The Czech president, Václav Klaus, has protested to his Austrian counterpart about a film broadcast on Austrian TV simulating an accident at a Czech nuclear power plant. In a phone call to Heinz Fischer on Friday, Mr Klaus described the fake documentary broadcast on Austrian public television as most unfortunate, the Czech news website novinky.cz reported. The 90-minute film, entitled The First Day, was shown on ORF on Thursday as part of an evening marking the 30th anniversary of a referendum in which the Austrians rejected nuclear power. While its makers flagged it as a fictional film about an accident near Austria’s borders, it mentions the Czech power station Dukovany by name. The Czech Republic is portrayed as a country incapable of relaying information correctly and promptly to its neighbours, novinky.cz reported.
Czech anti-corruption police have accused 32 employees of the ČEZ electricity company of extortion. The group is accused of accusing customers of illegally tapping electricity and then extorting those frightened customers into paying additional fees. If convicted, members of the group face up to 12 years in jail – at present, they have not been detained in custody. The undercover operation was codenamed “Isolator” and looked into crimes committed as far back as 2005. Among the main tactics used to intimidate customers, the group is alleged to have threatened to cut off electricity supplies as well as report those who were being extorted to the police.
A train collision in the eastern Bohemian region of Havlíčkobrodsko at 12:55 Monday has led to thirteen injuries. The collision occurred between a freight train and a small passenger train carrying fifteen passengers – the reasons for the collision remain unclear, though a signalling error is believed to be one possible cause, although some witnesses have suggested that the freight train was in an incorrect location prior to the accident. Further details suggest both trains were moving in opposite direction on the same single track line near a train station. Seven people were taken to hospital following the accident, with two said to be in a serious state.
The regional Social Democrats in Southern Moravia have announced that they will abolish health fees in regional hospitals. The announcement comes as the likely future governor of the region Michal Hašek, along with his party undergo moves to form a local coalition government in the region. Among the candidates to form a coalition are the Christian Democrats, the Civic Democrats and the Communist Party. The Social Democrats campaigned in part on a platform that promised to overturn the controversial health fees in regional hospitals, a move that has raised the ire of many GPs who thereby stand to lose patients. However, large victories by the Social Democrats in regional elections held in late October have boosted the confidence of the Social Democrats, who also promised not to privatize local hospitals as well as to conduct audits of the local government bureaucracy.
The embattled Health Minister Tomáš Julínek appears to have signalled that his is ready to concede to the demands of coalition minority partners the Christian Democrats as he moves forward with controversial reforms. The agreement was apparently made on Monday in the city of Brno following a meeting between Mr Julínek and the Christian Democrat head Jiří Čunek. The Christian Democrats have long signalled opposition to elements of healthcare reform that deal with abortions, in-vitro fertilisation and other such social-moral issues. News of an apparent compromise will provide a temporary boost to the embattled Health Minister, whose position is largely viewed as particularly shaky following his Civic Democratic party’s wide scale defeat in recent local elections.
President Klaus is on a three-day official state visit to Ireland. The Czech president is due to meet his Irish counterpart, Mary McAleese, Taoiseach Brian Cowen and other senior politicians during his stay, which will be spent in Dublin and Cork. A planned meeting between Mr Klaus and the man who led the No campaign against Ireland ratifying the Lisbon treaty, Declan Ganley, has drawn a cool response from the Irish government, who are reported to have made a complaint to the Czech Embassy in Dublin. The Czech president is a fierce opponent of further European integration.
A helicopter carrying a suspended container over Prague, avoided a disaster after the load was dropped accidentally into the Vltava River in the centre of Prague. The container fell into a stretch of water near Charles Bridge, after the pilot experienced a loss of control as the load began to flail in the wind. According to witnesses, the pilot attempted to steady the helicopter above the Vltava, but was unable to prevent the container from disintegrating over the water. Several walls of the container then fell into the Vltava – the rest remained attached to the helicopter, which the pilot then safely transported to Letná in Prague, where the craft landed. An investigation into the incident is continuing.
The far-right National Party has announced plans to conduct a “patrol” of an area in the city of Brno known colloquially as the Bronx. According to the party, the patrol is being conducted at the behest of certain residents fearful of rising crime rates, notably among the Roma population. The so-called patrol is set to take place in mid November. The most recent activity in the city of Brno involving the party revolved around its seeking an apology from a local Mosque for the murder of the Czech ambassador in Pakistan following a terrorist attack – local Muslims were quick to point out that they had nothing to do with this attack.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek’s main rival for the leadership of the
Civic Democrats has come out strongly against ratifying the Lisbon treaty.
Speaking on a TV debate show on Sunday, Prague Mayor Pavel Bém said it was
not possible for the Czech Republic to hand over powers to Brussels without
receiving anything in return, and without even understanding why. Mr Bém
said that the Civic Democrats had adopted a resolution rejecting the
transferral of state or national powers to what he called “European
Brussels-ocracy”; he said he expected the party’s members to adhere to
that pledge. Prague’s mayor is close to President Václav Klaus, a strong
opponent of Lisbon. Prime Minister Topolánek, who is in favour of
ratification, said on Tuesday that the Czech Parliament would vote on the
matter in the first quarter of next year.
Meanwhile, the branch of the Civic Democrats in the rural area around Brno (Brno-venkov) has become the latest to give its backing to Mirek Topolánek ahead of a leadership vote four weeks from now. With a number of district branches around the country having expressed support for Mr Topolánek, he is in front of Pavel Bém, who enjoys strong backing in the capital. Mr Bém, currently first deputy chairman of the Civic Democrats, announced his candidature in the wake of poor results for the party in recent regional and Senate elections.
Prime Minister Topolánek is in favour of the current government with the Christian Democrats and the Greens seeing out its full term; Mr Bém has been critical of the coalition, and there has been speculation he would try to enter some form of power-sharing deal with the opposition Social Democrats.
The minister of health, Tomáš Julínek, must gain support for reform of the health system if he is to remain in the cabinet, Prime Minister Topolánek said on Sunday. The unpopularity of health reforms – including fees for doctor’s visits and hospital stays – is believed to have cost the Civic Democrats support in the recent Senate and regional elections. The Czech Doctor’s Chamber, which was holding a national congress, called on Sunday for Mr Julínek to resign. The cabinet is scheduled to discuss further reforms proposed by the health minister on Wednesday. Mr Topolánek is planning a cabinet reshuffle in the wake of the debacle his party suffered in October’s votes.