In a late-nigh-marathon session on Monday, the leaders of the ruling centre-right coalition agreed to exempt children under the age of six from medical fees, softening an unpopular reform aimed at curbing abuse of the health care system. Late last year, Civic Democrat Health Minister Tomáš Julínek managed to win support for his plan to introduce medical fees for all citizens as of January 2008, but following months of heated debate, the Civic Democrats were forced to make certain concessions to the two smaller governing parties. The Greens and the Christian Democrats wanted children and teenagers, as well as pensioners exempted from having to pay medical fees. The two latter proposals were rejected.
One of the four blocks at the Dukovany power plant in Moravia was taken out of operation on Tuesday as a result of human error. An employee working on the respective unit accidentally switched off one of the six circuits with cooling water in the unit's nuclear zone. Automatic protection systems then disconnected two turbines from the power grid and quickly reduced the unit’s output. The incident is said to have had no impact on nuclear safety. The block should be back in operation at full capacity on Tuesday evening. The remaining three blocks are supplying power at full output.
Civic Democratic Party rebel Vlastimil Tlustý and two of his supporters in the ruling party on Tuesday joined forces with the opposition managing to postpone a Parliament debate on a controversial bill on church restitutions. The government-proposed bill envisages the state paying churches 270 billion crowns over the next 60 years as compensation for property confiscated by the communist regime. Mr. Tlustý agrees with the opposition that this sum is too generous and wants the compensation package revised. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said on Monday he no longer considered Mr. Tlustý a member of his party.
President Václav Klaus has undergone hip replacement surgery. The operation was carried out at the Bulovka Teaching Hospital in Prague on Monday morning. At a press briefing in the afternoon the chief surgeon said everything had gone smoothly and Mr. Klaus was recovering in post-op care. The president is expected to remain in hospital for roughly ten days and should recover fully within three months.
The EU has dropped disciplinary action against the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy and Portugal over excessive budget deficits, judging they had sufficiently improved their finances, the bloc's Slovenian presidency said. The Czech Republic met EU criteria (3 percent of GDP) back in 2006 when its deficit fell to 2.7 percent of GDP. A year later, it dropped to 1.6 percent of GDP. The European Commission has recommended that the deficit should decrease to 1.4 percent this year and 1.1 percent in 2009.
A two-day conference in Prague on the crimes of communism has concluded
that they should not come under a statue of limitations. Czech MEP Jana
Hybášková said that many criminals escape justice because of a statute
of limitations and pointed out that communist crimes can qualify as crimes
against humanity since they involve slave-labor, deportations and judiciary
murders. According to the Czech Institute for Documentation and
Investigation of the Crimes of Communism 234 people were executed in
communist Czechoslovakia, more than 560 died while attempting to flee to
the West, at least 10,000 died in labour camps and 1,800 people simply
Very few high-ranking communist officials have been punished for these crimes. They include Karel Hoffmann, sentenced in connection with the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, former Prague communist party leader Miroslav Štepán, former communist interior minister František Kincl and former counter-intelligence head Karel Vykypěl.
The results of a study conducted by Masaryk University in Brno suggest that age is the most frequent cause of discrimination in the Czech Republic, with almost one-fifth of respondents aged between 18 and 80 saying they had personally experienced it at some point in their lives. One-tenth of respondents said they had experienced gender discrimination, and six percent said they had been discriminated against for health reasons. The Czech Republic still lacks an anti-discrimination law, though the country should have passed it upon its entry to the EU in 2004. President Vaclav Klaus recently vetoed an anti-discrimination bill on the grounds that other laws guaranteed adequate protection against all forms of discrimination.
Five Czech doctors’ associations with about 17,000 members have called
on the five parliamentary political parties not to abolish medical fees,
introduced early this year as part of the government’s fiscal reforms.
The doctors say the fees have been successful in limiting the numbers of
patients seeking medical help, which allows the medics more time for
treating each patient. They also claim that hardly any patients complain
about the amount they have to pay per visit, which is 30 crowns, or less
than two U.S. dollars.
The fees have been criticized by the opposition Social Democrats and Communists as well as by some MPs of the coalition Christian Democrats and Greens. Last week, however, the Constitutional Court ruled that the fees do not contradict the Czech Constitution.
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