Opposition MPs have been holding a filibuster since Tuesday morning to obstruct a vote on fifteen reform bills returned by the Senate. The lawmakers were in session for nearly twenty hours through the night on Tuesday and all day Wednesday as Social Democrat MPs held up negotiations on restricting state support to building savings and the state budget for 2012. The government coalition parties intend to continue debating the bills throughout Wednesday evening with only short breaks until a vote is forced. The Social Democrats will allow a vote on the budget on Wednesday in order to avoid a provisional budget for next year.
Parliamentary opposition parties came out strongly on Wednesday against the government’s budget proposal for 2012. The left-wing parties warned that the economic plan would damage the economy and social services and criticised what they see as a lack of measures for stimulating growth. Social Democrat chairman Bohuslav Sobotka said the bill includes hidden budget cuts and accused Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek of assigning fictitious money to ministries that he planned to cut later on. The government has acknowledged that the budget plan is based on a more optimistic prognosis for next year’s economy, but wants to amend it with a new one early next year. Gloomy growth predictions across Europe this week led the Czech Finance Ministry to reduce its growth forecast for 2012 by at least 1.5%.
President Václav Klaus addressed a meeting of high military commanders on Wednesday, and called upon them to defend the Czech Republic from European unification and globalisation. Mr Klaus told the assembly that they could only defend the need for an army if they stood with others to defend the integrity of the state from globalisation on the world scale, and “unification tendencies” in Europe. The president also noted that the institution’s prestige had been damaged by dubious purchases and poor economic management. Regarding the worsening economic situation, he said that soldiers would be expected to tighten their belts like other citizens without grumbling and threatening to quit.
Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra said Wednesday that the army would face layoffs in the coming year in both civilian and command structures. Mr Vondra told army commanders that the changes would not amount to a revolution in the army’s structure, and that its constitutional and international duties would be met. Whereas former reductions have been across the board and random he said, the cuts to come would be coordinated so as to better prepare for their impact. He said he also wants to change the plan for airspace protection and reconsider the army’s use of Gripen fighter jets and a number of airports.
Mr Klaus also addressed the euro zone crisis on Wednesday, saying it is a mistake to blame the problem on Greece alone. Europe, he said, was responsible for its financial management and decision to live beyond its means. The president said that it was not only irresponsible of Greece to accept exorbitant loans but for the EU to provide them. The crisis in Greece will be probably the main issue of the G20 summit starting in Cannes, France, today, with Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou attending. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are to have separate talks with representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the EU and of Greece at the summit to calm down the tension on financial markets provoked by Papandreou´s statement that he would call a referendum on the euro zone´s new financial aid to Greece.
Half of Czechs believe that the country is not going in the right direction and are worried about what next year will bring, according to a new poll. The survey, conducted by the STEM agency, suggests that another third believes the country is headed nowhere and feel uncertain about the future. One sixth of respondents said they had hope for next year, the lowest response rate in 15 years. STEM says that right-wing voters were significantly more like to have more optimistic views.
The District Court of Olomouc has handed down a two-year sentence to a Polish shop owner who sold synthetic drugs packaged as collectors’ items. After serving his sentence he will be deported for six years. The chemicals contained in the goods were not listed as banned substances at the time of sale, however the court accepted that the 25-year-old had knowingly traded in addictive drugs purchased in Poland and sold through his Amsterdam store chain. The shop owner claimed that the items were marked as non-consumables and that he was singled out, as similar shops around Europe sell the same products without being prosecuted. The case was the first of its kind in the Czech Republic.
The daily Právo writes on Wednesday that the Czech military is to withdraw two of its soldiers from the Logar province in Afghanistan. The two men allegedly got drunk a few days ago at the Shank base and one of them was detained by the US military police, the daily writes citing insider sources. The elite soldiers, members of the Czech military intelligence service, are to be flown back to the Czech Republic by the end of November and lose part of their salary as consumption of alcohol is prohibited on foreign missions. The military intelligence service has refused to comment on the matter.
The Czech police presidium has reported the sale of fictitious goods and services is the most common internet crime that they deal with. The number of incidents of online fraud has grown significantly in the last year, according to the head of the division for IT crime, primarily due to improvements in technology, such as mobile phones that allow web access, the growing number of services provided and the growing number of people connected. The police say that the economic situation also plays a role in the increase and that the number of attacks on sensitive data will continue to grow.
Barcelona star Lionel Messi earned a hat-trick and scored his 200th goal for his team on Tuesday in Champions League action against Viktoria Plzeň in Prague. The Czech club kept pace for the first 22 minutes but went down to 10 men after Čišovský fouled Messi in the area. The Barcelona player scored on the penalty and later added two more goals. Barcelona’s fourth goal was a header from Fabregas. Viktoria Plzeň have only one point after four games in the group stage, from a draw with Bate Borisov.
Conditions over the coming days are expected to remain mostly cloudy with fog and scattered showers. Daytime temperatures should be around 11° Celsius.