Patients in region-owned hospitals and other health care facilities no longer have to pay health fees. As of Monday, the regional governments, formed by the opposition Social Democrats following their landslide victory in October’s regional elections, will cover the cost of the fees for patients. The health fees for a visit to the doctor, emergency treatment and drug prescriptions were introduced by the centre-right government of PM Mirek Topolánek at the beginning of last year within a broader health care reform plan. They have caused tremendous controversy. The opposition managed to cancel the fees in Parliament’s lower house in December. The Senate has now come up with an amendment to the law which respects some of the objections to the fees from within the ruling coalition.
DNA testing revealed on Monday that two human arms, found by the German police, belonged to a torso discovered by police last week in western Bohemia. The two countries’ police forces started cooperating on the case after a hunter found a human torso without the head, arms and legs in a forest near Všeruby in western Bohemia, close to the border with Germany, last week. The police disclosed that the dead person was a 35-year-old German man.
The Czech Chamber of Commerce says the country’s economy is going to plunge into recession this year. The predicted downfall will be caused by a drop in contracts, long breaks in production and a restricted working week which many firms have been forced to introduce. The Chamber says the Czech economy was heavily hit by the global crisis, with November’s industrial production showing the steepest drop of all EU member countries. According to the analysis, another 30,000 jobs will be cut in January alone, making the unemployment rate jump over 7 percent by the end of 2009.
The opposition Social Democrats want a vote on the Lisbon treaty when the lower house of Parliament convenes for its next session on Tuesday. The lower house debated the reform document in December but the session was adjourned until February 3. The Social Democrats are also considering pushing for a referendum on the treaty. The party’s leader Jiří Paroubek hopes that such a move would find favour with some rebel members of the governing Civic Democrats who would help him bring down the government in a vote of no-confidence. The referendum would take place simultaneously with early elections, later this year. Mr Paroubek said he was confident Czechs would approve the Lisbon treaty if they were given a chance to vote on it. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said on Monday that he would like Parliament to ratify the treaty by the end of February. The Czech Republic, which currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the EU, is the only member of the 27-member bloc not to have voted on the EU’s reform treaty.
The Czech government has agreed that it will buy a leaking dangerous waste dump in Moravia for 23 million crowns, or just over a million US dollars, in order to have it fixed, the Czech news agency ČTK reported on Monday. The dump site, established in the community of Pozďátky in western Moravia in 1994, contains thousands of tons of chemicals which began leaking into a nearby stream; the government has been trying to buy the site for more than six years. The environment ministry said immediate emergency measures would cost another 17 million crowns.
Workers from 12 countries can begin applying for new green cards for the Czech Republic from Sunday. However, with unemployment rising in the country, it is unclear how many foreign workers will avail of the joint work and stay permit scheme, which requires that employers prove unable to find a Czech or EU citizen to fill a position for a period of 30 days (the first 30-day period has just ended). Among countries whose citizens can take part are Ukraine and former Yugoslav states. Vietnam and Mongolia, whose citizens have been coming to the Czech Republic in increasing numbers in recent years, have not been included in the green card scheme.
The chairman of the Senate foreign affairs committee says he believes the
United States will never build a radar base in the Czech Republic. Jiří
Dientsbier, who was Czechoslovakia’s first post-communist foreign
minister, said on Sunday that the Obama administration had indicated it
would drop plans for an anti-missile defence shield that would include a
radar base in central Bohemia. Speaking on a TV debate programme, he also
said US Vice President Joe Biden had always been against the successor to
the so-called “Star Wars” programme of the 1980s. Mr Dientsbier said
the global financial crisis could make a good pretext for abandoning the
Opinion polls have consistently suggested that around two thirds of Czechs are opposed to the planned radar base. Prague and Washington have signed treaties on the radar, though the lower house of the Czech Parliament has not yet voted on the matter.
The Czech branch of a music industry umbrella organisation has reduced the number of sales artists need to attain a gold disc. Six thousand rather than the previous 7,500 sales are now enough to earn musicians the accolade, a spokesperson for the Czech office of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry said. The number has been lowered because of a decline in CD sales of around 10 percent year-on-year. Sales of 12,000 CDs are rewarded with a platinum disc. Selling 30,000 copies of an album is considered very successful on the Czech market.
Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, the Czech president also said he was more worried about the consequences of the global financial crisis than the crisis itself. Mr Klaus, an economist by profession, said he was afraid the crisis would be misused to radically curtail the functioning of the free market.
A Viennese-style Ball at the Opera was held at Prague’s State Opera on Saturday night. Among the guests were the Czech-born businesswoman Ivana Trump and Ian Gillan from the rock band Deep Purple. The first such Ball at the Opera was organised in Prague in 1948, while the last one – prior to Saturday – took place 14 years ago.
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