Health and social care workers unions have warned against arbitrary closure of hospitals and called on the government to prevent this happening. The unions said that the new health minister David Rath was using the forced administration he imposed on the largest Czech health insurance company VZP to cut the revenues of some hospitals. They implied that the decision was not made on the grounds of their performance but on the basis of his personal view of it. The unions said that although they understand that changes to the health system are necessary they should be carried out in a transparent way.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, whose Social Democratic Party has been gaining ground on the right wing Civic Democrats ahead of next year's general elections, has ruled out the possibility of forming a coalition government with the Communist Party. The Prime Minister recently bowed to the will of his coalition partners and withdrew support for a proposal to abolish the screening law which now prevents former communist agents from acquiring high posts in public service. Pressed by journalists to say who the Social Democrats would link forces with if they did well in the elections, Mr. Paroubek said he was keeping all options open, including that of a grand coalition with the Civic Democrats. Indirect support from the Communists in the event of a minority government has not been ruled out.
The re-enactment of the battle of Three Emperors, on the 200th anniversary of Napoleon's great victory at Austerlitz - or Slavkov, as it is known in Czech - has left several people injured. Doctors said a number of "soldiers" were taken to hospital with bone fractures, eye injuries and even hypothermia. Four thousand history buffs and enthusiasts from 33 countries took part in the biggest ever reconstruction of a Napoleonic battle - performing for a crowd of 30, 000 spectators. The event was screened live by Czech television.
The acting chairman of the Social Democratic Party and Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has indicated that he will not support the efforts of senators Jaromir Stetina and Martin Mejstrik to outlaw the promotion of communism and the use of communist symbols. The proposed bill, which would force the Communist Party to change its name and properly distance itself from the past, is to be debated in the Lower House next week. With both the Communist Party and the ruling Social Democrats likely to vote against it, its chances of approval are slim. Meanwhile the leader of the right wing Civic Democrats Mirek Topolanek told Czech Radio on Sunday his party would support the bill.
Following talks on the EU budget in Budapest, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said Britain's proposal to slash spending should affect all member states equally, not just the newcomers. He said that Britain now expected the newcomers to bear the greater part of the burden, an estimated 73 percent of the proposed cuts would be made at their expense. The leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia indicated during Friday's talks that they would be prepared to accept a small cut in the aid they receive from EU coffers in return for easier access to funding. However, the concessions they are prepared to make fall short of the cuts proposed by Britain. Money for regional development is considered essential for the newcomers to catch up with the old EU members.
Thousands of people have converged on Slavkov, in the southeast of the Czech Republic, for a re-enactment of the battle of the Three Emperors, Napoleon's great victory at Austerlitz. On December 2th 1805, Napoleon's army of around 75,000 crushed a superior force of Russians and Austrians in a battle that historians describe as a masterpiece of military strategy. The re-enactment of the Battle of Three Emperors, on its bicentenary, is said to be the biggest re-enactment of a Napoleonic battle in Europe. Participants from around the world are taking part -Napoleon himself is played by an American - and the event has attracted government officials, military buffs and historians from across Europe. Hotels in the area have been booked for up to two years in advance. Czech television is screening the event live.
The Freedom Union, the smallest of the three parties in the Czech governing coalition debated its election strategy at a party conference in Prague over the weekend. Pavel Nemec, who was re-elected party leader, said the Freedom Union would enter into negotiations with the European Democrats on a joint list of candidates for the 2006 general elections. Alone the party is unlikely to win seats in Parliament. Its public support rating now stands at 0,5 percent.
The lower house of Parliament on Friday approved the government proposed state budget for 2006. It envisages a deficit of 74,4 billion crowns, with expenditures at 958 billion and an income of 884 billion crowns. As expected the budget was approved with the votes of the three coalition parties. The opposition Civic Democratic Party opposed it while the Communists abstained from the vote.
Former prime minister Stanislav Gross has told a parliamentary commission he accepted no bribes in the 2004 sale of the Czech chemicals giant Unipetrol. Mr Gross also told the commission that businessman Andrej Babis in no way influenced the government in the sale. Allegations over improprieties in the sale of Unipetrol have been under investigation ever since a Polish lobbyist went public with videotape claiming a government aide had asked him for a five million crown bribe. The former prime minister and others flatly denied the corruption charges.
During talks with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Budapest, EU newcomer states on Friday signalled they were prepared to accept a small cut in the aid they receive from EU coffers in order to allow a breakthrough in the bloc's tough budget negotiations. The leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia said they could agree to a small cut if it was offset by easier access to funding. The newcomers first reacted with stiff opposition to Britain's proposal to cut regional aid but diplomats said that the talks in Budapest had been useful and some compromise ideas were beginning to gain currency. Britain is due to announce its detailed proposals on Monday.
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