The lower house has passed a new labour code, outvoting the Senate which has previously rejected the bill. It has yet to be signed into law by the president. MPs for the ruling Social Democrats and opposition Communists voted for the new labour code, saying it allows for a greater freedom of contract while ensuring necessary protection for employees. Critics of the new labour code argue it will reduce competitiveness and increase costs for employers.
The lower house has again passed a bill on non-profit hospitals, drafted by the ruling Social Democrats and supported by the opposition Communists, as 107 out of the 171 deputies present overrode the Senate's veto on Friday. To become law, the bill has yet to be signed by President Vaclav Klaus. Critics of the bill on non-profit hospitals say it will harm patients and threaten the existence of some hospitals. Supporters of the legislation argue the new system will guarantee the availability of health care to everybody.
The Morava River management says this year's floods have caused the company damage worth 770 million crowns (32 million dollars), which is twice as much as during the floods which hit the region in 2002. The director of the state company, Pavel Mylbachr, said that the swollen streams had damaged dams and dykes and riverbeds had silted up in places.
A new Czech consulate has opened in Chicago, the third Czech consular office in the United States. The other two are located in New York and Los Angeles. According to the Czech Foreign Ministry, Chicago was chosen not only for its size and location but because it is a traditional centre of the Czech community in the United States.
Fugitive businessman Radovan Krejcir, who escaped from the Czech Republic to the Seychelles last year, has been acquitted from charges in the case of a three-million-crown fraud. The Regional Court in Prague on Friday upheld an earlier verdict of a district court. This is the first valid verdict in Mr Krejcir's criminal cases. Radovan Krejcir fled the police during a search of his villa outside Prague last June. Criminal proceedings have been launched against him in several property and violent criminal cases. Mr Krejcir lives in the Seychelles with his wife and son.
The CTK news agency has reported that only a very small number of Czechs living abroad have registered to vote in the upcoming general elections before Sunday's deadline. The largest number, around 360, have registered both in Slovakia and the United States though estimates say tens of thousands of Czechs live in either country. Some 220 have applied in the Belgian capital Brussels, some 150 in Paris and just 60 in both Australia and New Zealand. Czechs living abroad had their first chance to cast their votes at Czech embassies in 2002. Out of an estimated 70,000 people entitled to vote, only 3,700 used the possibility.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has launched a tender for a variety of aid projects to help persecuted members of the Belarusian opposition. The projects target mainly university students who may not be able to complete their studies in Belarus because they took part in demonstrations against the Lukashenko regime. The main areas of interest for scholarships and study stays are international relations, law, economics, journalism, foreign languages and state administration.
German officials have accepted responsibility for an illegal waste dump
in Libceves in North Bohemia. Following talks in Saxony on Thursday,
the local authorities said they were prepared to pay for its removal.
The issue of illegally imported waste from Germany has strained
Czech-German relations in recent months and been addressed at the
highest level. Since the beginning of the year, an estimated 20
thousand tonnes of German waste has been dumped in the Czech border
areas. The Czech police have now charged six people, including a German
citizen, over the illegal imports. If convicted they may be sent to
five years in prison.
Meanwhile the Czech Environment Inspection Office has ordered the Bau 24 company to pay a fine of 10 million crowns (416,000 dollars) for illegally dumping rubbish in Libceves. The company's representative has appealed against the fine.
The Czech Green Party says in its election programme that at some point in the future it would like to see NATO replaced by a new European defence system. This new system should be made up not only of combat units but also include police units, firemen and emergency forces in order to meet the needs of the present day, predominantly the threat of terrorism. The response to the idea on the Czech political scene has been generally negative. The opposition Civic Democrats dismissed it as utterly naïve, while the ruling Social Democrats pointed out that Europe already had a well functioning defence system.
Former health minister Marie Souckova who appeared before a Prague court on Thursday on charges of breach of trust and abuse of power has pleaded not guilty. The former minister is alleged to have signed a highly disadvantageous contract for the services of a lawyer which cost Czech taxpayers millions of crowns. Mrs. Souckova challenged the authenticity of the document, telling the court it was forged. Marie Souckova is the second former cabinet minister to face trial. Ivo Svoboda, a former finance minister, is now serving a five year sentence for embezzling funds from a private company.
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