Lisbon Treaty ratification to continue
EU leaders have agreed the ratification process on the Lisbon Treaty will continue, although the Czech Republic has stalled pending a constitutional court decision. Lawmakers in the Senate previously petitioned the court to examine the document’s compatibility with Czech law before the matter went to a parliamentary vote. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and other members of the Czech delegation at the EU summit in Brussels made sure a clause on the Czech situation was noted by the EU on Friday.
The Lisbon Treaty first hit a hurdle in Ireland’s referendum last week, where it was rejected by more than 53 percent of voters. That spurred critics of the document, including Czech President Václav Klaus, to declare it “finished”. EU leaders have since scrambled to save the project, aimed at reforming the functioning of the 27-member union.
Foreign minister expresses hope treaty will be ratified by year’s end
In related news, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has expressed the hope that the Lisbon Treaty, which overhauls the EU’s institutions, will be ratified by Prague by the year’s end. Prague takes up the EU presidency for a six-month period on January 1, 2009. But the foreign minister admitted the situation had been complicated through the involvement of the country’s constitutional court. He expressed the hope that a decision might be handed down by the court in the early autumn, so that the Czech parliament could decide on ratification in November.
PM would now bet Czechs will ratify treaty
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has changed his mind and said he would now bet that the Czech Republic will ratify the Lisbon Treaty, something he said he would not do just one day earlier. The prime minister made the statement on the second and final day of the EU summit in Brussels. The Czech Republic is one of eight EU countries still to ratify the document but the process has been suspended until the constitutional court assesses it's compatibility with Czech law. On Friday Mr Topolánek called the fact the Czech Republic managed to push through a statement in the summit's final resolution (stating Czech ratification depended on the constitutional court's decision) a “success”.
EU to assess Cuban human rights agenda yearly
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has said that EU policy towards Cuba will be reassessed annually with regards to human rights. He described the move as an active policy approach after the EU agreed to lift sanctions against the Caribbean state. The sanctions were originally agreed in 2003 (then later temporarily suspended) in an attempt to pressure the Cuban regime to improve its record on human rights. The Czech Republic has been strongly against the lifting of sanctions in the past. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg stressed on Friday that there are more than 200 political prisoners held in appalling conditions in Cuba; he made clear the Czech Republic would continue to push for their release.
Czech version of Wikipedia hits 100,000 mark
The Czech version of Wikipedia has hit the 100,000 mark - the number of Wikipedia articles in Czech on the internet. The Czech-language edition is the 21st to have reached the milestone. The Czech edition has been growing rapidly – an average of 100 articles per day over the last four months. Around 70,000 readers visit the site daily. The original English edition hit the 100,000 mark in 2003, after two years in operation. It now boasts more than 2.4 million articles on the web.
High-profile lawyer remanded in custody
A Prague court has ruled that Czech lawyer Jiří Teryngel will remain in custody on the suspicion of tax evasion of more than 100 million crowns. Mr Teryngel's defence made the announcement on Friday saying the court had reached the decision on the grounds the defendant might otherwise try to influence witnesses. In all, four people have been charged in the case. The lawyer, who has maintained his innocence, is well-known in legal circles for involvement in a number of high-profile cases, including the defence of fugitive businessman Tomáš Pitr.
Czech EU commissioner to launch anti-discrimination campaign
EU Commissioner Vladimír Špidla will launch a European campaign against discrimination at the United Islands of Prague 2008 music festival on Saturday. Within the next four months, an information campaign will visit about 20 cities and towns in ten EU countries. According to the commissioner, who oversees employment, social affairs and equal opportunities in the European Commission, many people throughout Europe remain unaware of the right to live without discrimination regarding age, gender, religion, sexual orientation or ethnic origin. Mr Špidla stressed on Friday that the issues vary across borders: while discrimination over religion is unusual in the Czech Republic, unequal treatment related to age or disability is fairly common. A Eurobarometer survey released earlier in 2008 suggested tat 58 percent of Czechs feel that age-related discrimination is frequent.
Interest in hybrid vehicles up
Interest among Czech consumers in hybrid vehicles has reportedly gone up, although overall sales remain marginal. Toyota, one of the brands on the Czech market, has sold 53 hybrids in the Czech Republic this year, up from 32 for 2007. Observers say purchasing costs remain higher than for traditional vehicles and choices on the market remain limited. One company, Honda, is aiming to introduce a more price-friendly model on the market next year. Car companies have pointed out that the Czech Republic does not offer consumers added incentive for buying hybrid vehicles, such as lower tax upon purchase.
Czech climber dies after 25 metre fall in Saxony
A 59-year-old Czech climber who fell 25 metres off a cliff in Saxony, Germany has died from his injuries, AFP has reported. The man fell while climbing with others, suffering severe head injury and injuries to his upper body. The German police are investigating the cause of the accident.
Mostly cloudy conditions have been forecast into the weekend, with daytime temperatures reaching highs of around 23 degrees Celsius.