Thousands of trade union members have gathered in Prague to demonstrate against the government's planned public finance reforms. At least 15,000 people from across the country gathered on Prague's Letna plain on Saturday morning, before marching towards the city centre. Demonstrators carrying banners and shouting slogans marched past the government headquarters. Union leaders say the reforms - which include plans to cut sickness benefit and pensions - will hit the poorest members of society. The government insists the reforms must go ahead, saying budget cuts are necessary to prepare the Czech economy for eventual adoption of the euro.
President Vaclav Klaus has sent his condolences to the parents of a baby girl who was mauled to death by the family's dog on Friday. At the same time President Klaus called for the strictest punishment to be applied to dog owners who neglect their animals. The 18-month-year-old girl was killed on Friday as she was playing in the backyard of her house in the village of Kovansko, near Nymburk. The dog - a cross between a Labrador and a Doberman - has been taken away by the authorities. Police say they have no idea why the animal attacked the girl, the couple's only child. The parents are now receiving psychological counselling.
As the main opposition Civic Democrats continue preparations for a vote of confidence over the reforms, a rebel MP from the ruling coalition has said he believes the government will fall before the end of the year. Quoted in a newspaper interview, Social Democrat MP Josef Hojdar said he had still not decided whether or not to vote against the government in the confidence vote. The centre-left coalition has a majority of just one seat in the lower house, and Mr Hojdar's vote could be crucial to the government's survival. Mr Hojdar recently resigned from the Social Democrats' deputies' group, although he remains a member of the party.
Football now and the Czech international Milan Baros has broken his ankle during an English Premiere League match. Baros, who plays for Liverpool, was taken off in the fourth minute of Saturday's game against Blackburn Rovers. Baros, 21, is one of the most important members of the Czech national team. He scored the final goal in Wednesday's 3-1 victory over the Netherlands, which saw the Czech Republic qualify for the 2004 European Championships.
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.
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