The centre-right opposition parties TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats on Friday failed to push through their demand for an amendment to the civil service bill which would make it compulsory for ministers to produce clean screening certificates as proof they do not have a communist past. This has been a matter of contention between the governing coalition and the opposition ever since Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s centre-left government took office. The finance minister in Mr. Sobotka’s cabinet, TOP 09 leader Andrej Babiš, has failed to produce a clean screening certificate. Mr. Babiš’ appointment to the post caused controversy and although a court in Bratislava later ruled that Andrej Babiš was falsely described as being an agent of the Communist era secret police, critics say his past contacts with the communist secret police present a problem.
The lower house of Parliament has approved the abolition of direct payments in health care, with the exception of a 90 crown fee for emergency visits. A 30 crown fee for prescriptions introduced by the former center-right government has likewise been scrapped. Deputies will also debate the cabinet’s proposal to scrap an article of the law which would force doctors to issue exclusively electronic prescriptions as of next year, on the grounds that many doctors outside of the big cities are technically not prepared for such a move. The health commission of the Chamber of Deputies has suggested that this duty could be postponed by three years instead of being scrapped.
The EC has sent the Czech Republic a formal request for information regarding the alleged discrimination of Romany children in the Czech education system. The Czech authorities have two months in which to provide the information. Amnesty International has welcomed the move saying that the Czech Republic has for years failed to take effective measures to secure equal access to education for Romany children who are very often placed in special schools for children with learning disabilities. A group of Romany parents took their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in 2007 and won, but Amnesty says little has changed in practice since.
The death of a baby several hours after its vaccination this week is unlikely to have been caused by the vaccine, the head of the Czech Vaccination Society Roman Prymula told Czech Television on Thursday. The incident has triggered unease among parents especially since the State Institute for Drugs Control ordered the respective batch of Infanrix hexa vaccines to be pulled from the shelves of pharmacies around the country until the cause of death has been verified. Prymula said that in his opinion cot death was a more likely explanation since an allergic reaction to the vaccine would have come much earlier.
The board of the Czech National Bank on Thursday decided to leave its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a historic low of 0.05%. The Central Bank also reiterated its commitment to intervening in the foreign exchange market in order to keep the Czech koruna at around 27 crowns per euro. The interventions were launched in November of last year and should continue at least until 2016.
A bust of the late Czech president Václav Havel is due to be unveiled in the U.S. Capitol’s Freedom Foyer on November 19, the ctk news agency reports citing the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives John Boehner. The unveiling ceremony has been scheduled to take place on the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. In 1990, the late Czech president delivered one of his most famous speeches before the U.S. Congress. The bust of the legendary Czech dissident-playwright-turned-president will reside in Freedom Foyer those of alongside those of Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.
The NGO Arnica has warned that some loom bands accessories which have become a hit with school children have been found to contain toxic substances far exceeding permitted norms. The NGO said at a press briefing in Prague on Thursday that while the popular loom bands themselves had passed a random test some of the accessories sold on the Czech market contained a high amount of phthalates, exceeding permitted norms by up to 400 times. The Czech Trade Inspection is now investigating the claims.
Seven students from Ukraine have started postgraduate studies at Palacký University in Olomouc which invited them in February in reaction to the tense political situation in Ukraine. The university is covering the cost of their monthly scholarships and will pay for their travel expenses, accommodation and social and health insurance. The rector of Palacký University Jaroslav Miller said it was a gesture of solidarity with Ukraine in the country’s time of need.
The European Commission has criticized the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovenia for failing to fully transpose the EU directive about cross-border healthcare into their legal systems. The three countries’ governments have been called on to correct the lapse or face a court dispute. The 2011 EU directive stipulates that all EU citizens have the right to seek treatment beyond their country’s borders if that treatment is not available in their home country or they would have to wait excessively long to get it. All EU member states were expected to fully transpose this into their national legislation by October of 2013.
TOP 09 deputy head Miroslav Kalousek, who has been ordered to apologize to colleague MP Zdenek Ondráček from the Communist Party for calling him a communist “fizl” a highly derogatory term for officers who served the regime beating up and persecuting its opponents, is refusing to comply and has asked the lower house to revoke the decision of the Mandatory and Immunity Committee which dealt with the case. The committee concluded that although Zdenek Ondráček served as a police officer before the fall of communism the term used by MP Kalousek was vulgar and insulting. The TOP 09 deputy head says he merely called a spade a spade and will not demean himself by apologizing. If he refuses to do so, he will be expected to pay a fine amounting to his monthly salary as an MP.
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