Some 300 people gathered outside the health ministry on Thursday to protest against the minister’s proposal to extend the working hours from 40 to 48 hours per week. Health minister Tomas Julinek says the measure would decrease the number of overtime hours in hospitals. But the trade unions have called his plan an introduction of a work Saturday and shadow health minister David Rath said the measures could make qualified doctors leave for abroad.
The deputies in the lower house of Parliament will hold a vote of no-confidence on the coalition government on December 4. The chairman of the lower house Miloslav Vlcek convoked the extraordinary session at the request of the opposition Social Democrats. The vote on the government will be taken just one day before the vote on the draft state budget for 2008. The opposition Social Democrats and the Communists only have 98 votes; to topple the ruling coalition, they would need at least 101. It is not likely that they will succeed in winning over anyone from the ruling coalition.
The Czech Republic came 15th in the latest Programme for International Student Assessment, a survey organised by the OECD every three years. This year’s survey focused on students’ knowledge of sciences and their ability to use this knowledge in solving problems of everyday life. The programme was carried out among 400,000 students in 57 countries. The average knowledge of OECD students was equalled to 500 points, with Czechs gaining 513 points and the top-of-the-list Finns gaining 563 points. The closest to the Czech Republic were the British and the Swiss.
The government has decided to support Czech filmmaking by increasing this
year’s budget at the Culture Ministry by 100 million crowns. Culture
Minister Vaclav Jehlicka asked for the subsidy because a new film law
securing funding for Czech film productions has not yet been approved. The
State Fund for Support and Development of Czech Cinematography has regular
financial sources only from the sale of film copyrights. It also receives
one crown from each cinema ticket.
Last week, President Vaclav Klaus signed a so-called digital amendment, which will secure income from advertisements shown on Czech public television. The subsidies will be available from the beginning of 2008 until analogue broadcasting is switched off. It is expected to happen in October 2010 at the earliest. Altogether the subsidies should amount to at least 425 million crowns (24 million US dollars).
The Czech National Bank has raised the interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point for the fourth time this year. The main rate was brought to 3.5 %, the highest level over the last five years. Following the news, the Czech crown strengthened its position against both the euro and the dollar to an all-time high of 26.28 crowns per euro and 17.79 per US dollar.
Architect Jan Kaplicky met Prague councillors on Thursday to discuss his
design for the new National Library Building. Among the topics up for
discussion were the budget, and maintenance of Prague’s historic
panorama. The Czech-born architect repeated that he was set upon the
library being built in its original location, Prague’s Letna Plain.
After being chosen by the international jury in March, the winning design immediately sparked controversy. Among its most fierce opponents were the Czech president Vaclav Klaus and Prague Civic Democratic councillors. Last month, an expert team consisting of architects, conservationists and lawyers was set up to determine final location and design of the building.
The Lower House repeatedly rejected the proposal of the Senate to strip International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, of its “significant day” status. Senators consider the day to be tinged with communist ideology and want it to be replaced by Mother’s Day. They also propose to rename the May 1 Labour Day holiday to Spring and Labour Day. The proposal was rejected both by the governing and the opposition deputies.
A court in Prague ruled on Wednesday that members of both chambers of the Czech parliament have to pay fares for privately-owned transport services. Until now, all MPs and senators were entitled to free rides on public transport by the law. The court ruling was passed in a case of a private transport service suing the Czech Republic for having to transport two parliamentarians – Josef Zieleniec and Igor Petrov - from Prague to Brno. The show-case ride was set up last year by the two politicians and the transport company owner so that the regulation on free MP rides could be contested before court. According to Josef Zieleniec, the current rule of free rides is absurd and interferes with property rights.
The incumbent President Vaclav Klaus was officially nominated on Wednesday by the Civic Democrats as their candidate in the presidential election to be held in February next year. All 122 Civic Democrat MPs and senators signed the nomination decree that was delivered to the parliament’s election committee. While Vaclav Klaus, who is also the honorary chairman of the Civic Democrats, remains a strong favourite in the coming vote, other political parties have not arrived at a general agreement on a single candidate. The Green Party together with the opposition Social Democrats are considering nominating economist Jan Svejnar who will announce whether or not he will accept the nomination by the end of next week.
Catarrhal fever has been registered for the first time ever in the Czech Republic. An animal infected with this contagious disease that affects sheep, goats and cattle, was detected on Wednesday on a farm near Cheb, western Bohemia, close to the border with Germany. Veterinarians say that measures have been taken to prevent the disease from spreading further on. Catarrhal fever does not kill the infected animals, and they do not have to be slaughtered either.