Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has reacted angrily to a US State Department report on human rights around the world which said corruption and political interference were problems in the Czech Republic. The annual report mentioned particular cases, including that of Jiří Čunek, who quit the cabinet after being investigated for alleged bribe-taking. Mr Topolánek said the only thing he had to say about the US report was that a country which allowed the torture of prisoners could hardly preach about human rights breaches in the Czech Republic.
A BBC report which claimed that Czech children’s homes were still using cage beds illegally has been confirmed in part, said the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs on Thursday. At least one of the homes featured in the report was found upon inspection to be using the outlawed beds. A ministry spokesperson refused to comment upon the other care homes featured in the report. The use of cage beds was outlawed in Czech institutions in 2007, when the government bowed to intense international pressure. But, in January of this year, a BBC report claimed that the practice continued.
The leaders of the three parties in the governing coalition are to meet next month to evaluate changes to the country’s health care system introduced at the beginning of the year. They had planned to discuss the matter in July. The two smaller parties in the coalition, the Christian Democrats and the Greens, have expressed disagreement with some new fees introduced as part of the health system reform.
The leaders of the coalition partners did not discuss the possible return of Christian Democrat chairman Jiří Čunek to the cabinet during a meeting on Wednesday evening. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek of the Civic Democrats again said the Christian Democrats and the Greens would have to reach an agreement on the matter. The Greens have expressed reservations about the return of Mr Čunek, who has been involved in a number of controversies. For his part, the Christian Democrats chairman insists he be allowed to resume the posts of deputy prime minister and minister for regional development, after an investigation into allegations he took bribes was dropped.
A cross-party group of MPs has drafted a proposal to remunerate Czechoslovak citizens whose property was on territory ceded to the Soviet Union after the Second World War, in what is now Ukraine. On Thursday, the Czech daily Právo wrote that as much as 1billion CZK (around 62 million USD) could be earmarked for the scheme. The money would go to members of the Czech Republic’s Ruthenian minority who could prove that they had owned property in the region up until 1946, as well as the value of that property. One of the committee’s members, Jan Hamáček, said that it was high time to pay those who were forced out of their homes in the region their dues.
The Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg was discharged from a German clinic on Wednesday where he was under observation after undergoing heart surgery three weeks ago. A spokesperson for the ministry said that he would now spend the next couple of days at a German spa. The Foreign Minister is expected to return to work at the end of the month.
A woman who was told she had been sterilised is seeking damages from a hospital in Liberec, Northern Bohemia, after giving birth to a healthy child. Šarka Doušová is asking for 250,000 CZK (nearly 15,500 USD) in damages after having suffered health problems as a result of the pregnancy. Ms Doušová was sterilised by the hospital after a road accident, when she was told that it would be dangerous for her to have any more children. But two months after the operation she fell unexpectedly pregnant and went on to have the child. The hospital in question has been unwilling to settle out of court as it says that Ms Doušová’s sterilisation failed because there was a problem with the method of surgery, and not the doctors performing the operation. The case will now be brought to a regional court.
Czech car maker Škoda Auto recorded a net profit of 15.98 billion CZK (993 million USD) in 2007, said the company’s chief financial officer, Holger Kintscher, on Thursday. This figure is up more than 44 percent on that of the previous year, he added. Sales rose by nine percent year on year to 222 billion crowns in 2007, with the firm selling more than 630,000 cars. Last year, Škoda Auto’s production topped 661,000 units, and it is expected to break through the 700,000 unit barrier this year, said Mr Kintscher. The firm has been the Czech Republic’s biggest exporter for the last couple of years.
Thursday marks the close of the tenth One World festival of human rights documentary films in Prague. The festival will now move on to 28 other Czech towns and cities. This year, the Prague leg of the festival enjoyed a record attendance of around 45,000 visitors - a figure up nearly 10,000 on the previous year. The prize for best film at the festival was given this year to the Brazilian director Maria Ramos for her movie ‘Juizo’. Best director went to Tchao Liang for ‘Crime and Punishment’. Homegrown ‘Citizen Havel’, directed by Pavel Koutecký and Miroslav Janek, also won a special mention from the festival jury.