News

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Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg: Czechs will not support further Lisbon Treaty ratification

Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said the Czech Republic would not support further ratifications of the Lisbon Treaty. Mr Schwarzenberg told the Austrian daily Der Standard on Thursday that if the EU summit in Brussels comes up with such a proposal, the Czech Republic will not support it. The Czech foreign minister also said that it was very important for all EU institutions to “resist the temptation” and not pressure countries which have not yet ratified the Lisbon Treaty. Mr Schwarzenberg is attending an EU summit looking at ways out of the crisis caused by Ireland’s rejection of the reform document.

The Czech Republic is one of five EU countries which have not yet began the Lisbon Treaty ratification process. The Constitutional Court is due to rule after the summer on whether the document is in line with the Czech constitution.

Health minister splits reform package

Health Minister Tomáš Julínek has decided to divide his health care reform package into several parts that will go to Parliament separately. The Czech Parliament will first vote on drafts on patient and emergency services that might come into force in January 2009. More controversial bills on health insurance and university hospitals, which have been heavily criticized by the opposition and some government MPs, will come later. Minister Julínek also said he wanted to hold further talks with the opposition and professional organisations over the controversial parts of the government’s health care reform.

Czech shops sold illegal GM rice

Some Czech shops have been selling rice with illegal genetic modification, a spokesman for the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection authority told journalists on Thursday. The rice was packed by a Czech company but it came from an Italian producer that didn’t declare the foodstuff as genetically modified. The importer now has to withdraw nearly 38,000 packs of the GM rice from the Czech market.

Czech Army to begin APC Pandur tests

The Czech Army will begin testing Pandur armoured personnel carriers. Test of the Austrian made vehicles will start at an army base in Šternberk, Moravia, on Tuesday, and will take several weeks. The Defence Ministry will also start negotiating a new contract with the Austrian arms producer for the purchase of 107 Pandur APCs. In one of the biggest army deals in history, the Czech Army originally wanted to buy almost 200 of the armoured vehicles. The government abrogated the initial contract last year because the Austrian manufacturer did not manage to supply the APCs in time.

Town of Mělník wants French statue of Jan Palach, rejected by the state

Town Hall in Mělník, 30 km north of Prague, is interested in acquiring a monumental statue of Jan Palach which had earlier been rejected by the government. The statue was made by Paris-based Hungarian artist András Beck in 1969 after the student Jan Palach burnt himself to death in Prague to protest against the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops. Jan Palach, a native of central Bohemia, went to secondary school in Mělník.

Environmentalists warn of bark beetle calamity

Environmentalists warned on Thursday that forests in the Czech Republic might be devastated by bark beetles. In 2007, the bark beetle attacked 1.9 million cubic metres of wood in the country, which was twice as much than in the previous year. Jaromír Bláha from the Czech branch of Friends of the Earth said that this year, more than three million cubic metres of wood could be damaged by the bug. The Czech Republic went through a bark beetle calamity in mid 1990s due to dry weather and high temperatures. Trees attacked by the bark beetle have to be cut down immediately.

Eva Urbanová as Libuše opens Smetana’s Litomyšl opera festival

Czech opera singer Eva Urbanová in the title role of Libuše by Bedřich Smetana opened the 50th year of Smetana’s Litomyšl International Opera Festival in Litomyšl, eastern Bohemia on Wednesday night. The performance took place in the courtyard of the Litomyšl chateau, where the composer Bedřich Smetana was born in 1824. The opera festival will continue until July 5.

Seven out of ten Czechs do not see doctors’ fees as burden

Seven out of ten Czechs do not considers the doctors’ fees, introduced earlier this year as part of the government’s health care reform, to be a burden for their budgets, according to a poll conducted by the Westminster agency. The same poll suggests that more than 75 percent of the country’s doctors welcome the fees.

Ryanair to launch Prague – Nottingham connection

The Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair will launch flights between Prague and Nottingham by the end of October, company representatives told journalist in Prague on Thursday. Ryanair hopes to annually transport 60,000 passengers between the two cities; tickets for the new flight should sell at 669 crowns, or just over 40 U.S. dollars, including taxes.

Five injured in Brno house blast

Five people were injured in a house explosion and fire in the centre of Brno, Moravia, Thursday early morning. Two people suffered serious burns. The police are investigating the cause of the accident; meanwhile, the city’s safety housing authority ordered the house to be pulled down.

Weather

Friday will see cloudy skies over the Czech Republic with rain in places. Highest day temperatures will range between 20 and 24 degrees centigrade.