President Václav Klaus on Tuesday signed into law three of the four bills that form the backbone of the government’s austerity package for 2011. The laws cover cuts in social spending, tax amendments and reductions in funding for political parties. By signing one of the bills the president approved the taxation of his own salary, and likewise the pension paid to the former president Václav Havel. 2011 will also see the introduction of a so-called flood-tax, money that is to go towards a fund in aid of flood victims.
The reliquary of St Maurus, a rare medieval artefact, has been temporarily installed at Prague Castle. The 13th century Romanesque shrine is normally housed at a castle in Bečov nad Teplou, west Bohemia, but will be on display at Prague Castle’s Vladislav Hall from Wednesday until the end of February. Gilded in silver and gold and featuring nearly 200 valuable gems, it is regarded as the second most important historical treasure in the Czech Republic, after the country’s crown jewels.
Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg is to visit the Czech Republic on Wednesday. He is to be received at Prague Castle by President Vaclav Klaus and attend a dinner given in his honour. The visit has been timed to coincide with the 700th anniversary of the year in which King John of Luxembourg ascended the Czech throne. The Grand Duke last visited Prague seven years ago.
The Senate is to meet for its first post-election session on Wednesday in a new set up in which the opposition Social Democrats will enjoy their first ever majority in the upper house. New senators will be sworn in and the upper chamber will elect a new chairman and new heads of committees. In elections to a third of the Senate in October the Social Democrats won 12 seats, bringing their overall number of senators in the 81 member chamber to 41. Their dominant position will allow them to block international agreements and constitutional bills.
Random checks have revealed high levels of the gas radon in four kindergartens in the town of Pardubice. Parents have been alerted about the find and the authorities have promised to take immediate corrective measures. Tests in the four buildings revealed between 200 to 400 Becquerel of the gas per square meter. Safe radon levels would be 100 Becquerel per square meter for children and up to 200 for adults. Prolonged exposure to high levels of the gas can present serious health risks. The town mayor said she was shocked by the news and had ordered measurements in all child facilities in town.
Hundreds of billboards are to be gradually taken down from the country’s highways for safety reasons, the Czech roads authority said on Tuesday. An inspection of the country’s main highways recently revealed that a vast number of billboards had been put up in violation of road safety norms. The first four hundred or more billboards are to disappear in the first quarter of next year. Many of them have been put up illegally, without a permit.
Czech Health Minister Leoš Heger has said he would resign in the event of a mass departure of doctors from state hospitals. In an interview for the daily Hospodarské Noviny the minister said he still hoped to be able to prevent a massive brain drain at the start of next year, but admitted that he might not prove successful. The minister has been pushing for extra funds to reduce the severity of the government’s austerity measures on the health sector and has come under pressure for allegedly dragging his feet on badly-needed reforms. Thousands of doctors in state hospitals and clinics have signed a petition threatening to resign and seek work abroad if they do not receive a substantial pay rise in 2011.
Police were once again out in force in Prague’s Troya district on Tuesday searching for a nine-year-old girl who has gone missing for over a month. The child disappeared without trace on her way home from school on October 13th and all efforts to find her have so far failed. A man was arrested and charged after traces of his DNA were found on her abandoned schoolbag but was later released after a judge concluded there was insufficient evidence to detain him. The police suspect a kidnapping that went wrong but refused to say on Tuesday what evidence led them to undertake another massive search operation in the vicinity of her home.
The Czech Republic is to operate a unique research centre dealing with various aspects of climate change. The project is to be masterminded by the Czech Academy of Sciences and will involve foreign research teams. The aim is to study geological and hydrological cycles, simulate the increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere in laboratory conditions and assess its impact on plants. The centre is being co-financed by the EUs Operational Programme for Research and Development.
A junior team representing the Czech Association of Cooks and Pastry chefs has won a gold medal at the Culinary World Cup 2010 in Luxembourg. The team won with its gingerbread creation called Girl’s dream – shaped like a hat, an umbrella, a mirror, a fan and a basket. They also wowed the jury with a 90 centimeter high chocolate statue. A total of 2300 cooks from more than 50 countries are taking part in the event which runs until Wednesday, November 24th.