The ministry-run organization CERMAT has placed practice versions of the new state high school leaving exam online to give students a chance to practice before they take the real one in the first week of May. After last year’s highly criticised and problematic launch of the unified state exam system, the Education Ministry decided to simplify the structure of the exams and have one level instead of two. Most students have to pass a Czech language exam, and then have a choice of either doing a foreign-language or mathematics examination. This year, out of the 98,082 students registered to take the state exams, 60% chose the foreign language test as their additional exam.
After meeting with President Miloš Zeman on Monday, representatives of the Bohemian-Moravia Confederation of Trade Unions have agreed to lower their demands on raising the minimum wage. Although the union representatives were previously asking to bring the minimum monthly wage up from eight to nine thousand crowns, President Zeman convinced them to agree to a hike of 500 crowns. The decision on the issue, though, depends primarily on the government and parliament. Mr Zeman and the head of the confederation, Jaroslav Zavadil, have good relations, and the new president agreed to help broker better ties between the government and unions.
The Health Minister Leoš Heger is planning to add a proposal to relieve children of hospital stay fees to an amendment package he will present to the government in the next few weeks. The minister is hoping to either lower the fees, which are currently 100 crowns per day, or get rid of them altogether. The Association of Hospitals agrees with the move saying that that this way children will be able to remain in hospital for as long as necessary and their treatment will not depend as much on the family’s financial situation.
The anti-corruption police have carried out raids against tax evaders in various parts of the country throughout Monday. So far, the police arrested 19 people, 13 of whom were already charged with evading taxes in sales of electronics. Total damages are calculated to be in the range of hundreds of millions of crowns.
A court in the German city of Koblenz handed down four-and-a-half-year jail sentences to a German couple who kidnapped a Czech girl in the north Bohemian town Trmice when she was a few weeks old. The 48-year old woman and a 51-year old man were found guilty of kidnapping, car theft and counterfeiting documents. Both appealed their verdict upon sentencing. The woman, with the help of her partner, kidnapped the girl named Michalka last July from her pram. The police found the newborn a few days later.
A new poll carried out by the Academy of Science’s Public Opinion Research Center (CVVM) has shown that 89% of Czechs are not happy with the work of the current government, while 82% are unhappy specifically with Prime Minister Petr Nečas. This is another tough blow for Mr Nečas, whose party, the Civic Democrats, have fallen drastically in the polls in the past few months, getting weaker voter preferences than the Communist Party last week. The CVVM poll also revealed that 70% of people are unsatisfied with the platform of the current government, all pointing to the fact that this is the least popular cabinet since 1998.
Every year smoking kills around 18 thousand Czechs, according to information released by the Center for Treatment of Tobacco Addiction at Prague’s General University Hospital. Dr. Eva Králíková from the center said that of those, 8,000 people die of cancer, 7,000 of heart and vascular diseases, and 3,000 die of respiratory and other diseases. A third of all adults in the Czech Republic smoke while the percentage among young people is even higher. Dr. Králíková said that 17% of all heart attacks treated in the Czech Republic could be prevented and 30% of all youngsters who began smoking before 18 would not be smoking at all if a smoking ban was imposed in restaurants.
The Ústí nad Labem regional council has decided not to pay its share of a 2.6-billion-crown fine that the European Commission imposed on the Ústí and Karlovy Vary regions. The regional governments were fined for problems with some of the EU funding allocated through an operational program by the regions. The Ústí council said on Monday that it is not responsible for the mishandling of grants, and the regional governor Oldřich Bubeníček said last month that the Finance Ministry should pay for at least half of the fine.
Čestmír Císař, a reformer in Czechoslovakia’s Communist Party in the 1960s, has died at the age of 93. Mr Císař passed away on Sunday following a long bout with illness. In the early 1960s Mr Císař held the high post of secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (KSČ). From 1963 to 1965 he was also the minister of culture and education, but was dismissed for overly liberal views and was sent to serve as ambassador to Romania. Later, he was brought back by Alexander Dubček and was one of several candidates for president following the resignation of Antonín Novotny. After 1989, Mr Císař founded a short-lived group (made up largely of former Prague Spring reformers) backing “democratic socialism”.
The former justice minister Jiří Pospíšil has been elected as the head of the Civic Democratic association of regional leadership. The association was founded in January of this year in order to improve the Civic Democrats’ position in regions outside of Prague and strengthen communication between central party leadership and regional party members. The largest ruling party won in only one out of the 13 regions in the last elections in the fall of last year.
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