The Social Democrats and the Green Party will back the draft legislation on the first phase of the planned pension reform, prepared by Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Necas. The draft suggests, among other things, extending the compulsory period of insurance from 25 to 35 years and raising the retirement age for both men and women to 65 years. Mr Necas said the reform should be implemented as soon as possible, pointing out that due to the inflation rate the current pension system might run into deficit earlier than expected.
Police in south Moravian town of Zlin have launched investigation after a seventeen-year-old boy drowned in a swimming pool during a swimming lesson on Friday morning. A lifeguard pulled the student's lifeless body out of the water but paramedics didn’t succeed in reviving him. It isn’t clear how long he had been under water. Police are currently investigating who is responsible for the boy’s death.
A post-office in Bozi Dar, a small town in Krusne Hory, has stamped more than half a tonne of Christmas greetings this year with a special Christmas stamp. Tens of thousands of people from the Czech Republic and elsewhere have been sending their greetings to Bozi Dar, which translates into Czech as Gift of God. The local post-office also receives children’s wishes addressed to Jezisek or little baby Jesus, who, according to the Czech tradition, leaves the presents under the Christmas tree. The town of Bozi Dar, a popular skiing resort, has the highest altitude in central Europe – 1082 metres above sea level. It has been offering the special Christmas service for fourteen years.
About thirty public places in Prague have been designated as “family friendly” by the Gender Studies organization promoting equal opportunities for men and women. Restaurants, coffee-houses, shops and other facilities bearing the family-friendly sign must have barrier-free access and personnel which is friendly towards families with small children. So far, volunteers from Gender Studies have mapped public spaces in three districts of Prague. The list should be completed by July next year.
Churches will probably receive 267 billion crowns (some 14.5 billion US dollars) from the Czech state in compensation for their property confiscated by the former communist regime, Mlada Fronta Dnes reports. Last week members of the ruling coalition and churches agreed on financial compensation worth 83 billion crowns. The state won’t be able to pay out the sum in a one-off payment as it would threaten the state budget, Finance Minister Miloslav Kalousek told the daily. The compensation will therefore be paid out gradually throughout a period of sixty years. The cabinet will discuss the planned compensation for churches at the beginning of next year. If it passes through the parliament, the churches will start receiving the payments as of 2009.
The popularity of Czech presidential candidate Jan Svejnar is increasing, according to a poll conducted by the STEM agency. The results of the poll suggest that 34 percent of respondents would like to see the incumbent Vaclav Klaus re-elected to the post. However, the same number of people would prefer to see his rival Jan Svejnar in the post. In a poll conducted in November, almost half of respondents didn’t know Jan Svejnar at all and only 15 percent wanted to see him as president. Mr Klaus’s popularity may be falling due to his unwillingness to participate in a televised debate with his opponent. He recently rejected Mr Svenjar’s offer of a one-on-one debate on the grounds that his views were well known and he had already proved himself in the office.
A Czech operational programme aimed at drawing EU funds for support in the field of science is likely to be the last of all EU countries’ programmes to be approved by the European Commission. Czech officials will negotiate the details of the programme in late March at the earliest. The operational programme will make the Czech Republic eligible for up to 54 billion crowns (the equivalent of roughly 3 billion US dollars) in EU subsidies. Delays in the implementation of the programme forced Dana Kuchtova of the Green Party to step down as education minister in October.
A new baby box for mothers who want to give up their unwanted babies was installed in Pelhrimov, south Bohemia. Local councillors decided to establish a baby box after a child had been found abandoned at a hospital toilet earlier this year. Ten babies have been left in a baby box since they were established two and a half years ago. The last baby was placed in a baby box in Prague last week-end. Until now, five baby boxes have been operating in the country and three more are to be set up next year.
Most Czechs believe that the post-war decrees of the then Czechoslovak president Edvard Benes, which stripped local Germans of Czechoslovak citizenship and property rights, should continue to be valid. However, the number of those advocating this opinion has been steadily declining in the past five years, according to a poll conducted by the CVVM agency. The results also suggest that the number of those who regard the post-war expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia as a just step has been on decline as well. In the recent poll 48 percent of people said that that the expulsion of Sudeten Germans was a right step. Five years ago this opinion was expressed by 60 percent of respondents.