Both Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and the chairman of the Social
Democratic Party, Stanislav Gross, have denied they might face each
other in an eventual showdown for their party's post of electoral
leader. Speaking together with Mr Gross on Friday the prime minister
said no conflict existed between himself and Mr Gross, who he considers
a personal friend. While he did express an interest in being named his
party's election leader, Mr Paroubek stressed the post could fall to a
number of highly placed Social Democrats, including Culture Minister
Pavel Dostal or Education Minister Petra Buzkova. Both he and Mr Gross
said their party would conduct extensive research & analysis to decide
on the best person for the job.
The Social Democrats, along with the Czech Republic's other political parties, have roughly twelve months in which to prepare for national elections next year.
A 38-year-old woman and her 13-year-old son had to be treated in hospital on Friday after being attacked at their cottage by their pet dog. For unknown reasons the animal, a Staffordshire bull terrier, went wild and attacked its owners, first the boy, and then his mother as she came to help. Both suffered serious injury to their hands. In the end police arriving at the scene were forced to shoot the animal. The incident took place at a cottage colony near Brno.
The prime minister, the health minister Milada Emmerova, and the heads of Czech health insurance companies failed to reach an agreement over doctors' pay on Friday, although a decision may come as early as one week's time. Doctors would like to see higher remuneration for their work, something which insurance companies are warning could raise health insurance debt from 10 to 34 billion crowns, approximately 1.5 billion US. Without a raise the head of the Czech Doctors' Association David Rath has suggested doctors could curb the number of patient - doctor meetings without having a negative effect on the quality of individual treatment, lessening the work load. The prime minister, however, has already said he was not interested in the idea of patients receiving less care. All the parties involved are expected to meet again next week to decide the issue.
A Prague court has ordered four men found guilty of a racially-motivated attack against a Roma student in 2002, to pay the victim compensation of 25, 000 crowns each - the equivalent of around four thousand dollars US. All four have also been ordered to provide written letters of apology. In October 2002 the four youths, the oldest of whom was 19 years of age, attacked the Roma student near a Prague metro station. The student, Marek Polak, suffered cuts, bruises, and a concussion. His attackers all received suspended sentences, the longest: three years in prison.
Czech officials and politicians have reacted heatedly to Cuba's expulsion
of a Czech senator, demanding an explanation. Senator Karel Schwarzenberg
was thrown out of the country late Thursday, soon after arriving to meet
with Cuban dissidents. So far, Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has reacted
by saying the expulsion was proof the Czech Republic's tough stance on
Cuba was justified. Senate chairman Premysl Sobotka, meanwhile, has
described the expulsion as "a blatant violation of international
Karel Schwarzenberg is the former head of the presidential office under former Czech president Vaclav Havel, himself a strong critic of Fidel Castro's regime. The European Union is to decide soon whether to reinstate diplomatic sanctions against Cuba on the basis of human rights violations. The Czech Republic has been pushing the EU not to soften its stance.
The government of New Zealand has decided to increase the number of Czechs permitted to work in the country. Under a bilateral agreement on work stays, which took effect in March, one hundred Czechs between the ages of 18 and 30 were to be granted short-term work permits of up to one year in New Zealand. That number is to be raised to one thousand as of July.
Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek held meetings with Health Minister Milada Emmerova and the head of the Czech Medical Chamber David Rath on Thursday to discuss the financial state of the health sector. According to Mr Paroubek the health ministry's most recent plans to solve the financial crisis look promising and could save billions of Czech crowns in the ailing public health-insurance system. The ministry's proposal is to be discussed by the coalition parties within the next two weeks.
The Cabinet-approved changes in the sick-leave insurance system, may
not affect smaller enterprises. Under the new sick-leave bill,
employers would have to cover their employees' sickness benefits in the
first two weeks of sick leave. On the other hand they would pay lower
sickness insurance for the respective employee. After talks with the
Czech Economics Chamber on Thursday, the Labour and Social Affairs
Minister Zdenek Skromach said that businesses employing up to 25 people
may be given the choice of leaving the coverage of their employees'
sickness benefits up to the state.
The Cabinet also set the upper limits of the income base from which sickness and health insurance payments are calculated. The bill has yet to be approved by both houses of Parliament.
Hungary's Foreign Ministry has made a formal complaint to the Czech Republic against the recent unveiling of a new statue of the former Czechoslovak president Edvard Benes. At the end of the Second World War, president Benes issued the Benes decrees, which sanctioned the confiscation of property and expulsion of some half a million ethnic Hungarians as many of them supported Hitler's occupation of Czechoslovakia. The statue of Edvard Benes was unveiled in front of the Foreign Ministry in Prague on Monday.
The Czech government has earmarked 200 million crowns or 6.6 million euros for a public information campaign on the EU Constitution. According to the head of the government's department for European affairs, Petra Masinova, the campaign will be explicitly informational in its first stage and will reflect different opinions. The government of Prime Minister Paroubek has not yet decided how the treaty will be ratified, although the Prime Minister has indicated that he favours a referendum.
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