Prague public transport unions and Prague city officials reached an agreement on Friday, averting a strike that would have brought the tram, metro, and bus network of the capital to a standstill. City officials and union leaders were able to agree on four out of seven points. Trade union leaders demanded that the city not only cover the company’s deficit of 1.9 billion crowns, or more than 112 million US dollars, but also put a stop to any planned layoffs, which is one of the three points that will be the subject of future negotiations.
This year’s Christmas tree that will be displayed on Prague’s Old Town Square will be given to the city as a gift by the town of Vrchlabí, the Association of Christmas Markets announced on Friday. The tree, which measures over 27 metres, will arrive in the Czech capital on November 24 when the annual Christmas market will open on the square. A celebratory lighting ceremony of the tree will take place on November 28. when the traditional Christmas market will open on Prague’s Old Town Square.
New Czech European Commission candidate Stefan Füle announced his preference list for positions at the heart of Europe’s executive on Friday. He told the lower house of Parliament’s European affairs committee that he wanted to get the Energy, Transport or European Union Enlargement portfolio. The energy portfolio would be an important post for the Czech Republic. Chances of receiving the European Union enlargement portfolio for the Czech Republic are good, since the only other country that has shown interest in the portfolio is Bulgaria, a more recent EU member than the Czech Republic.
The Czech Chamber of Doctors warned on Friday that the swine flu vaccine might arrive too late to administer the necessary vaccinations as the disease may have spread by then. Vaccines are provided by the company GlaxoSmithKline that will deliver 141,000 doses to the Czech Republic after November 23 and another 191,000 after December 28. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic is bracing for a swine flu epidemic as the H1N1 virus continues to spread. Czech Chief Hygiene Officer Michael Vít said in an interview on Czech Television Thursday night that he expects a swine flu epidemic to hit the Czech Republic in mid-December. Three secondary schools across the country were closed Thursday, with a fourth closing on Friday morning.
Deputies approved an increase of this year’s state budget deficit from 14 billion Czech crowns to roughly 52 billion Czech crowns on Friday. According to the cabinet, an exception to the state budget law had to be made in light of this year’s financial crisis, because otherwise, pensions and social benefits could not be paid out. 112 of the 117 deputies present were in favor of the increase.
The Czech Ministry of Education has been selected for this year’s Big Brother award, given out by a civic association to companies and institutions who spy on their employees. The ministry received the price because of its database that contains sensitive information about more than 800,000 Czech students. In the private sector, the company Nokia was awarded the prize based on its attempt to make it legal for employers to read their employees’ emails.
On Friday, President Václav Klaus awarded the Golden Plaque, a high state distinction, to psychiatrist Cyril Höschl at Prague Castle, on the occasion of Höschl’s 60th birthday. Höschl is a respected figure in his field and the current president of the European Union’s Psychiatric Association. He has been striving to popularize psychiatry and free it of its social stigma. President Klaus stressed that Höschl was known for his achievements in the field worldwide, not just in the Czech Republic.
Police have busted a criminal gang that produced and sold large amounts of methamphetamine in North Moravia. The group’s four members, three men and a woman, are charged with the production and sale of the illegal substance that they manufactured from over the counter drugs purchased in Poland. Local police said that the amount of drugs they manufactured cannot be determined as of now, but that dozens of people regularly bought drugs from them.
A Czech court has thrown out claims for damages brought by a company against an 18-year-old accident victim who was run over and left for dead by one of their employees who was driving a company car. The company said the accident victim should pay 34000 Czech crowns or 2000 US dollars for damages caused to the vehicle. The court ruled Friday that on ethical grounds the 15-year-old traffic accident victim does not have to pay for the damage.
Police Thursday morning raided an office of the Ministry of Defence and arrested three ministry employees suspected of possessing and disseminating child pornography. The suspects were released after questioning but remain under investigation. Prague Police spokeswoman Iva Knolová said the arrests were a continuation of “Operation Vilma”, the largest operation against child pornography ever carried out in the Czech Republic, which resulted in 160 arrests and the confiscation of 350 computers during October. Possession of such material carries a sentence of two years incarceration, dissemination, six years.