Health care fees introduced by the centre-right government do not
contradict the Czech constitution, the Constitutional Court ruled on
Wednesday. However, a provision under which patients receive no health
insurance payment for the first three days of an illness has been declared
illegal. The opposition Social Democrats had taken the case, arguing that
fees implemented in January were unconstitutional. Both the Prime Minister
Mirek Topolánek and Health Minister Tomáš Julínek testified during the
court hearing. Reacting to Wednesday’s verdict, the latter said he
regarded it as a mandate to continue with the reform process.
Czechs have to pay CZK 30 (almost USD 2) per visit to the doctor’s, and twice that amount per day spent in hospital, under health reforms introduced at the start of the year. They are one plank of a broader reform programme which also takes in the social welfare and taxation systems.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, has described the views on climate change of the three people in the running for the US presidency as sad and tragic. Mr Klaus made the comments in Washington after an event at which he presented the English-language version of his book Blue Planet in Green Shackles. In it he questions the commonly held view that mankind is responsible for global warming. The Czech president said he hoped John McCain, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton would tone down their current views on climate change if elected to the White House.
Local officials are bringing in partial bans on drinking in public in the centre of Prague. Prague 1, which covers the very centre of the city, is to forbid the drinking of alcohol at several spots, such as Národní třída, Old Town Square and Kampa, with that edict coming into effect at the start of July. Meanwhile, Prague 2 has put forward a proposal to ban drinking at places such as Karlovo náměstí and Tylovo náměstí. The Czech Constitutional Court has previously overturned such edicts, but now the proposals seem likely to stick, as the Interior Ministry has given them its backing. They will not cover outdoor seating at pubs.
From July, France will open its labour market to citizens of countries, such as the Czech Republic, which joined the European Union in 2004. The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, made the announcement on a visit to the Polish capital Warsaw on Wednesday. France had originally been planning to introduce the change in May 2009. Czechs and other new EU citizens can now work in most ‘old’ states, though Germany and Austria are insisting on keeping their labour markets closed to the newcomers until 2011, which is the maximum period possible under EU agreements.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has blocked a website run by a Czech neo-Nazi group, the newspaper Hospodařské noviny reported. A Czech police representative said the FBI had taken that step at the recommendation of police in the UK, who said the site run by the group Blood and Honour was a terrorist site. Blood and Honour is on a US list of terrorist organisations and has links to Britain’s Combat 18 neo-Nazi group, Hospodařské noviny said. A Czech expert on extremism told the daily that Blood and Honour’s site was spreading Combat 18 materials. The former group became notorious for attacking anti-fascists in the 1990s, but has been less active since its leaders were arrested by the Czech police.
The Czech Republic’s footballers beat Lithuania 2:0 in a Euro 2008 warm-up game in Prague on Tuesday night. Both goals were scored by Jan Koller, who increased his Czech record goals tally to 54. Prior to the game it was announced that defender Tomáš Ujfaluši would captain the Czech team at the European Championship in the absence of Tomáš Rosický, who is recovering from an operation. The Czech Republic take part in the opening game at Euro 2008 against hosts Switzerland on Saturday week.
A man from Brno has been accused of virtually enslaving five elderly women and forcing them to carry out hard physical work, police in the city said. Jiří Adam, who is 74, says he is a leader in a sect called the Holy Grail Movement. He is accused of using his role as sect-leader to mistreat the women, several of whom lived with him and his wife in a villa in the Moravian capital. His alleged victims reportedly first came into contact with him when he conducted séances, but fell under his influence when they became part of his household. The women transferred their property to his name and gave him their pension money. Neighbours told the police the women, who were malnourished, were forced to work on Mr Adam’s extensive property even on Christmas Eve.
Two Czechs who went on a hunger strike on May 14th in protest against the Czech government’s acceptance of hosting a US radar on Czech territory are reported to be having health problems but have resolved not to let-up in their protest. Jan Bednář and Jan Tamáš want a public referendum on the issue and claim that the government has no right to decide against the will of its citizens. Opinion polls suggest that the majority of Czechs are opposed to the idea of a US radar on Czech soil, and even more so to the idea of foreign troops and observers which would be a part of it. The protesters say they will continue in their hunger strike until politicians heed the voice of the people.
France will open its job market to eight central and east European EU members who joined the alliance in 2004, including the Czech Republic. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner made the announcement in Prague on Tuesday, saying that the move should take place during France’s EU presidency in the second half of 2008. A work permit for citizens from these countries will still be required. Paris originally planned to open its job market to citizens from central and eastern Europe in May 2009.
Milan Šošovička, the head of the anti-corruption police in Olomouc, who collected evidence for filing corruption charges against Deputy Prime Minister Jiří Čunek, has left his post, the daily Pravo reports, indicating that the police chief’s departure was not voluntary. The paper also notes that Mr Šošovička is the fifth detective to leave the anti-corruption police in connection with Jiří Čunek’s case. The media are also speculating about similar purges in the judiciary. Deputy Prime Minister Jiří Čunek was suspected of having taken a two million crown bribe when he was the mayor of Vsetín in 2002 but the charges against him were dropped for lack of evidence.
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Screenshot: a hybrid English-friendly Prague art-house cinema where screenings are events