The Chamber of Deputies ended a six-day filibuster on Sunday evening and passed the government's reform package. After nearly a week of obstruction from the left-wing opposition, the coalition parties were able to ratify the 14 bills covering health care, pension, welfare and other reforms in roughly half an hour and with a comfortable majority of eight to nine votes. The opposition Social Democratic Party is considering challenging the coalition's rules of procedure in the Constitutional Court.
Doctors’ unions have pledged a new campaign to push the Health Ministry to make good on salary promises. The unions say Health Minister Leoš Heger’s offer of gradual rises for hospital physicians over the course of next year is not enough, and are demanding agreed salary increases as of January. The Health Ministry negotiated a 10% raise for hospital physicians in 2012 in the spring of this year after the doctors threatened mass resignations that would have meant major disruption of the entire health care system. Mr Heger has since decided to provide a 6.25% rise as of January with the rest to come later on. The unions are therefore organising a monthly series of events to hold the ministry to its word. They say they will then decide whether to go further.
Conditions for the handicapped in the Czech Republic have not improved in recent years, according to a new report provided to the UN. The 17 non-profit organisations that worked on the report told reporters on Monday that conditions for the disabled had actually worsened in many regards. The organisations cited in particular economic austerity measures and social reforms, which were of detriment to the disabled and saved the state only three billion. They also included a lack of equal educational and job opportunities and less decision-making in politics. The report, which deals generally with the rights of the handicapped, was the second to be sent to the UN, following the government’s own report.
The Law College of the University of West Bohemia in Plzeň has had its doctorial programme cancelled by the Ministry of Education. The college was hit last year by a series of scandals involving its methods of accepting students, plagiarism and ‘fast-track’ degrees for those who paid for them. Twelve people, some of them public figures, had their diplomas revoked. More than thirty teachers left the institution at the end of the last school year. The present conditions at the school will be re-examined in January.
A record minimum of Czechs support the country’s membership in the European Union, a new poll suggests. The survey conducted by the STEM agency says that 59% percent of respoendents responded positively to membership, while 30% were clearly negative. The highest period of confidence in the union was during the Czech EU presidency in 2009, when 80% were in favour. Te poll also suggests that satisfaction with NATO membership is higher, with 70% approving after 12 years of membership in the alliance.
The maximum prices that can be paid for social services may rise as of next year in accordance with a proposal from the Ministry of Labour. Acceptance of the proposal would mean higher prices for people in certain institutions, such as some homes for seniors, for goods and services. The proposal would raise the maximum rate that can be charged on services such as catering, accommodation, laundering, shopping services etc by 10 to 20 crowns, which could mean up to around 930 crowns more a month. The ministry bases the proposal on the fact that the maximum prices have not increased since 2008 while the cost of care has risen.
The Constitutional Court may not rule on a proposal to cancel the new solar energy tax by the end of this year. The complaint was raised last March by a group of senators who claim that the legislation was retroactive and was passed without proper debate. The Czech Republic is facing billion-crown international lawsuits over the 26% tax, which was implemented at the end of last year in order to compensate for higher electricity costs caused by the increase of solar energy plants. Owners of the plants complain that by changing its policy on solar energy the Czech state upset their businesses and decreased their revenues.
Interior Minister Jan Kubice is making his first trip to the region of Northern Bohemia since racial tensions erupted there three months ago. He will be meeting with ten local mayors in the town of Šluknov on Tuesday morning in an attempt to ease their concerns over the number of policemen in the area. Anti-Roma demonstrations in the region have been an almost weekly occurrence since August, when Roma allegedly carried out two violent attacks. The situation has settled down in recent weeks, though locals fear it is a temporary lull.
Sensitive information about almost 900 Roma students was published temporarily on Monday on the website of the Ministry of Education. Czech Television reported the personal information about Roma students receiving financial support to study at specialised schools included their names, addresses and dates of birth and was freely available. The ministry removed the information and has filed criminal charges in the matter.
The internal affairs office of the police arrested three police officers and ten others at the weekend on suspicion of drugs manufacturing and trafficking. The arrests were made in South Bohemia and in Prague. Four people, including one of the officers, have been charged so far. Two of the officers were detained in Prague immediately after accepting a one-million-crown advance on a drug deal. According to the police press department, one of the policemen used his service weapon as collateral on the advance. The daily Právo writes that all three officers were members of the same division in Český Krumlov and were trading in large amounts of marijuana.
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