The health minister, Milada Emmerova, has presented the government with her draft five-year plan to reform the nation's heath-care system. Her proposals include increasing state oversight of health insurers and reducing spending on drugs. Ms Emmerova also proposed that every state hospital appoint an ombudsman to address patients' concerns.
The deputy chairman of the main opposition Civic Democrats, Petr Necas, told Czech Radio's radiozurnal programme on Monday that his party is ready to form a "broad consensus of political forces" to push for holding early parliamentary elections, now scheduled for 2006. The centre-right Civic Democrats won 18 of 27 seats being contested for the Czech Senate this month while the ruling Social Democrats failed to pick up a single seat. Commenting on these results, Mr Necas said the "democratic legitimacy" of the Social Democrat-led government was "gradually disappearing". This year, the centre-right Civic Democrats defeated the left-leaning Social Democrats in regional Czech elections and in the country's first elections to the European Parliament.
A Prague district court on Monday sentenced 14 alleged members of a criminal gang for trafficking in human beings. The leader of the gang, a Chechen named Ivas Muzavev, was given a four-year prison term and fined 400,000 crowns. Other members of the gang, which included several Armenians and eastern European nationals and employed Czechs drivers, received suspended sentences or at most three-year prison terms as well as fines. Police said the gang had illegally transported at least 1,500 people across Czech territory from August 2002 until the ring was broken up in October last year. The gang initially focused on transporting people from India and its neighbouring countries but had begun to specialise in the former Soviet republics.
A special commission which was set up to prevent mass immigration of Roma from neighbouring Slovakia will cease to exist, a spokesman for the Justice Ministry has said. He added that the fears of a mass influx of Roma economic migrants, following the cuts in social benefits in Slovakia and EU accession, have not materialised. In recent years, whole families moved over to live with their relatives in the Czech Republic hoping to improve their living standard. According to the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry the immigration only worsened the living conditions of the Czech Roma population as they now live in overcrowded flats, pay extra expenses, and crime, illegal money-lending and illegal employment are on the rise in the community.
The acting head of the senior government Social Democrats and Prime Minister Stanislav Gross told the Internet news server iDnes that his party will consider the abolition of the Senate in the future, after the results of the second round of Senate elections were published on Saturday. According to Mr Gross, the Social Democrats will consider this measure because of the extremely low turnout, about 18 percent, in the second round of voting on Friday and Saturday. The head of the junior coalition Christian Democrats Miroslav Kalousek said he was surprised by this idea and compared the situation to someone who "loses a game and then wants to abolish the playing field".
A report by the Statistical Office of the European Communities, Eurostat, says that Czechs have the longest working hours in the European Union. In the Czech Republic people spend more than 42 hours at work every week which is by five hours more than the European average. The Eurostat study also says that part-time employment in the Czech Republic is rare compared to other EU states and the country has a high rate of long term unemployment.
The Health Minister, Social Democrat Milada Emmerova has said that the
leadership of the party discussed the possibility of early general
elections at its Saturday meeting. Speaking in a televised debate on
Sunday, Minister Emmerova added that early elections were not the
Social Democrats' first option but merely one of the possible
alternatives. The Social Democrats experienced election defeats in June
in the European elections, last weekend in the elections to the
regional assemblies and in this weekend's second round of Senate
elections, where no Social Democrat candidate was elected.
The senior opposition Civic Democrats won all three of the elections and the junior opposition Communist Party finished second, ahead of the governing Social Democrats.
Passions flew on Friday at the opening night of a new production of the great 19th century Czech opera, The Bartered Bride by Bedrich Smetana. Some members of the audience cried out in disapproval of a production that highlights the humour of the opera and rejects a historical or patriotic interpretation.
A mass was held at Prague's Saint Vitus Cathedral on Saturday to mark the 15th anniversary of the canonization of Saint Agnes, the 13th century daughter of the King and Queen of Bohemia. She was canonized just days before the beginning of the Velvet Revolution, and the bishop and former dissident Vaclav Maly, who led the mass, warned that the ideals of that time were rapidly fading or being trivialized. Her canonization in 1989 in Rome was attended by 10,000 Czech and Slovak believers, in open defiance of the then regime's atheist ideology. Saint Agnes is remembered in particular for helping the poor and rejecting a life of privilege.
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