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Czech report Czech report
by Euro Reporter
2012-02-10 07:56:21
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President to be elected in public vote

Czech citizens will be able to choose their future presidents after a constitutional change approved Wednesday by Parliament that took the decision on who occupies the largely ceremonial post out of lawmakers’ hands. The Senate, which is controlled by the opposition Social Democrats, voted 49-22 on Wednesday in favour of the change. Parliament’s lower house gave its green light in December. Both the country’s presidents since the 1989 Velvet Revolution — the late Vaclav Havel and his political archrival Vaclav Klaus — were elected by Parliament. But bickering among lawmakers during those votes led to calls for the change. Future presidents will be chosen in a popular election that will include a run-off if no candidate achieves a majority in the first round. The next presidential election will be held in early 2013, when the current, Klaus, must step down after two terms in office.

Klaus strictly opposed the change, calling it “a fatal mistake.’’ He has been concerned the race for the five-year post could turn into a contest between celebrities or other public figures instead of politicians. But supporters of the change said it was a right decision. “I trust the people of the Czech Republic. I trust that voters will responsibly choose the president in the case of popular vote,’’ Social Democrats deputy chairman and Senator Jiri Dienstbier said. Under the Czech constitution, the president has the power to pick the prime minister, and appoint Constitutional Court judges and members of the Central Bank board. Otherwise the president has little executive power and the country is run by the government chosen and led by the prime minister.

According to the amendment, a candidate for the presidency has to be proposed by 20 lawmakers from Parliament lower house, 10 senators from the upper house or 50,000 citizens. So far, only the conservative TOP 09 party, a member of the three-party governing coalition, has declared its official candidate: its chairman and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. Also, Jan Fischer, who gained significant popularity when he led a caretaker government in 2009-10 as prime minister, has said he would run. The conservative Civic Democratic Party of Prime Minister Petr Necas is likely to choose from two notable candidates — lower house speaker Miroslava Nemcova and Senate deputy speaker Premysl Sobotka.


Czechs reclaim Mendel paper from Germany

The Czech Republic has regained a manuscript of Versuche ueber Pflanzen-Hybriden (Experiments with plant hybridisation) by Johann Gregor Mendel, founder of genetics, from 1865, after a 25-year effort, the Czech Foreign Ministry said. It was a ground-breaking work from the beginnings of genetic research. Mendel, an Augustinian friar, summarised the results of his research of plant inheritance in it. Before being deposited in the Mendel Museum in Brno, the valuable manuscript was presented by Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg in Prague this afternoon.

"It is a crucial scientific work. He was really one of the most significant scientists of his era. If we now watch researches such as of DNA, we must not forget that he was the great grandfather of this scientific branch," Schwarzenberg said, referring to Mendel. Mendel (1822-1884) was born in Brno to a German-speaking family. Spending most of his life in a monastery in Brno, he discovered what was later called Mendel's Laws of Inheritance. The manuscript is returning to the Czech Republic symbolically, at the time of celebrations of Mendels' year on the occasion of the 190th anniversary of his birth.

The return of the manuscript was not an easy matter. According to earlier information in foreign media, there was a dispute over it between Mendel's descendants, the Augustinian order and Austrian, Czech and German authorities. The Foreign Ministry strived for the manuscript's return at the request of Brno abbot Evzen Martinec a couple of years ago. The minister addressed the government of Baden-Wuerttemberg, where local experts were planning to declare the manuscript a piece of German cultural heritage. The Brno monastery was abolished by the Czechoslovak communist regime in 1953 and its most valuable documents were secretly hid by the Augustinian Order members. In the latter half of the 1980s they had the Mendel manuscript temporarily deposited at the Augustinian headquarters in Vienna, from where it was transferred to Germany for making a facsimile. In Germany it was gained by the Mendel family with whom the Brno Augustinians unsuccessfully negotiated until 2010.


Czech PM says he did not rule out signature of EU fiscal treaty

Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS) said today he has not ruled out his signature under the prepared EU fiscal treaty on behalf of the Czech Republic, but only did not pledge to do it with regard to the mandate the government gave him. Necas was defending his procedure in Brussels in the Chamber of Deputies. Lubomir Zaoralek, deputy chairman of the Chamber of Deputies and the opposition Social Democrats (CSSD), dismissed Necas´s argumentation as "drivel."

"I did not rule out the signature, I only did not pledge to add it," Necas said. The mandate the government gave him says "the Czech Republic will make a decision on a possible signature under the treaty only after it thoroughly studies its final text," Necas said. Agreement on the treaty was reached at the January summit at which representatives of the EU member states were to politically pledge they will sign it. The draft treaty is to introduce a debt brake and support the euro zone countries' budget responsibility. The document has only been refused by the Czech Republic and Britain. Necas said many provisions of the treaty are open, which means that their real character will only show in practice. "What we know is that further important powers are being transferred to EU institutions and that the character of European cooperation is changing towards fiscal federalism," Necas said.

He said the treaty will allow the two largest EU countries, (Germany and France) together with the European Commission to order countries to reduce their possible excessive budget deficits. Zaoralek said the treaty will not lead to any transfers of powers and that it is only an agreement of EU member states introducing duties for states using the euro.

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