Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and health insurance company
representatives have reached agreement on a series of cost-cutting
measures which should gradually reduce the sector's ten billion crown
deficit in spending. The Prime Minister did not say how much money
would be saved in this manner or how much the government planned to
inject into the cash-strapped health sector next year. Details of the
agreement are to be made public after it has been signed on Wednesday.
A recent one day strike by private physicians brought the money crisis in the health sector to a head and resulted in the dismissal of health minister Milada Emmerova. Experts say the crisis cannot be resolved without far-reaching structural changes.
The Czech Republic is reported to have one of the highest levels of corruption in the European Union. In a report released by Transparency International the Czech Republic has a corruption index of 4.3, on a scale of O to 10, where 10 is the best. This result is markedly worse than that of other EU newcomers such as Slovenia with 6.1 or Hungary rated 5.0. The Czech Republic is 47th on a list of 158 states, on par with Namibia, Slovakia and Greece. The head of the Czech branch of Transparency International Adriana Krnacova says corruption is a serious problem in this country and prospects for improvement are not encouraging.
The police have detained six suspects in connection with the investigation into the case of fugitive billionaire Radovan Krejcir. Krejcir, who is wanted for extensive tax evasion, extortion and conspiracy to murder, escaped to the Seychelles in June while the police were raiding his luxury villa. The Czech authorities have failed in their request to get him extradited on the grounds that Krejcir has been a citizen of the Seychelles since 1996, but an investigation into the respective crimes continues. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic is negotiating an agreement on the exchange of suspects and convicts with the Seychelles.
The Czech government has halted commercial sales of Tamiflu, an anti-viral drug thought to be effective against the deadly bird flu strain detected in Europe. Deputy health minister Jiri Koskuba said that all purchases of Tamiflu would now be directed towards strategic stocks. The decision was made shortly after it emerged that Czechs had bought up all available stocks which were on the market. The health authorities attempted to quell the panic buying, advising Czechs to get seasonal flu shots and assuring them that there was no imminent danger of a bird flu pandemic or even a seasonal flu epidemic.
The Polish petrochemical company PKN Orlen has agreed to pay an additional 1.6 billion crowns for the Czech government's stake in the Czech chemical group Unipetrol it bought earlier this year. This will make the amount PKN Orlen has paid for the share in Unipetrol almost 14.7 billion crowns or (595 million dollars). The amount was calculated by a recent audit at Unipetrol.
The Czech Deputy Prime Minister Martin Jahn said on Monday he would step down at the end of the year and quit politics, just six months ahead of the country's general elections. Mr Jahn, in charge of economic affairs in the cabinet, had been due to head the Social Democrats' list of candidates in Prague although he himself is not a party member. Commentators say Mr Jahn's move was motivated by a shift further to the left by the Social Democrats, shown by a more frequent cooperation with the little-reformed Communist Party in parliament in recent months. Mr Jahn denied this on Monday at a joint news conference with Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek who ruled out direct cooperation with the Communists.
The Czech and French governments will try and find a compromise solution to the issue of restricted labour movement. After meeting French President Jacques Chirac in Paris on Monday, the Czech Prime Minister Jiri Proubek said he could envisage a certain liberalisation of employment restrictions, for example for Czech university graduates. France, along with the majority of old EU members, imposed temporary labour movement restrictions for citizens of new EU countries.
The Czech Republic will send another military plane carrying two doctors, a rescue group and 12 tonnes of supplies, including tents and campbeds, for Pakistan on Tuesday, the Interior Ministry said. The group will partly replace and partly reinforce a 23-member Czech medical team that has been operating in the areas hit by a devastating earthquake for several days. The reinforced medical team will remain in the town of Ravalkot in northern Pakistan for another fortnight.
Meanwhile Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has confirmed he has been holding talks with former diplomat and European Commissioner Pavel Telicka regarding the replacement of the outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Martin Jahn. Mr Paroubek said Pavel Telicka could also head the Social Democrats' list of candidates in the Prague constituency.
The chairman of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats' deputy group,
Vlastimil Tlusty, has revealed that he and several other members of his
party have filed a criminal complaint against Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek
and two members of the cabinet, as well as a former aide, in connection
with the privatisation of the Czech oil concern Unipetrol. According to
the MPs the prime minister played a role in the privatisation at a time
when he was still at City Hall. The prime minister has dismissed the move
Last year the Polish PKN Orlen bought 63 percent shares in the Czech oil giant - a deal which has since been dogged by allegations of corruption. On Friday Polish prosecutors investigating the purchase asked for permission to question over a dozen individuals in the Czech Republic including former prime minister Stanislav Gross. The new management of PKN Orlen has also said it has uncovered new evidence of secret payoffs to Czech politicians.
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