Health ministers from fifteen current and future European Union member states have agreed to join forces to discourage patients from one country from seeking health care in another after the EU expands in May. The ministers agreed to regularly exchange information on patients who seek cross-border medical care at the end of a two-day conference in Senohraby, 30 kilometers south of Prague. Studies have indicated that patients from Western European countries could be tempted by cheaper health care costs in the ten nations joining the EU. The "Prague Declaration", a document calling for measures to be taken if the health care system of any one country was threatened, was signed by the health ministers of the ten new EU nations (Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) as well as the five current members (Austria, Greece, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands).
The Social Democratic Party was the only party brave enough to lead the Czech Republic into the European Union, Social Democrat Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said on Saturday. Speaking at a meeting of party liners on the Central Bohemian Rip Hill - the place where the first Czechs are believed to have settled - Mr Spidla said all other parties were too weak and lacked the courage to prepare the country for the EU. He added that the results of the next parliamentary elections will only be in his party's interest if its members believed in themselves and their political manifesto, a programme which allows the average Czech to make an honest living.
The US editor and columnist Alan Levy is dead. Mr Levy, lived and worked in Prague since the 1960s, passed away at the age of 72 years on Friday after a brief and courageous battle with cancer. Mr Levy first came to the Czech capital from New York as a journalist in 1967. He was editor-in-chief of The Prague Post, a popular English-language weekly, since its founding in 1991, when he was hired by the owners to help launch the newspaper. His column, "Prague Profile," introducing personalities from all walks of life, was one of the paper's most-read features and appeared 549 times. During his journalistic career Mr Levy interviewed personalities such as former Czech president Vaclav Havel, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, the Beatles, and authors Graham Greene and W.H. Auden. He also chronicled the Prague Spring reform movement and the Warsaw Pact invasion that followed in numerous articles and a book called "Rowboat to Prague".
Bohumil Hrabal fans came together in Prague on Saturday afternoon to commemorate the famous Czech novelist with the setting of a foundation stone for the Bohumil Hrabal Centre at Prague's Liben district. The centre, which will have a bookshop, gallery and a tavern, is to be built on Na Hrazi street, where Hrabal lived between 1950-1973 and where he wrote several of his earlier books. Close to three million copies of his books were printed during his life-time and he was translated into twenty-seven languages. Bohumil Hrabal's contribution to modern European literature includes "Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age" and "Closely Watched Trains". Mr Hrabal died on February 3, 1997.
The Czech Republic is launching its first large international television advertising campaign aimed at attracting more tourists to the country. Regional Development Minister Pavel Nemec said on Friday that the advertisements would be seen by around 150 million viewers around Europe. The ads emphasise that the country is 'pleasant and calm', characteristics which research showed tourists associated with the Czech Republic.
On Thursday evening over half a million viewers watched the first ever "Vecernicek" children's programme to feature Romany characters. Public broadcaster Czech Television said almost 400,000 of the animated programme's viewers had been adults. It was part one of a six-part series partly funded by the European Union.
Employees in the state sector are to go on strike for one hour on the morning of Wednesday, April 21, the chairman of the Czech Medical Workers Union told reporters on Friday. The strike is in protest at government plans to give workers only ten percent of their "thirteenth month's" salary, a type of end-of-year bonus.
Controversial businessman Viktor Kozeny has registered his new political party at the Interior Ministry, party deputy chairman Pavel Matejka said on Friday. Mr Kozeny - who is now an Irish citizen and lives in the Bahamas - is wanted for large-scale fraud in the Czech Republic and the United States. His party is called "Viktor Kozeny - Civic Federal Democrats" and plans to field candidates in the first ever Czech elections to the European Parliament in June. Questions have been asked about how the man dubbed the "Pirate of Prague" plans to stand, given that he would be arrested if he entered the Czech Republic.
The Senate has approved the nomination of seven of the twenty-four provisional deputies, who will be representing the Czech Republic in the European Parliament in the period between the country's accession to the EU on May 1 and July 20 when regular deputies are scheduled to assume their posts. The twenty-four Czech MEPs will be elected in the June 11-12 elections, in which the Czech Republic will take part for the first time as a full-fledged EU member. The remaining seventeen provisional deputies are expected to be nominated by the Lower House next Tuesday.
More than twenty international banks have been asked to submit bids to lead manage the Czech Republic's debut sovereign euro bond issue, Deputy Finance Minister Eduard Janota told Reuters news agency on Thursday. The Czech Republic is looking to tap international markets for about one billion euros through a 10-year bond issue in June, about a month after it joins the European Union. According to Mr Janota, the ministry will make a short list and choose one or two lead managers by the end of this month at the latest. The Czech euro bond offering is expected to set a benchmark for sovereign debt of the country, which - unlike its central European peers - has no outstanding sovereign foreign bonds. Apart from this, the finance ministry also wants to open up a new borrowing channel and ease pressure on the domestic market, increasingly saturated by fast growing state debt. Czech government debt accounted for 37.6 percent of gross domestic product last year, under EU criteria, and is seen rising further in the years to come due to fiscal deficits.