Meanwhile, 70% of Czechs believe the money that Mr Bárta gave to two of his party’s leading members were intended as bribes, according to a survey carried out by the STEM/MARK agency for Czech Television. Slightly less men than women believed Mr Bárta’s defence, that the money in question was given as personal loans. The corruption trial of Vít Bárta and Jaroslav Škárka adjourned on Friday to study the evidence and will continue in April.
The National Disability Council and health care unions are organising a protest against the Health Ministry’s proposed waiting period for operations and distances of medical care. According to the new proposals, which should take effect in April, patients must be able to reach a doctor, dentist or pharmacy within 40 minutes, or specialised care within three hours. Waits for hip joint replacements, for example, should taker on longer than 78 weeks. The groups plan to demonstrate in front of the Ministry of Health at noon on March 27. The protest is also supported by the Czech €doctors’ chamber.
Czechs keep more household pets than any country in Europe, according to surveys compiled by the website Novinky.cz. The site claims that half of Czech households have one or more pets, with two million dogs and a million cats in four and a half million households. Conversely, a poll made for an association of German kennels suggests that only 13% of households in Germany have dogs, compared to 38% in France. According to the GfK agency, Czechs spend more than two billion crowns a year on veterinary services and a similar amount on pet food.
The Social Democrats agreed on Saturday to call for a parliamentary vote of no confidence in the government within the next two weeks. Party leader Sobotka is seeking signatures for a special session; even with the support of the Communist Party however the numbers will be stacked against them. Mr Sobotka cited the trial of former transport minister Vít Bárta as an additional reason for a vote of no confidence. Public support in Mr Bárta’s Public Affairs party has evaporated since his corruption scandal began early last year, and critics of the government argue the party no longer has a mandate. The Social Democratic Party has made two unsuccessful no-confidence votes during the current election term, which began in mid-2010.
There is no threat of the European Commission suspending subsidies from EU structural funds, regardless of mistakes in relevant Czech audits, according to deputy regional development minister Daniel Braun. After meeting with EC representatives on Friday Mr Braun said that he and his EU counterparts had agreed on the steps the Czech Republic should take in order for the EC not to suspend Czech operational programmes. While he confirmed the EC could stop the subsidies in the event of major problems with the programmes, he said this was not imminent. The EC´s criticism regards the Czech system of auditing, inspections and human resources stability, particularly in the Education Ministry, where the EC suspended the payment of 1.2 billion crowns.
The town of Moravský Krumlov will begin repairing it’s chateau in the summer in a bid to have Alphons Mucha’s Slav Epic returned to his custody. The 20-canvass masterpiece was removed to Prague after a long-running dispute over which city should host the Art Nouveau paintings. The Krumlov town hall is seeking to satisfy the demands of preservationists, namely to upgrade the air conditioning and stabilise the humidity in the castle, in the hopes that the paintings will b e returned after their exhibit in Prague closes in two years. The painter’s family is seeking a permanent home for the works in Prague, but will support their return to Moravský Krumlov if no suitable venue in the capital is created.
The leadership of the opposition Social Democratic Party has decided to allow a fee on hospital catering in it’s platform, thus backing off from its rejection of all heath care fees. The party platform will now allow for a 60 crown per day fee on hospital catering that patients would pay for 30 days at most. The current fee is 100 crowns per day regardless of the length of stay. Party chairman Bohuslav Sobotka says the fee is in the interest of financially stabilising regional hospitals so that they can remain in public hands.
A new poll by the STEM agency has suggested that if elections were held today only four parties would gain enough votes to make it into the Chamber of Deputies. According to the survey, the opposition Social Democrats would win 88 seats in the 200-member house – a jump of 11 since January. The Communists would pick up 37, meaning the political Left would hold a comfortable majority of 125. Of the current parties in government, the Civic Democrats would pick up 50 mandates and the newer right-of-centre party TOP 09 just 15. The smallest party, Public Affairs would not make it into the Chamber at all, finishing with only 2.1 percent of the vote – well below the five percent threshold. Similarly, the Christian Democrats would also fail to get elected to the lower house.
More than half of the country‘s town halls, city halls and regional bureaux have unfurled and hung the Tibetan flag a day ahead of the international day of solidarity with the people of Tibet, which was annexed by China in 1959. Andrea Pavlátová a coordinator from the NGO Lungta told the Czech news agency that of 728 bureaux or town halls contacted, 405 had agreed to take part in the Flags for Tibet event while 307 declined. Taking part in the event has become a tradition in parts of the Czech Republic since Žižkov’s city hall in Prague became the first Czech institution to join the international event 17 years ago.
Education Minister Josef Dobeš has reacted to pressure by students at the Plzeň law faculty and extended the undergraduate programme at the troubled school until 2016. Speaking at a press conference on Friday, he stressed it would be impossible for all 1,800 undergraduate students at the institution to complete their studies elsewhere: the school had been slated to close by October of this year, following a decision by the Czech Accreditation Commission over staffing problems at the school and a lack of vision. The faculty has been dogged by problems since 2009 when it was hit by a scandal involving plagiarism and fast-track degrees. The education minister’s decision brought immediate reaction from Accreditation Commission head Vladimíra Dvořáková, who called it unlawful and confirmed in response the commission will file a legal complaint. Technically the minister was not in a position to counter the earlier decision.
New foreigners’ law to change conditions for non-EU nationals
Czech rock climber Adam Ondra knocked out of World Cup in Japan
Czech foreign ministry reports record number of visa applications
New index shows locations with best quality of life in Czech Republic
Archaeologists unearth rare Renaissance-Baroque brew house in ‘Czech Paradise’