The Czech Prime Minister as well as Health Minister Tomáš Julínek have been giving testimony at the Czech Republic’s Constitutional Court, defending the government’s implementation of doctor’s visitation fees. The court action comes as a result of moves by the opposition Social Democrats to have the fees declared unconstitutional in that the Czech constitution guarantees free-at-point-of-use healthcare. Prime Minister Topolánek argued that both patients and the state had benefited from the introduction of doctor’s visitation fees of 30 crowns in January. In a blow to opponents of the fees, the court suspended hearings indefinitely following the testimonies. Analysts have suggested that the court’s judges are divided on the issue.
The Czech Court of Appeals has confirmed an earlier ruling which clears former policeman Tomáš Čermák of violently assaulting Green MP Kateřina Jacques. The alleged assault occurred in May 2006, when Ms Jacques took part in an anti-Nazi demonstration in Prague. During the demonstration, Ms Jacques was beaten to the ground by Mr Čermák, although he denies that excessive force was used. Mr Čermák was subsequently charged with abuse of police authority, although the charges were later dismissed by a Czech court. Mr Čermák has argued that intervention against the Green MP was warranted because she was partaking in an unauthorized demonstration. He has also accused Ms Jacques of staging the incident in order to gain sympathy for the Green Party, charges which the Green MP has dismissed as ridiculous.
Prague City Hall has drastically cut the amount of money allocated for a publicity campaign to become an official candidate country to host the 2016 Olympic Games. The initial budget of 100 million crowns has been slashed to just over 14 million crowns by Prague City Hall. The move fuels speculation that Prague’s hopes of hosting the Olympics are slim at best. The official candidate countries will be chosen in June, but the mayor of Prague Pavel Bém has publicly conceded that a European city is unlikely to be offered the Games. The opposition Social Democrats have criticized the apparent U-turn stating that the government should stick to a commitment that it previously made to support the 2016 campaign.
Miroslav Grebeníček, the predecessor to current Czech communist party leader Vojtěch Filip could return to his former position as leader of the party, according to reports. Grebeníček, who led the party between 1991-2005, has been nominated as a potential candidate in the party’s leadership vote which takes place between 17-18 April in the Czech town of Hradec Králové. Grebeníček is seen as a hardliner, whereas his successor Vojtěch Filip is viewed as being more moderate. The party has seen internal division in recent months about its future direction, which increased following the re-election of President Klaus in February. Official candidates for the leadership include Mr Filip, MP Stanislav Grospič and Euro MP Miloslav Ransdorf.
Former presidential candidate Jan Švejnar has announced that he will not be running for a senate seat in the near future. Mr Švejnar has been the subject of heated debate about a potential political career in the Czech Republic ever since his presidential run in February. Most recently, Mr Švejnar, who resides in Michigan, had been mulling a senate run, something which he has now decided against.
The parents of a pair of baby girls who were accidentally switched at birth in a hospital in the Czech town of Třebič are undertaking a fight for compensation. Lawyers representing the parents of one of the children are demanding compensation which totals 12 million crowns from the hospital involved. The children in the case were only reunited with their biological parents ten months after they were born.
A new poll by the STEM polling agency gives the Social Democrats a more than seven point lead over the ruling Civic Democrat party. The poll gives the Social Democrats 31.2%, the Civic Democrats 23.4% and the communists 11.3%. The poll not only gives cause for concern to the ruling party, but also key coalition partner the Christian Democrats, who only poll at 5.5%. The other coalition member, the Greens, fare relatively well with 9.2%. STEM polls have had the Social Democrats leading against their Civic Democrat rivals since November 2007.
The Ministry of Culture has announced that the southern Bohemian town of Jindřichův Hradec is its “historical town of 2007.” The award is given to towns that demonstrate an extraordinary dedication to the preservation of their cultural and architectural heritage. Runners up in the competition were the towns of Šternberk and Uherské Hradiště. The winner was announced at Prague castle today and will receive a million crown award.
The Czech defence ministry denied on Tuesday that it was seeking help from the United States to modernize its armed forces in return for it hosting an anti-missile radar. Public broadcaster Czech Television reported on Monday, citing a deputy defence minister, that Prague was seeking Washington’s help to acquire two mid-range tactical transport planes and improve its air defences, possibly with Patriot missiles. Deputy defence minister Martín Barták said in front of the cameras that Prague had asked the US for cooperation in the acquisition of two mid-range tactical transport planes, a request which he said would be raised within the framework of anti-missile defence negotiations. But on Tuesday, the defence ministry said there had been a misunderstanding. The US could help in some way with obtaining Hercules aircraft, a spokesman said to AFP, but he denied that this would be linked in with talks about hosting the radar system.
The graves of over 320 Holocaust victims have been desecrated on the site of a former concentration camp in Terezín, Northern Bohemia. The bronze name plates of 327 victims of the Holocaust have been stolen in an attack which appears not to have been an act of anti-Semitism, but of theft. According to the news website Novinky.cz, the theft happened last week, and on Tuesday, the local police appealed for witnesses to come forward. The cemetery is not monitored by surveillance camera, but instead by regular police patrols. Those responsible, if caught, could face up to eight years in prison.