Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has called for a meeting with the heads of the country's two leading commercial TV stations Nova and Prima. Both stations commission opinion polls during TV discussion programmes to assess what participant is considered more trustworthy among the general public. Results of a poll on a discussion between Mr Paroubek and the leader of the opposition Civic Democrats Mirek Topolanek last Sunday suggested that the prime minister only won over 36 percent of respondents. Mr Paroubek says a separate poll commissioned by his party, the Social Democrats, suggested over 50 percent of public support and accuses the TV stations of "a scandalous attempt to manipulate public opinion".
The opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats have called for a special meeting of the lower house of parliament to discuss its proposed restitution bill. Put forward in July, the bill pushes back the deadline by which people, who have a right to ask the state to return their property, make their claims. They currently only have until the end of the year. The Civic Democrats, who propose to push the deadline back to December 2009, argue the current law gives those affected little time to make their case and no chance to apply for compensation.
A court in Prague has ruled that St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle is church property. The Church and the state have been fighting over ownership rights for some thirteen years. A 1954 government resolution gives Prague Castle the authority to manage the cathedral and surrounding property but the judge who ruled in favour of the church reasoned that the transfer of management did not automatically imply a transfer of ownership. The state plans to appeal her verdict.
And staying with the media. The Czech section of the BBC World Service is to be closed down. The decision was made to cut costs and save money for a new project - the launch of an Arabic TV news station. Nine other foreign language services are to be discontinued. The Czech section started its broadcasts 66 years ago in 1939. It announced on Tuesday that it would close down by March 2006.
Some 27,000 people have signed a petition that calls for a detailed investigation into a police intervention in a techno party last July that left several ravers and police officers injured. The petition was presented to Czech President Vaclav Klaus on Tuesday, who has openly criticisd the amount of force used. A government report concludes that the police intervened in CzechTek rightfully. The head of the presidential office welcomed the petition, saying public pressure to force an investigation had died down and needed a fresh boost.
In related news, David Rath has promised to take steps to rule out any
chance of conflict of interest should he give up his deputy position
and take up the health minister post. At the weekend Mr Rath said he
would suspend all private business activities during his time in public
service, and he has now said he will make a public affirmation to
settle the point. Last week Mr Rath was appointed deputy health
minister after President Vaclav Klaus refused to approve his nomination
for the top job because of conflict of interest.
The Prime Minister then re-nominated him for the post on Friday, threatening legal action to push the appointment through. Unless the Constitutional Court decides otherwise, the president is under no pressure to name the prime minister's candidate to the post.
The Czech aircraft company Aero Vodochody announced Monday its first order to supply parts for the Ariane 5 space rocket. The company will provide a German subcontractor for the rocket programme, MT Aerospace, based in Augsburg, with aluminium sheet metal components for the rocket, the company said in a statement, adding the contract was worth hundreds of thousands of crowns. Aero Vodochody is state owned but slated for privatisation by the current Social Democrat-led government.
President Vaclav Klaus congratulated Polish president-elect Lech Kaczynski on Monday following his weekend victory, inviting him to visit Prague at the first opportunity following his inauguration. Mr Kaczynski the 56-year-old conservative co-founder of the Law and Justice party, gained just over 54 percent of the vote in Sunday's poll, beating his liberal rival, Donald Tusk of the Civic Platform party. In a statement on Monday the Czech president, Mr Klaus, said the Czech Republic and Poland shared "many political and economic priorities".
Deputy health minister David Rath has said that the largest state-owned
health insurance company, VZP, will not face forced administration for
now. The deputy health minister, as well as health minister candidate, met
with VZP head Jirina Musilkova on Monday to discuss money-saving steps. The
VZP's debt is more than 10 billion crowns (approx. 403,000,000 US dollars)
and may grow by 2 more billion crowns by the end of the year unless saving
measures are adopted immediately. Mr Rath said that the funds should be
saved by a slower increase in payments to hospitals. Saved funds will be
sent to smaller private facilities sooner. Mr Rath expects savings in
expenses for medicine as well.
Mr Rath and the VZP's Musilkova have planned to meet again next week. Later this week Mr Rath will meet with hospital heads and representatives from both health insurance companies and health care providers.
A 31-year-old driver who killed three police officers in a hit-and-run two years ago, has been released on parole, shortening by half his four year sentence. The driver was released on grounds of good behaviour and the fact he had no previous criminal sentence. He will be on probation for the next seven years.
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