The EU health commissioner Markos Kyprianou has met Czech health ministry officials in Prague to discuss measures concerning a potential outbreak of bird flu, among them the country's emergency plan and strategic stockpiles of antiviral drugs and other medicines. According to the Czech Chief Hygiene Officer Michael Vit, Mr Kyprianou said the Czech Republic was well prepared for a potential epidemic of bird flu.
Some members of the opposition Civic Democrats have accused Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek of taking political advantage of the bill on registered partnerships of same-sex couples due to be voted on by the lower house this week. In a statement released on Monday, they said Mr Paroubek is trying to politically appropriate the bill and to present himself as its sole guarantor, which, as they said, may discourage some Civic Democrat deputies from voting for the bill. Both the lower house and the Senate have passed the bill, but president Vaclav Klaus vetoed it last month. To override the veto, the lower house now needs a majority of 101 votes in the 200-seat chamber.
An opinion poll just released by the Factum agency suggests that support for the ruling Social Democrats is falling three months before parliamentary elections. According to the poll, the opposition Civic Democrats would get the largest percentage of the vote and gain 68 seats in the 200-member lower house, followed by the Social Democrats with 42 MPs. The Communist Party would get 42 seats and the Christian Democrats would gain 20 seats - only three seats more than the Green Party, which, according to Factum, would be the fifth party to make it to parliament.
The EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou told reporters on Monday that unless the Czech Republic implements European anti-smoking legislation and restricts tobacco advertising, it faces sanctions from the EU. Mr Kyprianou said the European Commission will ask the Czech Republic to toughen its anti-smoking legislation. If the requirement is not met, Mr Kyprianou said, there is a number of steps, including sanctions, which the EU could apply.
The Agriculture Ministry is considering distributing information leaflets on bird flu to every household in the Czech Republic, Agriculture Minister Jan Mladek said on Monday. He added that the ministry is assessing the costs of such a campaign. He said leaflets telling consumers how to handle food products in order to minimise the risk of infection are ready for distribution.
Former head of the Communist Party Miroslav Grebenicek has softened
recent criticism in which he indicated his party was "too soft" on the
government ruling Social Democrats. Speaking on a Sunday TV debate
programme, Mr Grebenicek backtracked on the statement made during the
week, saying that was no longer the case. He also praised his successor
Vojtech Filip. During the week Mr Grebenick threatened to give up his
candidacy to Parliament in upcoming national elections, if the
Communist Party did not take a stronger stance on the Social Democrats
- completing their 2nd successive term in government.
A number of polls have suggested that if elections were held today the Social Democrats would finish 2nd behind the right-of-centre Civic Democratic Party, with the Communists finishing third.
The Foreign Ministry has revealed that a ministry commission is currently weighing three proposals in a public tender on a project which will extensively map anti-Nazi activities in Czechoslovakia during World War II. The project is especially aimed at examining contributions by those members of Czechoslovakia's ethnic German minority who fought against the Nazis but suffered reprisals or injustice after the war.
Heavy snowfall in parts of the Czech Republic has continued to worsen conditions on some roads, especially in parts of Southern Bohemia and Moravia. The Czech Republic, like other parts of Central and Eastern Europe, has experienced one of its harsher winters in recent memory. On Sunday, snow fall played a role in delays on roads for example in the Prachitice region of Southern Bohemia, which saw 20 centimetres of new snow overnight. Drivers have been warned to proceed with caution. Road clearing crews spent much of Saturday night clearing extensive snowdrifts.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus and his wife Livia Klausova marked the upcoming T.G. Masaryk Day (March 7th) by taking a 20 minute train ride in the region of Kladno, near Prague, in a historic steam-powered train once used by Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, Czechoslovakia's first president. Masaryk was born on March 7th, 1850 - that is, 156 years ago. Mr Klaus, his wife, and four grandchildren took part in Sunday's ride, looking out from Masaryk's original salon car - before meeting members of the public in Kladno. Later on Sunday: the president, his wife, and some 200 others took part in a special memorial ceremony at Lany Chateau honouring Masaryk's memory. Czechoslovakia's first president died at Lany in September 1937 at the age of 87, and is buried there along with his wife Charlotte, and son Jan and daughter Alice.
Agriculture Minister Jan Mladek has said that bird flu - the deadly H5N1 virus - has likely already reached the Czech Republic, although no cases have been uncovered yet. The minister made the comment on Sunday during a discussion programme on the commercial broadcaster TV Nova. On Sunday the spokesman for the Czech State Veterinary Authority, Josef Duben, also confirmed no cases of the virus had been found - with more than 500 wild and more than 100 domestic specimens all testing negative. All of the Czech Republic's neighbours - Poland the latest on Sunday - have now confirmed cases of the virus.