The leaders of three parties currently in talks on forming a coalition
government have agreed on bringing in deferred tuition fees at Czech
universities. During talks on Tuesday, negotiators for the Civic
TOP 09 and Public Affairs agreed on a system under which students would be
able to receive loans and pay the fees per semester; graduates would then
start re-paying the loans as soon as they began earning average salaries.
Tuition fees at Czech universities could be introduced by 2012 or 2013.
Talks on a coalition program have been going on for almost two weeks. Bringing in tuition fees was one of the first issues the centre-right parties agreed on. Although the Social Democrats came first in lower house elections at the end of May, the party looks set to go into opposition.
In related news, negotiators for the potential coalition parties, the Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and Public Affairs, agreed on Tuesday that a massive clean-up tender should go ahead. Dubbed the contract of the century, the tender to clean up past environmental damage is worth 115 billion crowns, or about 5.8 billion US dollars. Negotiators for the three parties said on Tuesday that the bids should be evaluated by the end of the year; only then can the tender be cancelled or split into smaller parts. If the tender was cancelled now, the Czech Republic could face international arbitration, the negotiators said.
In an evaluation of deficit reducing measures adopted by twelve EU member
states, the European Commission said on Tuesday that the steps implemented
by the Czech government were sufficient. The commission said that Czech
authorities implemented deficit reducing measures in 2010 as planned, and
took additional steps in the course of the year to reach the 2010 deficit
target of 5.7 percent of the country’s GDP. Overall, the commission
estimates the fiscal impact of these measures at more than 2 percent of
The Czech Republic faced excessive deficit procedures last December, when the budget deficit reached 5.9 percent of GDP; the European Commission requires that the deficit be less than three percent by 2013.
A psychiatric hospital in Šternberk, north Moravia, fails to respect the rights of its patients, the acting Czech ombudsman, Jitká Seitlová, said on Tuesday. According to Ms Seitlová, the patients there are forced to wear inappropriate clothing and are also placed in caged beds the use of which is not regulated. Some patients are also prevented from entering their rooms during the day. While the Czech ombudsman’s office first drew attention to questionable practices at the hospital in 2008 the situation has not improved. Ms Seitlová said that such practices did not exist in other Czech psychiatric institutions.
Documents discovered in a Prague archive might free the way for moving a
significant Czech artwork, the Slav Epic, to Prague, the daily Mladá
fronta Dnes reported on Tuesday. The documents suggest that the series of
20 large paintings by the Czech Art Nouveau painter Alfons Mucha were not
donated to the city of Prague by the artist himself, but rather by his
patron, Charles Crane. Until now it has been believed that the painter
donated the paintings to the city of Prague on the condition that the
city’s authorities house it in an appropriate space.
If proven right, this would mean that the city could move the paintings from Moravský Krumlov, where they have been on display for the last 50 years, to the capital, a plan opposed by Mucha’s descendants. Prague City Hall has been planning to move the paintings in mid July anyway, and display them in the National Gallery in the autumn.
In related news, a court in Prague refused on Tuesday to issue a restricting order, as requested by the painter Alfons Mucha’s family, to prevent the Slav Epic from being moved to Prague. The artist’s grandson John Mucha told the Czech news agency ČTK that the court’s decision was “sad” and would not help the future of the art work. Mr Mucha also said he would keep working to make sure the paintings are eventually exhibited in an appropriate venue in the Czech capital.
An ice rink in the Prague neighbourhood of Vokovice was evacuated on Tuesday morning due to a leak of ammonia, a spokeswoman for the city fire fighters said. One person had to be taken to hospital. Fire fighters also evacuated a nearby school; they are spraying the ammonia with water and dispersing the gas. The police have warned inhabitants of a high concentration of the gas, and closed several streets in the neighbourhood.
The state debt of the Czech Republic rose in the first quarter of this year to 1.217 trillion crowns, or 58.2 billion US dollars, according to revised figures released by the Czech Finance Ministry on Tuesday. Debt per capita has reached 116,000 crowns. While the Czech Republic’s internal debt rose by 37.5 billion in the first quarter of 2010, its external debt dropped by 1.1 billion. This year, the Finance Ministry plans to borrow another 280 billion crowns.
The Czech Medical Chamber has joined a protest by the doctors’ trade unions and called on its members to quit their jobs in hospitals if their salaries do not increase by the end of the year. If successful, the campaign could result in many hospital departments around the country having to close down. Doctors want their salaries increased by around 40 percent; the appeal should also draw attention to the fact that Czech hospitals increasingly rely on foreign doctors. The head of the Czech Medical Chamber, Milan Kubek, said that some 2,100 foreign doctors were working in the country, while around 200 Czech doctors leave the Czech Republic each year to work in countries where salaries are higher.
Auxiliary bishop emeritus Jaroslav Škavrada died in Prague on Monday at the age of 85, a spokesman for the Prague Archbishopric said. The Prague-born cleric spent most of his time abroad; in Rome, he worked as a secretary to Cardinal Beran and also cooperated with the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and Vatican Radio. Jaroslav Škavrada was ordained bishop in 1983, ten years before he returned to the Czech Republic.