Swiss voters at the weekend supported a referendum in favour of easing restrictions on workers from new European Union member states, including the Czech Republic. Complete free movement of labour should take effect in 2011. The approval in Switzerland, which is not an EU member, came amid growing discontent among nations like Germany and France about immigration from Central and Eastern Europe. Currently, only the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Netherlands have fully opened their labour markets to new EU members.
Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek on Monday soundly rejected demands by the main opposition Civic Democratic Party that he step down to pave the way for early elections in December. Paroubek had said at the weekend elections could be held in February or March, about three months early, by passing a law that would shorten the government's term. He did so following signals from the leaders of the minor parties in his coalition government that they were willing to form a new government with the opposition Civic Democrats. Under the constitution, early elections may be held after Parliament rejects a confidence vote in the government three times. Prime Minister Paroubek has proposed adopting an amendment to the constitution allowing that process to be bypassed.
Two Czech police officials have been demoted for their poor handling of a neo-Nazi concert that took place in southern Bohemian a week ago Saturday. Some 500 Czech skinheads and extremists from other countries attended the concert in the town of Kretetice u Strakonice. According to a complaint by observers from the anti-racist group Tolerance, police monitored the event, but failed to intervene when participants shouted Nazi slogans, a criminal offence in the Czech Republic. The president of the police presidium, Vladislav Husak, on Monday said he has demoted for one year both the regional and district deputy department heads directly responsible for the police action. He cited their failure to deploy a sufficient number of officers and to receive evidence of illegal behaviour from the independent observers as factors.
Czech pharmacies will close their doors at noon on October 6 for one hour in support of a planned all-day strike by general practitioners. The actions have been called to protest the chronic failure of health insurers to reimburse medical professionals on time. For their part, insurers say they are two months or more behind in reimbursements because they receive too little state support to insure civil servants, the unemployed and retirees.
In response to the call for his resignation, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said that while he was ready to hold talks on an early election term he would not play by the Civic Democratic Party's scenario. The Civic Democrat's plan envisaged the Prime Minister resigning on Monday, then being asked to form a government three times and each time failing to win a vote of confidence in the Lower House. This would enable President Klaus to call early elections within 60 days. The Prime Minister said that he would accept the challenge of early elections only if they were called by the Civic Democrats and the Christian Democratic Party.
General practitioners will hold a one day strike on Thursday, October 6th in protest against the poor payment morale of health insurance companies. The General Practitioners Association will make known its demands to the Prime Minister within the next few days. Private physicians have long called for changes in the system of financing, saying that long delays in payments are threatening their livelihood. The Prime Minister has called a meeting with health insurance companies and Health Minister Milada Emmerova for Monday.
The opposition Civic Democratic Party has called on Prime Minister Jiri
Paroubek to resign from office and open the way for early elections to be
held before the end of the year. The move came shortly after the Prime
Minister accused the Christian Democrats of the governing coalition of
playing ball with the leading right wing opposition party and said that he
was ready to agree to early elections if the two parties initiated them. He
likewise indicated that the Christian Democrats were free to leave the
The crisis between the coalition parties escalated after the coalition Christian Democrats broke ranks to vote with the leading opposition party in support of establishing a parliamentary commission to inquire into suspected corruption during the privatization of the petrochemical group Unipetrol.
Czech director Bohdan Slama's film "Something like Happiness" won the best film Golden Shell award at the San-Sebastian film festival in Spain. The film, seen as a surprise choice for the main prize, is the story of a group of neighbours living in an industrial corner of a small Czech town. Czech actress Ana Geislerova picked up a Silver Shell award for best actress.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has accepted the role of election leader and said that Stanislav Gross's resignation was "a call to action" for the party, which trails the opposition Civic Democrats by more than ten percentage points in public opinion polls. In a rousing speech to the party leadership Jiri Paroubek said he was determined to lead the Social Democrats to a third election victory. He strongly criticized the party's coalition partners - the Christian Democrats - for allegedly undermining the work of the governing coalition and openly flirting with the opposition Civic Democrats. The Prime Minister said that if the Christian Democrats and the Civic Democrats wanted to cooperate they should propose early elections and he would readily accept the challenge.