In the News 9.12.08

Topolánek re-elected, Klaus leaves ODS, & more...

Written by Naďa Straková
Aktuálně.cz CzechNews


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POPLAR AND KISS OF DEATH. “Tall as a poplar and strong roots,” that is how Czech PM Mirek Topolánek sees himself, having shared his view with his party mates during his address at the weekend´s Prague party congress of Civic Democrats. “Toplar” is Topolánek’s nickname translated from the Czech word “topol” and the strong roots is a metaphor indicating the ability to endure crises, since  ODS has experienced one lately.

One of them was the failure to win the October regional election. And yet, Topolánek managed to beat Prague Mayor Pavel Bém in a landslide vote and be re-elected the head of ODS at the Congress..

Pavel Bém is believed by many to have been a “protégé” of president Klaus. In an interview for a political talk show broadcast every Sunday by Czech TV, Bém did not deny this but said that “in the past Klaus’s support was like the kiss of death for the person´s political career”.


VÁCLAV´S (NOT HAVEL´S) LEAVING. The Congress also saw Czech president and honorary chairman of ODS Václav Klaus quit his party membership. 

Klaus explained to the congress attendees and to public service Czech TV viewers why he decided to leave the party and. In a brief address, Václav Klaus said that it had become difficult for him to identify with the ideology of the current ODS leadership. The congress was broadcast live.

Václav Klaus founded the Civic Democratic Party 1991 and was at the helm until 2002. He was first elected Czech president in 2003 and re-elected in February 2008.


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HORSETRADING, DEALTRADING? The Lisbon Treaty was not really in focus at the ODS party congress. The only thing that was agreed on was that it would be wise to approve the treaty only after the US radar base deal is approved by the Cabinet.


PRISONERS IN NEED. Debts that cannot be settled even after long years of hard work are the fundamental reason why released prisoners turn into recidivists.

Czech Probation and Mediation Service introduced a project that is supposed to help debtors as well as their creditors. A special fund will be established that will pay a part of the sum to creditors, and debtors will be paying the rest of the sum to the fund, instead of to creditors.

The Czech Republic has one of the highest numbers of recidivists in Europe. As much as 60 percent of prisoners are being jailed for the second time and more than 80 percent had served an alternative sentence before.


ČR AT THE EU COURT. The European Court of Human Rights ordered the Czech government to pay EUR 2,000 in damages to Mohamed Magdi Mansour Rashed for violating his rights as an asylum seeker two years ago.

The Egyptian man filed an asylum petition at Prague Airport in August 2006. The Interior Ministry turned down his petition on 9 September, but the man was not allowed to leave the country until June 2007, after being held in asylum centers for 10 months. Read the story of Mohamed here.


ČR AT THE EU COURT RELOADED. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the Czech Republic failed to comply with the obligations of its admission to EU.

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The obligations ČR failed to comply concern adopting two directives from 1986 and 1996 on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women.

The ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is only a warning that does not impose any penalty yet. However, the Czech Republic will have to pay the expenses of the trial worth several thousands of euro.


PASSPORTS FOR THE YOUNGEST. Children as young as 6 years old will have to have passports with fingerprints, the government decided last week.

The government asked the Chamber of Deputies to discuss the bill in a rapid procedure. If the Chamber approves the bill, the new type of passports will be issued from 1 April 2009.


CHURCH RESTITUTION. It may surprise many that under the communist regime the state invested a total of CZK 60 billion in church property and churches. It is the latest finding of a lower house committee set up six months ago to prepare a study on church restitutions.

The study also indicates that the confiscation of church assets in 1948 deprived Czech churches of potential profits totalling CZK 141 billion.

The church restitution is a controversial issue and to satisfy all sides involved is proving to be impossible.


PROVOKING PRESIDENTS. When an outspoken critic of the European Union, relentless critic of the global warming theory and provocateur in one meets another provocateur, EP Greens leader and 1968 French student riots leader, a rift is predictable and somewhat inevitable.

That is exactly what happened at Friday’s meeting of the president and MEPs. President Klaus was angered by questions posed by Daniel Cohn- Bendit, the head of the European Greens, who later that day confirmed he was being deliberately provocative.

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President Klaus knows all too well how to provoke but you don’t provoke presidents, that ‘s the message the Prague Castle seems to be sending out.

“I have to say that nobody has talked to me in such a manner and such a tone in six years in [office]. I thought these manners ended 19 years ago,” was Klaus’s response to Cohn-Bendit’s provocative questions.

Cohn-Bendit’s rebellious nature is notorious and it dates back to the Paris barricades 1968 (which were mentioned at the meeting too, by the way). BBC World Service has recently broadcast a program on the 1968 students’ riots across the globe, in which young Cohn-Bendit as the chief protagonist is frequently quoted. Cohn-Bendit argues that any president should be ready to answer certain questions.

The question of the day is: Can you or can you not provoke presidents? You decide.

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