The former president Václav Havel has been released from hospital, following his admittance on January 12 for breathing difficulties and lung-related complications. Mr Havel was released from the Motol hospital in Prague on Thursday morning. He has been allowed to return home, but doctors are maintaining that Mr Havel’s recuperative regime must continue. Václav Havel was admitted after developing breathing and swallowing problems. An operation was followed by complications which left Mr Havel in intensive care. A doctor that had been part of the team looking after the former president, said that the situation had been very serious and at one point even life-threatening. The former president suffers from chronic bronchitis and had part of his right lung removed when he was diagnosed with cancer in 1996. Reports suggest that Mr Havel was in good spirits when he left the hospital, telling reporters that he felt well.
Pavel Nečas, the Labour and Social Affairs Minister has promised an extra 1.5 billion crowns to social service providers. The announcement was made at a press conference of Thursday. Previously, the budget for social services had been cut by a third in the latest budget. The move comes after intense pressure from representatives in the fields affected. However, despite the additional boost, social services representatives say they will still fall short of what they need by around 700 million crowns.
The association of Czech pharmacists has urged its staff not to ask customers for prescription fees, and instead seek compensation for the amount from local authorities. At the same time, the association has announced that it plans legal action over the disparity surrounding the collection of health fees across the Czech Republic. The opposition Social Democrats who won the regional elections have effectively ended health fees in regional hospitals, reimbursing hospital pharmacies from local budgets, while other pharmacies still collect them. The ruling Civic Democrats, who introduced health fees in early 2008 as part of a controversial health reform programme, insist that pharmacies which do not collect health fees are simply breaking the law.
The coalition government, trade union representatives as well as key employers have agreed on a way forward to boost the Czech economy, according to reports. The announcement came after a meeting on Thursday between representatives of all three “branches”. Among the key conclusions reached by the trio was that banks must be encouraged to loan money and that exports remain key to the Czech economy. Further, the trio also agreed that the government should attempt to assist companies in endeavours likely to create jobs or prevent employees from being dismissed. The purpose of such regular meetings is to ensure smooth relations with both the labour and business communities.
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, is to visit Prague, the ČTK news agency reported on Thursday. The visit is scheduled for February 2nd and is in response to an invitation issued by the Czech president Václav Klaus. Mr Abbas will be greeted at Prague Castle at 10am with military honours, before engaging in a series of negotiations related to the current strife in Gaza and ongoing efforts towards the “two-state solution.” The visit comes against the backdrop of the Czech EU presidency, in which the Czech government, primarily Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg have played an active role in recent efforts to mediate Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
Prague has kicked off a two day informal development summit attended by EU representatives. A key subject of discussion will be aid and reconstruction of the Gaza strip, which has witnessed considerable devastation following a conflict between Hamas, which officially controls the territory and Israel. The meeting is being chaired by the Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Jan Kohout and is expected that a concrete figure will be agreed by EU members that will be used to assist Gaza.
Dozens of Czech women have taken part in a demonstration organized by the website Babyweb.cz in protest at a decision by the global social-networking site Facebook to remove images of breast-feeding mothers posted by users. The women argue, that such pictures demonstrate a natural event, which should not be censored by the Facebook site. During the protest, dozens of mothers were photographed breastfeeding en masse by the renowned Czech photographer Sara Saudková.
The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, says if the EU does not draw energy from a variety of sources its freedom and independence will be threatened. Speaking at a meeting in Budapest to discuss the planned Nabucco natural gas pipeline, he said he regarded the project as a test of European integration; it would only be successful if the EU made it a top priority, he said. The Nabucco line would transport gas from Turkey to Austria, via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. Many countries in Europe were left without heating when a row between Russia and Ukraine led to a halt in gas supplies earlier this month.
The Russian airline Aeroflot has officially voiced its interest in the purchase of Czech state-owned carrier ČSA. On Thursday, the general director of Aeroflot, Valerij Okulov, promised that if his firm’s bid was successful, then Aeroflot would ‘widen and improve’ ČSA’s services and that Prague’s Ruzyně airport would continue to be a hub. The Czech government announced the sale of ČSA on January 19 this year. The state currently owns 92 percent of the airline, which is considered one of its biggest assets. Analysts are expecting the airline to sell for as much as 5 billion crowns (242.6 million USD). The opposition Social Democrats are questioning the timing of the sale in the current financial climate. The government plans to announce the new owner of ČSA in September 2009.
The Czech Republic has been criticized by the Council of Europe for failing to acknowledge the International Criminal Court. Eight of the Council of Europe’s 47 members are yet to acknowledge the court; they include Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the Czech Republic. The International Criminal Court was set up in 2002 to try individuals on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It has been recognised by 108 countries around the world. The Czech Senate signed a bill acknowledging the court in July last year, which was subsequently approved by the lower house in October. The bill is now pending the signature of President Václav Klaus, who is refusing to sign it, saying it is unconstitutional.
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