The health ministry is planning to close down a third of the country’s oncology centres, with the aim of improving and expanding those currently providing top-quality care. The decision was made following an audit of oncology centres around the country and is supported by the Czech Oncology Society. The head of the society Jiří Vorlíček said he had long been aware that the level of care provided in different institutions vastly differed but the most he could do was to privately advise his patients where they would get better care.
The Senate on Wednesday postponed the ratification of the Lisbon treaty by a month, in order to give its various committees time to analyze the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the document. The move came at the instigation of the ruling Civic Democrats who have 36 out of 81 seats in the Senate. The lower house on Tuesday formally opened a debate on the treaty but almost immediately moved to postpone a vote on it until February 3, 2009. It is now certain that the Czech Republic will take up the EU presidency without having ratified the Lisbon treaty, which many EU members consider to be a serious drawback.
Thirteen-year-old Petra Škrabalová from Brno has been awarded a medal for bravery for jumping into a lake to help save a drowning man. Petra was walking past the lake with a friend when she saw the incident and without a second thought plunged into the water to help the man get back to the shore. An emergency crew which arrived on the spot ten minutes later said she’d saved the man’s life. Every year people write in to a special Children’s Fund to report to report acts of bravery by children of all ages and the most remarkable are awarded medals at a special ceremony.
In Wednesday’s vote deputies approved a wage increase for public sector employees to offset the impact of the financial crisis. The proposal to earmark an extra 2,7 billion crowns for wages in the public sector was put forward by the Labour Ministry and supported by deputies both left and right of centre. The extra funds will enable a 6,6 percent increase in salaries for all civil servants except those whose wages have been frozen until 2010.
Rebel deputies of the ruling Civic Democratic Party have rejected rumours that they are preparing to join the ranks of a new eurosceptic party being set up by people close to president Vaclav Klaus. Deputy Vlastimil Tlustý who has long pushed for a more radical tax reform said had not been contacted by the founder of the new party Petr Mach and that he had no interest in leaving the Civic Democrats. President Klaus’ decision to sever himself from the party he founded on the grounds that it had become too centrist and his support for the newly emerging eurosceptic party has fueled speculation that the already weakened government coalition could lose more deputies.
The final shape of the Czech EU presidency programme will be approved at a meeting of the government’s planning committee on December 22, Czech Deputy-Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra informed senators on Wednesday. Mr. Vondra said the government would present the programme under the slogan "Europe without Barriers," which is the motto of the Czech EU presidency. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek will present the presidency programme to the European Parliament in the second week of January.
The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday approved the state budget for 2009, with a deficit of 38.1 billion crowns. The budget was passed by 101 votes in the 200 member lower house. Despite its weakened position, the coalition government managed to secure the votes of all five rebel deputies, overriding protests from the opposition Social Democrats and the Communists. Opposition leader Jiří Paroubek accused the finance minister of having pushed through a misleading budget proposal based on unrealistic expectations. The budget operates on a 4,8 growth figure for 2009. Finance Minister Kalousek said he was prepared for a variety of economic scenarios, including drastic ones which he hoped would not materialize.
The opposition Social Democrats voted for Bohuslav Sobotka to head the party’s group of deputies on Tuesday. Mr Sobotka will replace the outgoing Michal Hašek as the club’s head on January 1. Mr Hašek handed in his resignation after being elected governor of South Moravia following recent regional elections. Bohuslav Sobotka is the former finance minister and is currently head of the lower house’s budget committee. He said that his main aim in his new role would be to help the Social Democrats win the next general elections in 2010.
The Czech government will probably decide upon a date for euro adoption next year, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said on Tuesday. Speaking to his Maltese counterpart, Lawrence Gonzi, Mr Topolánek said that there was now no time to come up with a date for euro adoption this year. Malta entered into the eurozone at the start of this year, which PM Lawrence Gonzi described in Prague on Tuesday as having been a ‘fundamental step’ for his country. The head of the Czech National Bank Zdeněk Tůma has said that euro adoption should be debated in 2009, in light of exporters’ calls to switch to the single European currency and the global financial crisis.
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