Health care fees introduced by the centre-right government do not
contradict the Czech constitution, the Constitutional Court ruled on
Wednesday. However, a provision under which patients receive no health
insurance payment for the first three days of an illness has been declared
illegal. The opposition Social Democrats had taken the case, arguing that
fees implemented in January were unconstitutional. Both the Prime Minister
Mirek Topolánek and Health Minister Tomáš Julínek testified during the
court hearing. Reacting to Wednesday’s verdict, the latter said he
regarded it as a mandate to continue with the reform process.
Czechs have to pay CZK 30 (almost USD 2) per visit to the doctor’s, and twice that amount per day spent in hospital, under health reforms introduced at the start of the year. They are one plank of a broader reform programme which also takes in the social welfare and taxation systems.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has blocked a website run by a Czech neo-Nazi group, the newspaper Hospodařské noviny reported. A Czech police representative said the FBI had taken that step at the recommendation of police in the UK, who said the site run by the group Blood and Honour was a terrorist site. Blood and Honour is on a US list of terrorist organisations and has links to Britain’s Combat 18 neo-Nazi group, Hospodařské noviny said. A Czech expert on extremism told the daily that Blood and Honour’s site was spreading Combat 18 materials. The former group became notorious for attacking anti-fascists in the 1990s, but has been less active since its leaders were arrested by the Czech police.
Local officials are bringing in partial bans on drinking in public in the centre of Prague. Prague 1, which covers the very centre of the city, is to forbid the drinking of alcohol at several spots, such as Národní třída, Old Town Square and Kampa, with that edict coming into effect at the start of July. Meanwhile, Prague 2 has put forward a proposal to ban drinking at places such as Karlovo náměstí and Tylovo náměstí. The Czech Constitutional Court has previously overturned such edicts, but now the proposals seem likely to stick, as the Interior Ministry has given them its backing. They will not cover outdoor seating at pubs.
A man from Brno has been accused of virtually enslaving five elderly women and forcing them to carry out hard physical work, police in the city said. Jiří Adam, who is 74, says he is a leader in a sect called the Holy Grail Movement. He is accused of using his role as sect-leader to mistreat the women, several of whom lived with him and his wife in a villa in the Moravian capital. His alleged victims reportedly first came into contact with him when he conducted séances, but fell under his influence when they became part of his household. The women transferred their property to his name and gave him their pension money. Neighbours told the police the women, who were malnourished, were forced to work on Mr Adam’s extensive property even on Christmas Eve.
From July, France will open its labour market to citizens of countries, such as the Czech Republic, which joined the European Union in 2004. The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, made the announcement on a visit to the Polish capital Warsaw on Wednesday. France had originally been planning to introduce the change in May 2009. Czechs and other new EU citizens can now work in most ‘old’ states, though Germany and Austria are insisting on keeping their labour markets closed to the newcomers until 2011, which is the maximum period possible under EU agreements.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, has described the views on climate change of the three people in the running for the US presidency as sad and tragic. Mr Klaus made the comments in Washington after an event at which he presented the English-language version of his book Blue Planet in Green Shackles. In it he questions the commonly held view that mankind is responsible for global warming. The Czech president said he hoped John McCain, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton would tone down their current views on climate change if elected to the White House.
The Czech Republic’s footballers beat Lithuania 2:0 in a Euro 2008 warm-up game in Prague on Tuesday night. Both goals were scored by Jan Koller, who increased his Czech record goals tally to 54. Prior to the game it was announced that defender Tomáš Ujfaluši would captain the Czech team at the European Championship in the absence of Tomáš Rosický, who is recovering from an operation. The Czech Republic take part in the opening game at Euro 2008 against hosts Switzerland on Saturday week.
The ministers for EU affairs of France, the Czech Republic and Sweden have outlined a road-map of EU policy priorities for the 18-month period during which they will consecutively hold the rotating EU presidency. The seventy-page-long document includes chapters on energy and climate-change, security, labour and social issues. News of the agreement was announced by the Czech Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexander Vondra in Prague, following a meeting with his Swedish and French counterparts. Details of the agreement will not be disclosed until it has been debated by a summit of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on June 16th.
France will open its job market to eight central and east European EU members who joined the alliance in 2004, including the Czech Republic. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner made the announcement in Prague on Tuesday, saying that the move should take place during France’s EU presidency in the second half of 2008. A work permit for citizens from these countries will still be required. Paris originally planned to open its job market to citizens from central and eastern Europe in May 2009.
A final resting place has been found for around 4,000 German soldiers who
died on Czech soil during World War II, ending a protracted and
embarrassing search for a burial place. Germany’s war graves authority
signed an agreement for the soldiers’ remains, until now kept in storage,
to be buried at a specially arranged graveyard in the West Bohemian town of
Cheb. The drawn-out search for an appropriate burial ground started in
March 2006 when Czech media uncovered the soldiers’ remains at a disused
factory in the northern city of Ustí nad Labem.
It is estimated that around 178,000 German soldiers died in the former Czechoslovakia fighting Soviet forces closing in from the north and east and US forces from the west. Some of the fallen are already buried at 10 war cemeteries dotted across the country.