Senators for the Social Democratic Party have urged the government to retract the country’s demand for an opt-out from the Lisbon Treaty, tabled at the insistence of the Czech president. In 2009 President Vaclav Klaus only signed the Lisbon Treaty after the EU agreed to his demand for a Czech opt-out from the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is part of the Lisbon Treaty. The Czech president feared it could open the way for restitution claims by Sudeten Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after the war. Social Democrat senators, who have a majority in the upper chamber say that, on the contrary, an opt-out would lower the degree of protection afforded to Czech citizens in the sphere of human rights.
President Vaclav Klaus on Thursday appointed Petr Bendl of the Civic Democratic Party the country’s new agriculture minister. Mr Bendl, a close political ally of Prime Minister Petr Nečas, served as transport minister in 2009 in the government of Mirek Topolának. The prime minister dismissed fellow Civic Democrat Ivan Fuksa on Tuesday, saying he had long been dissatisfied with his performance. Mr Fuksa he said had failed on issues regarding forest management and did not adequately defend his party’s interests in the cabinet. Most commentators believe his sacking is related to infighting within the Civic Democrat Party.
The Czech Finance Ministry has brought forward a deadline for ordering state bonds from the original November 1st to Friday October 7th. The scheme has proved so successful that the set ten billion crown target has already been exhausted with the ministry now registering orders to the tune of 14.1 billion crowns. Next year the ministry plans to issue bonds to the tune of 40 billion crowns.
The pilot emission includes three bond types: one-year discount savings state bonds, five-year savings coupon state bonds and five-year reinvestment savings bonds. The bonds are available to individuals of any nationality and Czech and foreign non-profit organizations. Both five-year bonds have an incremental rate of interest rising each year the bonds are held, from 0.85 percent in the first year to 6 percent in the fifth year. The bonds will be redeemable four times a year without penalties.
The current debt crisis in the Euro zone could easily evolve into an economic crisis that would spill over to member states outside the Euro-zone such as the Czech Republic, Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said in an address to the Zofin economic forum on Thursday. The finance minister said the risk of this happening was considerable and predicted that such a development would have serious budgetary and social impacts. Mr. Kalousek said it was now up to the eurozone to find a radical solution or face a system failure. The Czech finance minister was recently named “Finance Minister of the Year for Emerging Europe 2011” by the Washington-based Emerging Markets magazine. The award was a tribute to Mr. Kalousek’s commitment to consolidating public finances amidst a worsening global outlook.
The regional court in Plzen has ruled that the police actions against environment activists trying to prevent logging in the Šumava National Park were illegal. The court said the blockade was in effect a public gathering which can only be forcibly dispersed for serious reasons. In the course of the summer the police repeatedly used force to disperse protesters and came under fire for excessive brutality. One of the activists took the matter to court. Lawyers are now advising activists to file claims for an apology and financial compensation from the state.
Three more suspects have been taken into custody in the highly publicized case of police corruption in Brno’s economic crime squad, bringing the overall number of people charged to nine. One officer in active service and several former police officers from the economic crime squad are believed to have covered up major cases of economic crime in return for large sums of money. The practice allegedly went on for several years also thanks to the fact that a high ranking inspector from the interior ministry covered their tracks. They are believed to have blackmailed over 30 entrepreneurs.
Security has been tightened around the Bory jailhouse, in west Bohemia after two men rammed their car through the gates on Wednesday night. The gate keepers on duty raised the alarm on hearing the first impact, and by the time the men had forcibly entered the premises they were surrounded by armed guards and captured. In view of an ongoing investigation the police has not released any details. According to the tabloid daily Blesk one of the suspects has a son in the jailhouse whom they were trying to help escape.
A collision of freight trains brought rail traffic between Prague and Kolin to a standstill for most of Thursday. No one was reported injured in the accident which was most likely caused by human error. The material damage has been estimated at over 5 million crowns. Czech Railways arranged a replacement bus service for passengers.
Police are gearing up for more anti-Romany protests in the north of the country over the weekend. Extremists have relocated their main protest gathering to the town of Usti nad Labem and there are fears of potential clashes with anarchists who have a strong base in the city. A police spokeswoman said riot police would be out in force, with officers checking cars entering the city. A parallel protest against rising crime is to take place in the town of Varnsdorf where the locals have been calling for the resignation of the entire town council. Protests and marches reflecting growing racial tensions have been held every weekend in the region with police reinforcements costing taxpayers millions of crowns.
Town councils in the north of the country have tightened the rules on welfare benefits after discovering widespread abuse. Inspectors in Rumburk found that 14 citizens who are on welfare and receive child support were spending the money in gaming bars. Some of the money is now being paid out in the form of food vouchers which cannot be used for alcohol and cigarettes. Town councils say they will go as far as the law allows them to prevent citizens from sponging off the state.
The coming days should bring significantly colder weather with rain showers and daytime temperatures between 8 and 12 degrees Celsius.