Daily news summary

Czech leaders under fire for downplaying visit by Dalai Lama

The country’s leading politicians have come under fire for issuing a joint statement underlining the country’s interest in maintaining good relations with China in connection with a visit by the Dalai Lama to the Czech Republic. In a statement released on Tuesday President Miloš Zeman, Senate chairman Milan Štěch, lower house speaker Jan Hamáček and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the fact that some Czech politicians had met with the Dalai Lama did not signal a change in the country’s official policy. Around fifty Czech senators and deputies of the lower house attended an impromptu meeting with the Dalai Lama on Wednesday to distance themselves from the official stand and some universities hoisted the Tibetan flag in a show of solidarity with the Tibetan spiritual leader. Members of the opposition criticized the joint statement as “a shameful show of servility”. Prime Minister Sobotka defended the statement on Wednesday, saying it merely reflected the country's foreign policy line in relations with China.

Lower house approves debt-brake mechanism

The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday approved a debt-brake mechanism that would prevent future governments from borrowing and spending beyond their means. The bill sets a debt ceiling at 55 percent of GDP, lower by five percent than that outlined in the EU’s fiscal compact. It also envisages the creation of a fiscal council which would monitor adherence to the criteria set down. According to the proposal regions and municipalities would also need to have balanced budgets. The bill, which still needs to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president, should come into force on Jan 1, 2017.

Senate backs Montenegro’s accession to NATO

The Czech Senate on Wednesday gave official backing to Montenegro's accession to NATO, initiating the ratification process in the Czech Republic. The document, which still has to be approved by the lower house, received support from 39 out of 49 senators present. The Czech Foreign Ministry has consistently supported Montenegro’s efforts to join Western structures with Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek saying that the country’s presence in NATO would have a positive influence on stability in the western Balkans. The accession protocol needs to be ratified by all 28 NATO member states. So far it has been approved by ten countries.

Senate urges government to do more for peace in Ukraine

The Senate has urged the Sobotka government to use all diplomatic means at its disposal in helping to end the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. In a resolution issued on Wednesday senators expressed grave concern over the increase in violence in the region and the flagrant violation of the terms of the Minsk agreement. The resolution also clearly states that the Czech Republic perceives Crimea as an integral part of Ukraine, and condemns its annexation by Russia as an act of aggression in violation of international law.

Defence ministry seeks approval to deploy field hospital in Iraq

The defence committee of the lower house has recommended that lawmakers support the deployment of a Czech field hospital in Iraq. The team would count around 30 specialists who would help treat allied troops and Iraqi soldiers injured in the fight against Islamic State militants in and around Mosul. The team together with logistics support should be sent out before the end of the year and Defence Minister Martin Stropnický has stressed the need for a fast decision in view of the time pressure. Both houses of parliament are due to vote on the proposal this week.

New record for Czech car industry with million output in nine months

Car production in the Czech Republic was just over 1 million for the first nine months of this year, an increase of 7 percent on the same period in 2015. It is the first time that the million mark has been surpassed in the first three quarters of a year. The head of the Automotive Industry Association, Martin Jahn, told iHned.cz that the growth was due to increased domestic demand and greater interest in Czech cars in Western Europe. Škoda Auto accounted for more than half of the output, registering increased production of nearly 10 percent.

Weather forecast

Thursday should be partly cloudy to overcast with scattered showers and day temperatures between 8 and 12 degrees Celsius.