The lower house of the Czech Parliament has approved the state budget for 2006 with a deficit of 74.4 billion crowns (an estimated 3.1 billion US dollars). The budget deficit should not exceed 4.6 percent of the GDP if the Czech Republic is to meet conditions under the EU convergence programme paving the way for the country to adopt the euro. The lower house will decide at the end of the year how the 2006 state budget is to be divided among individual ministries.
The Czech Republic remains one of the worst polluters and least efficient users of energy within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an OECD report says. The production of hazardous waste remains three to four times higher than elsewhere in Europe and limits on the levels of dangerous substances in water were often significantly exceeded during the review period between 1998 and 2005. Moreover the poor air quality, particularly in Prague and the industrial regions in the north and north east of the country pose a threat to people's health, the report warned.
The Czech Republic has dispatched a special aid plane to Islamabad to
help treat the victims of earthquake hit Pakistan. The plane was not
loaded with humanitarian aid, as originally planned, but carried all
materials necessary to fully equip a field hospital, including 30 beds.
A team of 14 civilian and military medical workers and nine fire
fighters are also on board the plane.
The Czech government has earmarked 25 million crowns (a little over one million US dollars) for aid to northern Pakistan.
Health Minister Milada Emmerova has been dismissed from office, after
failing to deal with cash flow problems in the health sector. The health
crisis reached a head when six of minister Emmerova's deputies offered to
resign on Tuesday. Private physicians staged a one day strike last week.
To help stabilise the situation, the government earmarked 3.8 billion
crowns in emergency aid.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek says there are two main candidates for the post. He has refused to reveal their names but expects to find Mrs Emmerova's replacement within a week. His deputy, Zdenek Skromach, will be leading the ministry until a new health minister is appointed, the presidential office announced on Wednesday.
The European Parliament will discuss on Thursday whether to strip Czech MEP Vladimir Zelezny, the former director of the Czech commercial television station Nova, of immunity. The Czech judiciary has asked for Mr Zelezny's parliamentary immunity to be removed a he is under investigation for tax evasion and damaging a creditor. Earlier this month, the European Parliament's legal committee recommended Mr Zelezny be put at the disposal of the Czech authorities.
The Czech Republic have reached the playoffs for next year's football World Cup, after a convincing 3-0 win against Finland in Helsinki on Wednesday evening. The Czech goals were scored by Tomas Jun, Tomas Rosicky and Marek Heinz. The Czech Republic won despite the absence of key players such as Jan Koller and Marek Jankulovski. Their opponent in the play-offs will be decided on Friday.
The Seychelles will not release fugitive billionaire Radovan Krejcir, who is being prosecuted for extensive fraud and conspiracy to murder in the Czech Republic. Seychelles authorities are cooperating with the Czech police but have refused to extradite Krejcir on the grounds that he is a Seychelles citizen. Krejcir bought Seychelles citizenship back in 1996, a fact that has evoked criticism in the local press. He escaped from the Czech Republic this summer during a police raid of his villa.
The leaders of the Czech governing coalition have agreed on setting up a commission to investigate the privatization of the petrochemicals firm Unipetrol, going back to the company's founding in the early 90s. The ruling Social Democrats are suspected of having taken bribes and sold Unipetrol to PKN Orlen of Poland under highly unfavourable conditions for the Czech Republic. A Polish Parliamentary commission investigating the circumstances of the privatization recently suggested that the Czech Republic had lost billions of crowns in the process.
Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has stated he does not expect any change in good Czech-German relations under Angela Merkel, Germany's new incoming chancellor. Mr Paroubek described Mrs Merkel as a very "realistic" politician. Continuity in Czech-German foreign policy under Germany's new grand coalition could be expected, he said, also because the Social Democrats (SPD) were expected to fill the foreign ministry post.
Private doctors, pharmacies and hospitals should start receiving overdue reimbursement payments from the largest Czech insurance company VZP within a week, according to Jan Jelinek the deputy chairman of the Private Doctors Association. The government recently earmarked 3.8 billion crowns in emergency aid to help stabilize the cash-flow problems in the health sector, but critics of the government say the problem cannot be resolved without far-reaching structural reforms. The money crisis in the health sector was brought to a head last Thursday when private physicians held a one day strike to protest the poor payment morale of insurance companies, particularly VZP.
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