The minister of defence, Vlasta Parkanova, says the biggest problems
she has encountered in her short period in office are linked to
corruption and the awarding of public tenders. Minister Parkanova, who
was appointed last month, made the comments after a meeting with
President Vaclav Klaus at Prague Castle on Tuesday. She said she wanted
to make the Czech army's spending more transparent and effective.
The minister also called for the thorough investigation of alleged bribery connected with the planned purchase and subsequent lease of Gripen fighter jets from Sweden's Saab and Britain's BAE Systems. Police in the Czech Republic, Sweden and the UK are currently looking into the matter.
Meanwhile, Swedish TV is due to broadcast on Tuesday a secretly recorded interview with former Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan, in which he seems to indicate bribes were given to Czech politicians in connection with the deal. Mr Kavan has dismissed the recording, saying he had merely relayed gossip and speculation to the reporters.
The pop star Helena Vondrackova has pulled out of Euro Song, the Czech Republic's search for a representative for this year's Eurovision song contest. The singer, who has been popular for four decades, said the organisation and promotion of the Euro Song competition cast doubt over its probity. But its organiser Czech Television said Vondrackova's people had themselves tried to influence the method of voting selection. The Czech Republic is competing in Eurovision for the first time this year.
The minister of health, Tomas Julinek, says he wants to introduce fees for every visit to a doctor or emergency department from the start of next year. Mr Julinek said the proposal would be put to the lower house of parliament by the middle of this year, adding that he expected a great political fight over the issue. His plan also envisages a charge for every prescription and day spent in hospital.
Members of a new Czech-Austrian joint commission should visit the Czech Temelin power station to determine whether it is safe, the Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolanek, said after a meeting with his Austrian counterpart, Alfred Gusenbauer, in Prague. Mr Gusenbauer said greater transparency over Temelin could lead to a reduction in animosity on both sides. Critics in Austria say the nuclear station in south Bohemia is unsafe.
Czech doctors are planning to perform transplants of the small intestine for the first time this year, Mlada fronta Dnes reported. The paper said the operation was most unusual even by world standards. Doctors from Prague's Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine are now drawing up a list of patients who could benefit from this type of transplant.
An estimated 1,500 Czech police officers, fire officers and other members of the security forces have held a protest in Prague against changes to their working conditions. The protest has been organised under the name Initiative 361, after the number of a new law which reduces their overtime for working at weekends, public holidays and at night. It also increases officers' holiday time and shortens their working week.
The Czech cross-country skier Katerina Neumannova has taken gold in the last major competition of her career. Neumannova finished almost half a minute ahead of her nearest rival in the 10 km free at the Nordic World Ski Championships in Sapporo, Japan. The 34-year-old Olympic champion is set to retire at the end of the season.
Regulated rents in Prague are to rise at the maximum permitted level over the next three years, with the first increase due in June. After that rent hikes will be levied according to location, a Civic Democrat member of Prague's municipal authority, Jiri Janecek, told reporters after a meeting on Tuesday. Mr Janecek said they did not expect any serious social impact, and definitely not in the first year. Rents in the Czech Republic should be completely deregulated by the end of 2010.
The leader of the Social Democrats, Jiri Paroubek, has blamed former party head Milos Zeman for the current dispute between the Social Democrats and Prague lawyer Zdenek Altner over the party's allegedly huge debt, Monday's Pravo writes. Jiri Paroubek told Pravo that it was Milos Zeman who signed the contract with Mr Altner in 1997 and he was also party chairman until 2001.
Czech Minister without Portfolio Dzamila Stehlikova of the Green Party says discussion about child adoptions by homosexual couples should be launched in the Czech Republic. In an on-line interview for the Novinky.cz news server Ms Stehlikova said same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children in the future. She said one reason why a broad debate should be launched is the large number of children who are growing up in institutions. The Czech Republic legalised registered partnerships of homosexual couples in July last year.
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