Clean up work is underway in many parts of the Czech Republic following a week of heavy flooding. As the waters recede individual municipalities are assessing the degree of flood damage. Among the first to make known a specific figure is the culture ministry which said on Saturday that the estimated damage to national monuments would amount to approximately 10 million crowns. The Terezin Memorial, the site of a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War, was damaged in the floods as were several churches, castles and chateaux.
The Social Democrat Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has slammed right wing reforms as a recipe for economic and social disaster. Speaking at an economic forum in Prague, Mr. Paroubek said that a flat tax and other reform plans presented by his party's main rivals in the June general elections -the Civic Democrats - would create a state of egoists. The prime minister whose party has been trailing several points behind the centre right Civic Democrats in opinion surveys, promised voters that he would not enter into a coalition with the Communists, saying that to implement their policy programme would lead the country into an economic crisis.
Health Minister David Rath has asked for a 2.7 billion crown loan for the country's state run health insurance company VZP. The money is to help tide over the ailing company and enable it to pay doctors on time. Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka who would have to approve the loan, has said he is not inclined to support such a solution and has serious doubts regarding the company's ability to pay it back.
Two more cases of bird flu have been detected in the Czech Republic, bringing the overall number to ten. All of the infected birds are swans found in the vicinity of Ceske Budejovice, in southern Bohemia. The last two cases were found on the bank of the Vltava river, close to where one of the previous infected birds was discovered. Protective measures are already in effect in the area. They include a ban on the transport of birds, poultry products and eggs, the use of disinfectants and a ban on outdoor breeding.
Milan Stech has been re-elected head of the Czech and Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions, the country's largest trade union organization representing 33 associations and more than 600,000 members. One of the three deputy posts went to Marcela Kubinkova. She is the first woman ever to be elected to one of the top posts in the confederation.
The Czech Republic and four other EU member states face legal action by the EC over children's nappies. The European Commission has warned the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Portugal and Malta that they are violating EU rules by allowing nappies to be sold at lowered value added tax levels. Earlier this year, EU finance ministers agreed to extend an agreement by five years which allows VAT on selected goods and services in several member states to be kept lower than the minimum rate of 15 percent. Nappies are not included. The Commission will give the five countries two months to respond before a second warning is issued. Any country failing to heed the second and final warning will face the European Court of Justice.
The Health Ministry has prepared a new directive that would make medicines available outside pharmacies. According to the ministry the directive is to help people who live far from a pharmacy, but pharmacists feel threatened by the decision. The minister lowered their profit margin in the beginning of this year, a move that many said would lead them into bankruptcy.
Police have charged sixteen people in an organised scam diluting gasoline fuel on sale at petrol stations, increasing volume and robbing the state of 250 million crowns in unpaid taxes. The sum is expected to go up as investigations continue. All sixteen have been charged with tax evasion and criminal conspiracy. If found guilty, each could face up to 12 years in prison.
The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda - meeting with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier has revealed that the so-called Czech-German Fund for the Future will continue operating in coming years. Established a decade ago, the fund - focusing largely on Czech-German cultural and educational programmes - was originally slated to wrap up by the end of 2006. Mr Steinmeier has said that he will now ask the German Bundestag to decide on further funding. Germany has financed the fund - based in Prague - until now. During their meeting on Friday, both ministers praised bilateral relations and agreed to meet on a more regular basis.
Authorities have registered an 8th case of bird flu in a dead swan in southern Bohemia, near the Austrian border. Tests have shown the presence of the H5 virus: veterinary measures are the same as in previous cases. The spokesman for the State Veterinary Authority, Josef Duben, has confirmed that a 3-kilometre protection zone and a 10-kilometre observation radius have been marked. All previous cases of bird flu were also uncovered in southern Bohemia. Only one showed so far has shown the presence of the deadly H5N1 strain.
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