The Czech Constitutional Court has overturned a crucial component of the government’s healthcare reforms, ruling that unpaid sick leave must be abolished. As a result of recent government reforms, employees, rather than receiving the previous 40% of pay for the first three days away from work, received nothing. The government argued that the change was designed to reduce relatively high levels of illness-related leave taken by Czechs. However, in its ruling, the court found that the changed legislation was unconstitutional in that it failed to guarantee an employee’s right to security in times of illness. The court has declared that by June 30, the law must be reversed. This ruling comes as a part of a wider courtroom showdown in which the opposition Social Democrats have challenged the constitutional legality of many of the proposed reforms undertaken by the government such as fees for doctor’s visits.
The Czech finance ministry has released a new forecast for the Czech economy which predicts that the country will continue to achieve strong levels of growth. The new prediction of 4.9% growth is up by 0.2% from previous predictions. In 2009, the ministry forecast growth of around 5.1%. However, inflation, which remains a key concern across the world, is expected to remain high at 6.5%, a considerably higher figure than the 2.8% rate of last year. Unemployment is also predicted to fall slightly to 4.2% with a rate of 3.6% predicted for 2009.
New electronic communication legislation passed by the government has raised concerns about the erosion of personal liberties. The legislation enables phone operators to collect data about their customers including where, when and whom people are calling. The legislation narrowly passed its second reading after being rejected in the first round by the coalition Green Party. The opposition Social Democrats have accused the bill of fomenting the notion of a police state, spying on its citizens. They also criticised that the state, not the companies involved would be paying for the collection of data – with an estimated price tag of around 300 million crowns. The governing Civic Democrats have defended the legislation arguing that it is similar to legislation enacted across the EU
A 72 year-old Czech woman from the town of Třinec has been charged with the murder of her ex-husband. The alleged murder weapon: a common cooking pot - which the woman is suspected of using to beat her ex husband to death with. The former couple had been divorced for ten years, although significant issues still reportedly existed between them. The woman has confessed to the murder, stating that her ex arrived at her home drunk and was determined to have an argument with his former spouse. The woman faces up to ten years in jail.
The governmental agency for the protection of private data has ruled that a camera system used in the Prague Savoy hotel was misused. Specifically, the case relates to a meeting between a Social Democrat lobbyist and Jiří Weigl, head of the office of the Czech president, which took place at the Savoy and was captured on its cameras. A recording of the meeting was made public around the time of the presidential elections leading to speculation that President Klaus was attempting to illicitly gain votes from some Social Democrat MPs – while the party officially supported opposition candidate Jan Švejnar. How the video recordings of the meeting were leaked to the media is still being investigated, but at present, the agency investigating the incident has found the hotel to be involved in excessive surveillance of its customers, storing surveillance recordings and not informing guests that they are being monitored. The hotel has denied the charges stating that recordings are made for the safety of its guests.
A regional court in the town of Hradec Králové has found choirmaster Bohumil Kulinský guilty of charges of sexual abuse of underage girls. The case relates to 49 separate counts of abuse of choirgirls in his charge between the years of 1984 and 2004. The former choirmaster’s defence rejected the charges during the trial although Mr Kulinský admitted having “sexual relations” with some of his pupils who were above the age of sexual consent – 15 in the Czech Republic. The defence also questioned the reliability of the testimonies given against him. The state prosecutor recommended a prison sentence of eight and a half years for Mr Kulinský and also recommended that he be prevented from having contact with children for a period of ten years. However, the court subsequently sentenced Kulinský to a three year suspended sentence.
The Czech senate is widely expected to approve a 465 crown increase in pensions from August this week. The move comes as a response to rising inflation levels in the Czech Republic. Extraordinary pension increases are allowed by law if inflation exceeds 10 percent. However, in this case, special legislation has been drafted to allow an increase if inflation exceeds only five percent.
Czech police have announced that they will begin to investigate serious fouls committed in sporting matches in the Czech Republic. According to the police, the investigations will begin from autumn and will cover incidents both deliberate and accidental which are deemed to be brutal in nature. The change in approach comes as a result of a March high court ruling in which a sports player was found guilty of causing injury to another player. Although the player was not punished, the court stated that the defendant bore criminal responsibility for the incident. Police have rejected charges that police intervention may affect the viability of contact sports such as boxing, stating that oversight and liability are a legitimate way to tackle egregious behaviour.
The Czech Republic, alongside France and Sweden, pledged on Tuesday to make real progress on combating global warming during its EU presidency, paving the way for a worldwide deal to fight climate change. The three countries, which will steer EU policy each for a six-month stint starting with France’s tenure in July, face the challenge of sealing an agreement on the Commission’s climate-energy package. They also aim to launch talks with a new US administration over global warming and prepare for the Copenhagen UN summit in December 2009, which should hammer out a successor to the Kyoto climate change agreement. Czech deputy prime minister Martin Bursík underlined Prague’s priority of sounding out a new US administration for the EU-US summit in spring next year.
Czech car giant Škoda Auto announced a 15.7 percent jump in first quarter car sales on Monday, largely thanks to strong demand from Eastern Europe and China. The manufacturer, which is part of the Volkswagen Group, said sales in Eastern Europe climbed 38.6 percent to 27,461 cars from January to March. In China, where Škoda cars are produced under licence and the dealership network is developing rapidly, 16,212 cars were sold. The Škoda Octavia was the most sought-after model, followed by the Fabia. The new Škoda Fabia Combi made a successful sales debut with 19,503 cars sold, the company added.
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