Efforts by the Social Democratic party leadership to convince party deputies to vote in favour of a bill which would legalize gay marriage in the Czech Republic have not been entirely successful. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, who has been pushing hard for the bill's approval, said on Tuesday that several of his party deputies remained adamantly against it and that they would be left to vote according to their conscience. Meanwhile, the party has been seeking supporters for the bill across the political spectrum. Following President Klaus' veto of the bill last week, it would need to gain 101 votes in the Lower House in order to become law.
The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda wants the EU to demand an apology from Lebanon and Syria in connection with the attacks on Danish embassies by Moslem radicals. The Czech Foreign Minister said that while he did not approve of caricatures which hurt the feelings of believers, the Lebanese and Syrian governments were responsible for the protection and safety of embassies on their territory. The EU should take a joint stand on the matter, Mr. Svoboda said, because a show of disunity or doubt would only fuel Islamic radicalism.
The opposition Civic Democratic Party says the crisis in the health sector must be dealt with immediately. The party leader Mirek Topolanek said at a press briefing in Prague on Tuesday that the government's irresponsible reforms of the health sector were both destructive for the system and dangerous for patients. Corrective action must be taken without delay, the country cannot afford to wait until the June general elections, Mr. Topolanek said. Private practitioners, dentists, pharmacists and some hospitals have called a protest demonstration against the government's health reforms on Friday. The health minister claims that the situation in the health sector has now radically improved and that Friday's protest is a political gesture orchestrated by the opposition Civic Democrats.
The Czech Environment Minister Libor Ambrozek wants the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland to consider taking joint steps which would prevent the illegal export of garbage onto their territory from the more affluent EU members. In recent weeks the Czech border regions have been plagued by illegal rubbish dumps of what is obviously German waste. Czech firms are not qualified to import or process foreign waste but the illegal activity continues because there is profit to be had on both sides- for German firms it is cheaper to sell it than dispose of it, Czechs involved in the garbage smuggling make huge profit. Other EU newcomers, such as Poland appear to have the same problem.
A train collision in north Bohemia has left five people injured, one of them seriously. The morning express from Prague to Tanvald collided with a freight train just after 8 am as it was entering the Kropacov Vrutice railway station, near the town of Mlada Boleslav. Several freight wagons were derailed and the train driver is reported to be in serious condition. The track remains closed as emergency crews are working to clear the site. It is not yet clear what caused the accident.
A group of students from Charles University's Natural Science faculty have found a dinosaur bone near the town of Kutna Hora, southeast of Prague. The students were collecting fossilised shells when they came across the bone, which is suspected to be a joint from the dinosaur's back foot. The first ever dinosaur bone that was discovered in the Czech Republic was found on the same area two years ago. While palaeontologists agree that both bones come from a member of the Iguanodontidae family that lived around 95 million years ago, it has yet to be determined whether they are from one and the same dinosaur.
The Foundation for the Development of Civil Society has around 1.5 million euros at its disposal to finance projects from non-profit organisations. The grant is from the European Union's Transition Facility programme and can be used to finance any projects that are limited to one year and focus on one of a selection of topics. These include the fight against corruption or discrimination, and the protection of the environment or the consumer. The individual grant cannot exceed 50,000 euros. More information: www.nros.cz
The three heavily indebted hospitals, to which distributors cut medicine supplies last week, are no longer in crisis. One distributor resumed supplies on Monday and another has pledged to do so this week after the government and health ministry promised to help cover the hospitals' 400 million crown debt. The indebted hospitals are Prague's Bulovka and Thomayer Teaching Hospital as well as the St. Anne hospital in the south Moravian city Brno.
Up to 1,000 civil servants may receive free French lessons to prepare for the country's EU presidency. The Czech government is currently in talks with the French embassy and cultural institute in Prague. The Czech Republic takes up EU presidency in 2009, and the country's officials will be expected to communicate in French and English. Classes are scheduled to begin this year. The British Council has already contributed one million crowns to the opening of a centre, where civil servants can brush up on their English.
Police are investigating the cause of Saturday's gas explosion in a Prague restaurant which killed two people and injured four others. The blast shook the three story apartment block early on Saturday morning, demolishing the ground floor where several restaurant employees were working and shattering windows in the upper storeys. Fifteen residents were evacuated, while emergency crews used sniffer dogs to find people trapped in the debris. Investigators say it is likely that a gas pipeline may accidentally have been damaged during work in the building.
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