Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has called for the European Union to open a new debate on nuclear energy. Speaking at a NATO conference on energy security in Prague, Mr Paroubek said Europe must have a clear energy policy in the same way as it has an agricultural policy, and nuclear power should be a key part of it. He added that Austria, currently holding the EU presidency, has taken the lead in demanding a better defined European energy policy. Neighbouring Austria has been a staunch critic of the Czech Republic's newest nuclear plant, Temelin, located close to the Austrian border.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek also told journalists that talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who starts an official visit to Prague on March 1, will include negotiations on a new long-term agreement for Russia's Gazprom to supply the Czech Republic with natural gas. The current contract expires in 2013. The Czech Republic relies on Russian gas for about two-thirds of its supplies, most of the rest coming from Norway.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has said he is going to ask the German Chancellor Angela Merkel to put pressure on local authorities in Germany regarding illegal exports of waste to the Czech Republic. Tonnes of rubbish have been imported from Germany into the Czech Republic in recent months as disposing of it in Germany is more costly for German firms. The Czech government said it is considering a ban on all imports of waste into the country. In the meantime there will be stricter border controls.
The government has earmarked 2.8 billion crowns (117 million dollars) from the state budget as health insurance payments for students, pensioners and the unemployed, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday. As of the beginning of February, the government has increased payments to 560 crowns (23 dollars) a month for students and other selected groups. If approved by the lower house, the payments should increase to 636 crowns (26 dollars) as of April. Health Minister David Rath said the increase in payments is one of the measures to reduce the heavy debt of the state-controlled health insurer VZP.
According to data supplied by the Ministry for Local Development, mortgage borrowing in the Czech Republic reached 72.7 billion crowns (3 billion dollars) last year, some 37 percent more than in 2004, with a total of over 51,000 new contracts. The average sum borrowed last year was more than 1.4 million crowns (58,000 dollars). A further increase is expected in 2006.
The supermarket chain Hypernova has withdrawn bottled water claiming to prevent bird flu, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday. The water called Fromin Aktimun, made by Czech company Aquamat, comes in orange, lemon and grapefruit flavour and its label says it acts as bird flu prevention. The water was on sale at two outlets of the Hypernova supermarket chain owned by Netherlands-based Ahold until Wednesday although it had been banned by the State Agriculture and Food Inspection Office in mid-January. Experts say the only effective prevention of bird flu is a vaccine against a particular virus and they described the marketing of the product as "misleading."
We can expect partly cloudy skies with a chance of snow in the next couple of days. Daytime temperatures should stay just above freezing.
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