The Czech GDP fell by 0.3 percent in the third quarter of this year, and by 1.3 percent year-on-year, the Czech Statistical Office confirmed on Friday. This means the Czech economy has been in recession since the end of last year, which some analysts say equates them to the most indebted south European countries like Greece and Spain.
The Chamber of Deputies has approved a bill on Friday that legalizes the use of marijuana to alleviate some medical conditions. Patients will be able to purchase marijuana only with an electronic prescription from a doctor. The bill still needs to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president to come into effect.
The Czech Meteorological Institute has issued low temperature warnings for nine regions, mostly in the east of the country, for the whole of the upcoming weekend. In some mountainous areas, temperatures are expected to dip as low as -17 degrees Celsius during the nights. Day temperatures may be around -10 degrees in some parts of the country. Extreme temperatures should become more moderate by Monday morning.
The academic senate of Prague’s Charles University has issued a statement saying that it disagrees with the current proposal for higher education reforms. According to the senate’s spokesperson the Education Ministry’s current proposal does not resolve even the basic problem of separating universities into scientific and professional ones. They also claim that the ministry has not allowed for enough time to negotiate possible changes. The academic community has rejected a number of proposals for reform s in the past few years. Thousands of students and academics protested against the reforms proposed by the former Education Minister Josef Dobeš this February.
Friday morning’s meeting between the leaders of the coalition parties brought no answers to the new appointments of defense and transportation ministers. Prime Minister Petr Nečas said that he hopes to pick the candidates for the ministerial positions next week. He has previously indicated that if the Civic Democrats and the LIDEM party exchange the two posts, it is possible that LIDEM chairwoman Karolína Peake would become the Defense Minister. President Václav Klaus expressed doubts on Friday over Ms Peake’s suitability for this appointment.
Viktoria Plzeň finished top of their group in the Europa League after beating defending champions Atletico Madrid 1:0 at home on Thursday night, thanks to a goal from Václav Procházka. Plzeň had already qualified for the knockout stage of Europe’s second-tier competition prior to their final group stage game. The same applied to Sparta Prague, who drew 0:0 away with Athletic Bilbao. The pair’s success means it will be the first time two Czech clubs have still been in European competition in the New Year since 2004.
The Czech ombudsman Pavel Varvařovský is planning to lodge a legal complaint against the system of checks for the unemployed called DONEZ, which will come into effect starting January. DONEZ requires people registered as unemployed to appear at public administration centers a few times a week. The measure is meant to prevent people who receive unemployment benefits from working illegally. Mr Varvařovský believes this constitutes an excessive encroachment on human dignity.
The Czech health ministry has warned of the danger of more methanol poisonings over the Christmas holidays. According to police estimates there could still be up to 5,000 litres of uncertified, potentially dangerous alcohol in small stores and households. In the course of the past three months 38 people have died of methanol poisonings from bootleg liquor and three are currently in hospital in serious condition. Spirits have been banned from Christmas markets around the country.
The Senate on Thursday also extensively criticized the newly-introduced electronic S-cards via which the state wants to pay out welfare benefits as unethical and unconstitutional. The Senate’s Committee for Social Affairs is to debate a proposal for their abolition tabled by the Social Democratic Party. The new S-card system has evoked enormous controversy, with critics pointing out that pensioners living in small villages may have problems getting to a money machine and would inevitably lose money on the transaction from their already meagre pensions. Senators moreover point out that people will be forced to have an account at Česká Sporitelna, selected by the government to run the operation, even if they already have an account elsewhere.
The Czech Defence Ministry is to equip the armed forces with new uniforms. According to the ministry’s spokesman Jan Pejšek the purchase for summer and winter uniforms to the tune of 93 million crowns is to be made via the NATO support agency, after the ministry’s tender for new uniforms was cancelled by the Czech anti-monopoly office. The ministry has had problems placing a tender for new uniforms for the past two years.
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