czech experts were now training about 100 local farmers to make a living by breeding silkworm. The farm is to start operating in March. The Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team made up of 11 civilian experts and close to 300 soldiers has been operating in the southern province of Logar since March 2008.
The Czech Republic became a European power in the use of solar energy last year as output of its new photovoltaic plants was the third highest in the EU, topping 1,000 megawatts, according to statistics published by the European Photo-Voltaic Industry Association. Only Italy and Germany had a higher output. The statistics place the Czech Republic fourth in Europe in total installed capacity of solar power plants.
Two homeless people are believed to have frozen to death overnight as temperatures in Prague dropped to minus 17 degrees Celsius, the ctk news agency reported on Wednesday. The two cases were otherwise unrelated and autopsies are expected to confirm the cause of death. Twenty-three people have frozen to death in Prague since the onset of winter and over 150 people are reported to have been treated for hypothermia.
The Czech Republic has been hit by an extremely cold spell with day temperatures dropping to minus 8 degrees Celsius and nighttime lows reaching minus 17 degrees in places. A warming is expected over the weekend.