The Czech government is resolved to take a tougher line with the US over visas, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek told journalists after Wednesday's Cabinet meeting. The Czech Republic has been pressing for years to change the imbalance in the two countries visa policies. While US citizens only need a valid passport to enter the Czech Republic, Czechs still require visas to go to the United States. The PM said this was strange given the fact that the Czech Republic was one of a few countries which staunchly supported US policy. Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda advocated a tougher approach also towards Canada and Australia where the visa situation is the same.
The government has established an advisory council on seniors that will deal with problems linked to the aging of Czech society. The council will be headed by Labour Minister Zdenek Skromach and will be made up of representatives of organizations whose activities focus on senior citizens. The government expects the council to draft a systematic approach to meeting the needs of an aging society and make suggestions which would help improve the lives of pensioners.
A regional court has ruled that Kokorin Castle should be returned to
its former owners: the Spacek family. The National Hertitage Fund which
lost the case over the state-owned castle has not said whether it would
appeal the verdict. Kokorin Castle which dates back to the 14th
century, came into the ownership of the Spacek family in the early 20
th century and was confiscated by the communists after they came to
power in 1948.
Previous attempts by the family to get their property restored were thwarted by a law stipulating that all national cultural monuments must remain in state ownership. Last year the Constitutional court ruled this law unconstitutional, opening the way for the family's restitution claim.
The State Attorney has accused the former health minister Marie Souckova of breach of trust and abuse of power in connection with action she took relating to the Diag Human case. During her time in office the minister signed a highly disadvantageous contract with lawyer Zdenek Novacek who was to provide the ministry with legal advice in its dispute with Diag Human, a firm trading in blood plasma. The contract stated that he was to be paid 20 million crowns and a further 170 million crowns if the state won its case against Diag Human.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has sent a protest note to Belarus over an attack on a Czech journalist in the capital Minsk during the presidential election, and asked for a thorough investigation into the affair. Jan Rybar suffered concussion and a broken nose after being set upon by two men on Sunday, the day Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected president in a vote the European Union said was neither free nor fair. Mr Rybar said he believed his assailants were secret police officers. Minister Svoboda told Wednesday's Mlada fronta Dnes he regarded the incident as very serious.
The Czech Medical Chamber is receiving a growing number of complaints from patients regarding treatment received at the hands of GPs and specialists. The head of the commission dealing with complaints Jana Vedralova said that most of the cases were about poor communication between doctor and patient rather than a poor diagnosis or an error in judgement.
Meanwhile, the Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes reported one of its correspondents was badly beaten up in the centre of the capital Minsk on Sunday night. Jan Rybar suffered concussion and a broken nose during the attack; he said he believed his assailants were secret police officers. The Czech charge d'affaires in the city said he thought it was not an act of random violence.
A court in Hradec Kralove has sentenced a former police officer to eight years in prison for drug trafficking. Pavel Krchnavy was found guilty of giving almost 9 kilos of heroin to an accomplice and giving him instructions on how to bring the drugs to Italy. The man was subsequently arrested by Italian police.
The Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, has called for the main
opposition leader in Belarus, Alexander Milinkevich, to be invited to a
European Union summit later this week. Mr Milinkevich received around 6
percent of the vote in Sunday's presidential election in Belarus, which
was won by the autocratic incumbent Alexander Lukashenko.
The EU has described the election as neither free nor fair, and is considering stepping up sanctions against Belarus. However Minister Svoboda said he was opposed to tough sanctions: he called for more dialogue and support for the country's universities, NGOs and opposition.
The Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, said Mr Lukashenko's landslide victory confirmed his fears for democracy in Belarus.
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