President Klaus on Tuesday received a delegation of doctors who are dissatisfied with the reforms implemented by health minister David Rath. They expressed the view that the health minister lacks a coherent health care policy and is effecting costly reforms which are undermining the quality of health care in the Czech Republic. The minister's critics likewise tabled their reservations to the bill on non-profit hospitals which President Klaus is expected to sign or veto by the end of this week.
The police officer who allegedly beat up a government human rights official who was demonstrating against a neo-Nazi gathering in Prague on Labour Day has been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation. Katerina Jacques a senior official from the government's human rights section and a candidate for the opposition Green Party in the forthcoming parliamentary elections says she was thrown to the ground, kicked and beaten with a truncheon before being handcuffed and taken away for questioning. Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan said the incident would be thoroughly investigated.
The Czech financial group PPF has signed a preliminary agreement to buy the Ukrainian bank Privatinvest, the business daily Hospodarske Noviny reported Tuesday. PPF, which owns the Czech Republic's biggest insurer, Ceska Pojistovna, wants to enter Ukraine following a successful foray in Russia with its company Home Credit, which has become one of the top three specialists in consumer loans in Russia. PPF spokeswoman, Dita Fuchsova, told Hospodarske Noviny that PPF intends to start offering financial services in Ukraine before the end of this year.
The South Korean car maker Hyundai has announced that the one billion euro contract under which it will build a major auto plant in the Czech Republic will be signed in mid-May in Seoul. At the same time Hyundai Motor has postponed "indefinitely" a ground breaking ceremony for the plant at Nosovice, in the northeast of the Czech Republic. Confirmation of the deal seemed uncertain when Hyundai Motor chairman Chung Mong Koo was arrested on embezzlement charges last week. Czech top officials have expressed readiness to go to South Korea for the signing ceremony.
Health minister David Rath has moved to end forced administration at VZP, the country's largest state owned health insurance company. The decision coincides with the appointment of Pavel Horak to the post of general director. Minister Rath, who imposed forced administration on VZP last November said the situation had stabilized and the company's debt had shrunk from 12 billion to seven billion crowns. The minister's critics counter that it was not forced administration which reduced the debt but a generous financial injection from the government.
A public opinion survey just out indicates that more than half of Czechs would like to see Vaclav Klaus re-elected president in 2008. 57 percent of respondents said Mr. Klaus represented the country well and should serve a second 5 year term in office. The survey also revealed that 73 percent of people across the political spectrum would like the president to be elected in a direct vote.
The Czech Veterinary Office has called off special measures aimed at preventing the spread of bird flu in two of the five areas where infected birds were found. They include a ban on outdoor breeding and a ban on the transport of live birds and poultry products. The last infected bird was found on Czech territory three weeks ago and if no further cases appear the measures will gradually be modified and lifted in all affected areas of southern Bohemia. Altogether twelve birds were found to be infected with the lethal H5N1 virus, all of them in southern Bohemia.
A centuries-old May Day tradition ended in tragedy on Monday when a 20-year-old man was killed by a falling maypole after he and other youths from a neighbouring village cut it down. The tragedy took place in the village of Volduchy, West Bohemia, at around 7am. So far it is unclear whether anyone will be charged with the young man's death.
In other news, the Czech Trade and Industry ministry says the South Korean car-maker Hyundai still intends to go ahead with a new assembly plant in North Moravia despite the arrest last week of the company's chairman Chung Mong-Koo on embezzlement charges. Minister Milan Urban said the signing ceremony would now be held in Seoul, and not the town of Nosovice, where the one-billion-plant will be built. Mr Chung and Hyundai are accused of creating slush funds to pay politicians and officials for business favours.
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