The European Union has urged the Czech Republic to improve food safety standards, warning that hundreds of food companies could be forced out of business when the country joins the EU next year. The warning came from a delegation headed by EU health Commissioner David Byrne who found that many Czech food companies were still lagging behind the strict EU requirements. The EU delegation also urged the Czech government to enact legislation that would bring food regulations up to EU levels in areas of veterinary care, meat and dairy processing plants.
The Communist party leadership has advised its deputies not to support the government in a vote of confidence, which the leading opposition party of Civic Democrats is planning to instigate. The governing coalition has a razor thin 101 voice majority in Parliament while the two opposition parties, the Civic Democrats and the Communists command 99 votes altogether. As a result, the coalition government has been calling its deputies to order demanding 100% attendance at all parliament sessions. The vote on next year's budget is expected to be critical and the government has been working hard to ensure the support of all its deputies.
The two largest Czech trade union groups have announced they will hold a
public rally on Saturday, September 13 in Prague in protest against the
government's proposed public finance reforms. The Czech and Moravian
Confederation of Trade Unions and the Association of Independent Trade
Unions agree that the current state of the public finance is unsustainable
and needs a thorough reform, but they find the government's draft plans
The reforms include tax hikes, pension, health, and social system reforms, as well as other austerity measures, including massive lay-offs in the state administration. The Unions claim that the reforms will in effect primarily hurt employees, families with young children, and pensioners. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla admitted that minor changes were possible but he does not want make any substantial changes to the draft.
Heart specialists at a Prague hospital have begun examining nine Iraqi
children whose heart problems were diagnosed in recent weeks by Czech
doctors in Basra, southern Iraq. The children arrived in the Czech capital by military plane on Sunday as part of the Czech Republic's contribution to the reconstruction of Iraq. They are among the over 5,000 Basra-area civilians who have been treated by doctors and nurses from the Czech field hospital stationed in Basra since May. According to Motol hospital cardiologist Dr. Vaclav Chaloupecky, the five girls and four boys were born with serious heart defects and had little chance of receiving adequate medical care in their home country. Each child will need to spend over a month in hospital. They were selected for special care from a group of about 30 children diagnosed by army doctors. Theirs is the second group of Basra children flown to Prague for medical care since the army field hospital opened a paediatric unit in July.
Nine seriously ill Iraqi children arrived in Prague on Sunday afternoon to get free medical care. The five girls and four boys will undergo heart operations at Prague's Motol hospital. The children aged between one and ten years are accompanied by their relatives and arrived in Prague as part of a humanitarian programme under which seriously ill Iraqi citizens are offered free medical care in the Czech Republic. The programme was approved by parliament in July.
The Austrian Supreme Court has ruled that Austrian courts must deal with lawsuits against the south Bohemian nuclear power plant Temelin, thus overturning a ruling by a lower court that these suits were out of Austrian courts' jurisdiction. The decision was welcomed by representatives of Upper Austria and by environmentalists who have been saying for years that Temelin is not safe and presents a threat to neighbouring Austria. Many of them have filed suits with Austrian courts.
The former Czech culture minister, writer, journalist and dissident in exile Pavel Tigrid has died in Paris at the ago of 85. The former Czech president Vaclav Havel said he had received the news with a heavy heart, describing Mr. Tigrid as a good and brave man who had left behind a precious legacy. Culture minister Pavel Dostal described him as a legend of Czech journalism. Pavel Tigrid emigrated from his homeland twice: once during the Nazi occupation and again after the communists took power in 1948. During the war he worked as a journalist for the London based Czechoslovak government in exile, and in later years he worked for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. He returned to Czechoslovakia after the fall of communism in 1989.
More than half of all primary and secondary schools in the country intend to join the one day token strike in protest of low wages on Monday. The Education Ministry said on Friday that it could make no more concessions, and that it had done its utmost for teachers within the government proposed cuts in spending. The Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka likewise confirmed that there could be no question of allotting extra finances for teachers' pay. Tax officials, employees of land registry and social welfare offices also intend to join the one day protest strike. Meanwhile, the leaders of the governing coalition parties are to meet with officials of the Bohemian and Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions on Monday to discuss the public finance reform and trade unions' suggestions for its modification. The Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has warned trade unions however not to expect any major concessions.
EU experts say the Czech agricultural sphere is lagging behind in preparations for EU membership. Unnamed sources at the European Commission have said that an EU progress report, to be published in the autumn, will emphasize the need to speed up structural changes in the last months leading up to EU membership. The commission's experts warn that if the Czech Republic fails to make up for the lost time in this field it could have a serious effect both on the country's farmers and on consumers. The field of veterinary legislation in particular has been found seriously lacking.
The Czech Republic has said it will support Croatian ambitions to join the European Union if Zagreb cooperates with the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. On a working visit to Zagreb, the Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said that the Czech Republic was willing to help Croatia as a friendly country in the negotiating process for EU membership, but he said Croatia must meet all conditions for membership. One of the key conditions is cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal, which means that Croatia must extradite its soldiers, including generals, who are charged with war crimes to the ICTY. Croatia is seen as having been reluctant to cooperate in the past, having failed to arrest its prime war crimes suspect, army general Ante Gotovina.
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