The regional Social Democrats in Southern Moravia have announced that they will abolish health fees in regional hospitals. The announcement comes as the likely future governor of the region Michal Hašek, along with his party undergo moves to form a local coalition government in the region. Among the candidates to form a coalition are the Christian Democrats, the Civic Democrats and the Communist Party. The Social Democrats campaigned in part on a platform that promised to overturn the controversial health fees in regional hospitals, a move that has raised the ire of many GPs who thereby stand to lose patients. However, large victories by the Social Democrats in regional elections held in late October have boosted the confidence of the Social Democrats, who also promised not to privatize local hospitals as well as to conduct audits of the local government bureaucracy.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, has protested to his Austrian counterpart about a film broadcast on Austrian TV simulating an accident at a Czech nuclear power plant. In a phone call to Heinz Fischer on Friday, Mr Klaus described the fake documentary broadcast on Austrian public television as most unfortunate, the Czech news website novinky.cz reported. The 90-minute film, entitled The First Day, was shown on ORF on Thursday as part of an evening marking the 30th anniversary of a referendum in which the Austrians rejected nuclear power. While its makers flagged it as a fictional film about an accident near Austria’s borders, it mentions the Czech power station Dukovany by name. The Czech Republic is portrayed as a country incapable of relaying information correctly and promptly to its neighbours, novinky.cz reported.
President Klaus is on a three-day official state visit to Ireland. The Czech president is due to meet his Irish counterpart, Mary McAleese, Taoiseach Brian Cowen and other senior politicians during his stay, which will be spent in Dublin and Cork. A planned meeting between Mr Klaus and the man who led the No campaign against Ireland ratifying the Lisbon treaty, Declan Ganley, has drawn a cool response from the Irish government, who are reported to have made a complaint to the Czech Embassy in Dublin. The Czech president is a fierce opponent of further European integration.
A train collision in the eastern Bohemian region of Havlíčkobrodsko at 12:55 Monday has led to thirteen injuries. The collision occurred between a freight train and a small passenger train carrying fifteen passengers – the reasons for the collision remain unclear, though a signalling error is believed to be one possible cause, although some witnesses have suggested that the freight train was in an incorrect location prior to the accident. Further details suggest both trains were moving in opposite direction on the same single track line near a train station. Seven people were taken to hospital following the accident, with two said to be in a serious state.
The far-right National Party has announced plans to conduct a “patrol” of an area in the city of Brno known colloquially as the Bronx. According to the party, the patrol is being conducted at the behest of certain residents fearful of rising crime rates, notably among the Roma population. The so-called patrol is set to take place in mid November. The most recent activity in the city of Brno involving the party revolved around its seeking an apology from a local Mosque for the murder of the Czech ambassador in Pakistan following a terrorist attack – local Muslims were quick to point out that they had nothing to do with this attack.
The embattled Health Minister Tomáš Julínek appears to have signalled that his is ready to concede to the demands of coalition minority partners the Christian Democrats as he moves forward with controversial reforms. The agreement was apparently made on Monday in the city of Brno following a meeting between Mr Julínek and the Christian Democrat head Jiří Čunek. The Christian Democrats have long signalled opposition to elements of healthcare reform that deal with abortions, in-vitro fertilisation and other such social-moral issues. News of an apparent compromise will provide a temporary boost to the embattled Health Minister, whose position is largely viewed as particularly shaky following his Civic Democratic party’s wide scale defeat in recent local elections.
Czech anti-corruption police have accused 32 employees of the ČEZ electricity company of extortion. The group is accused of accusing customers of illegally tapping electricity and then extorting those frightened customers into paying additional fees. If convicted, members of the group face up to 12 years in jail – at present, they have not been detained in custody. The undercover operation was codenamed “Isolator” and looked into crimes committed as far back as 2005. Among the main tactics used to intimidate customers, the group is alleged to have threatened to cut off electricity supplies as well as report those who were being extorted to the police.
A helicopter carrying a suspended container over Prague, avoided a disaster after the load was dropped accidentally into the Vltava River in the centre of Prague. The container fell into a stretch of water near Charles Bridge, after the pilot experienced a loss of control as the load began to flail in the wind. According to witnesses, the pilot attempted to steady the helicopter above the Vltava, but was unable to prevent the container from disintegrating over the water. Several walls of the container then fell into the Vltava – the rest remained attached to the helicopter, which the pilot then safely transported to Letná in Prague, where the craft landed. An investigation into the incident is continuing.
Police are investigating whether an advisor to Agriculture Minister Petr Gandalovič attempted to defraud the European Union, Czech Television reported. Petr Greger used EU funds to pay for two seminars for judges and other experts on public tenders and EU regulations last year. However, there are doubts about whether the second seminar actually took place. Some of those listed as having taken part say they were not there. For his part, Mr Greger said the second seminar was held, though some of the invited speakers may not have come.
Prime Minister Topolánek has said the leader of the opposition Social Democrats Jiří Paroubek could become chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, a move which could facilitate the smoother running of the lower house during the Czech presidency of the EU, which begins on January 1. Mr Paroubek said on Thursday that his party would co-operate with the government on some matters during the presidency. The current chair of the Chamber of Deputies is Social Democrat MP Miloslav Vlček.
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