The Czech military field hospital in Kabul has been closed and all remaining personnel will return to the Czech Republic by December 19, an army spokesperson said on Tuesday. The field hospital was set up in 2007 as part of NATO’s peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan. Despite the field hospital’s closure, a Czech military presence will remain in Afghanistan. Czech soldiers will continue to be deployed to the country’s Logar province to make up a Provincial Reconstruction Team. Czech deputies are currently discussing plans to step up military operations in the Central Asian country and are expected to reach a decision by the end of this year.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has ruled that the Czech Republic treated an Egyptian asylum seeker unlawfully; detaining him for over ten months while his case was pending. On Tuesday, the Czech state was ordered to pay Mr Muhammad Magdi Mansur Rashid 2000 euros in damages. Mr Rashid was eventually sent back to Egypt in June 2007. He argued that his detainment in a holding centre near Prague had been illegal and that authorities had not moved quickly enough in dealing with his complaint. On Tuesday, the Court of Human Rights ruled that the conditions in which he had been kept breached the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Basic Freedoms.
Czech trade unions have said that Health Minister Tomáš Julínek’s recent healthcare reform bills are badly worded and contain many mistakes. On Tuesday, the head of the Trade Union of Doctors in the Czech Republic, Martin Engel, said that he predicted many lawsuits due to the ambiguity of terms used in the bills. The Bohemian and Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions also condemned the reforms, saying that they circumvented the charter of fundamental human rights. A first wave of healthcare reforms was implemented in January to reduce waste in the healthcare system. Health Minister Tomáš Julínek has met with strong opposition in his bid to further overhaul the Czech healthcare system with follow-up reforms.
Agriculture Minister Petr Gandalovič has said that the Czech Republic will push for simpler and more cost-effective common agricultural policy during the country’s EU presidency, which starts next month. Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Gandalovič said his other priorities would be countryside development and the monitoring of food quality. According to Mr Gandalovič, the biggest event to be organized by his ministry in the course of the Czech EU presidency will be a meeting of the union’s agricultural ministers in the second city, Brno, where CAP reform will be discussed.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek presented his plans to protect the Czech economy from the fall-out of the global financial crisis on Tuesday, a document which opposition MPs called too general and superficial. Mr Topolánek warned that while the Czech economy had remained relatively isolated from the financial crisis so far, the country’s exporters in particular were already beginning to feel the squeeze. In his blueprint, Mr Topolánek advocated a hastened implementation of proposed government reforms. He also urged MPs to pass the draft state budget for next year in its current state, and make alterations to the budget when parliament reconvenes in the new year. The opposition criticized the prime minister’s plans, with Communist MP Jiří Dolejš saying that neither employers nor unions had been consulted on the matter.
A doctor from the Moravian town of Olomouc has been handed an eight-month suspended sentence after refusing to help a homeless man who subsequently died. Mr Lubomír Spurný died at the gates of Olomouc University Hospital last January, after being turned away by doctors. During the trail, Doctor Hana Vranová apologized for her judgment in the case of Mr Spurný. The man had visited the hospital once already that day where he had been examined and released. Medical experts giving testimony at the trial agreed that Mr Spurný’s condition was such that he would have died even if doctors had treated him. The 54-year-old died of pneumonia.
Direct foreign investment in the Czech Republic rose in 2007 by 50 percent to 185.3 billion crowns (9.2 billion USD), the Czech Statistical Office said on Tuesday. According to the office, foreign investment accounts for a much higher than average share of GDP in the Czech Republic. Around 55 percent of this country’s gross domestic product is made up of foreign investment, as opposed to 31 percent in Poland and 20 percent in Slovenia. Of the EU’s newer member states, Estonia tops the list of those most dependent upon foreign investment, with 77 percent of all GDP generated by outside investment.
The partially state-owned energy giant ČEZ is to offer its clients fixed price electricity in 2010, the firm’s CEO Martin Roman announced on Tuesday. In February next year, customers will be able to choose whether to pay a fixed price for their following year’s electricity in advance. The move is designed to provide clients with more stability, say those behind the initiative. With energy prices fluctuating in the current climate, however, opting for fixed-price power is a gamble which clients may win or lose. The Industry and Trade Minister Martin Říman said that the venture would give customers more choice - whether they wanted to shop around for the cheapest deal, or opt for security at a time when energy prices remain unstable.
The winner of this year’s Grand restaurant poll, compiled by food critic Pavel Maurer, is Prague’s Alcron restaurant. The results were announced in the daily Hospodářské noviny on Tuesday. Alcron, on Prague’s Štěpánská Street, rose eight places to first in this year’s list, with the restaurant’s new chef Roman Paulus taking most of the credit for the overall victory. Last year’s winner, Prague’s U Lípy restaurant, ranked outside of the top ten in this year’s poll. According to Hospodářské noviny, the poll was conducted by over 500 adjudicators, consuming over 6.5 million crowns’ (321,000 USD) worth of food.
Czech goalkeeper Daniel Zítka’s season could be over due to multiple injuries he sustained playing for his club Anderlecht in the Belgian league last week. Zítka broke his fibula, tore ankle ligaments which require surgery and lost two teeth in the game against Dender on Friday. The 33-year-old, who has replaced first-choice Petr Čech in the Czech Republic’s last two internationals, said he was ‘expecting the worst to avoid disappointment’. Zítka said he would aim to be fit for the last couple of games of the season, but didn’t know if it would be worth the risk to play for his country even then. He also told press on Tuesday that he was planning a less active Christmas than usual.
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