Hundreds of people gathered in Prague’s St. Vitus Cathedral on Friday to pay their last respects to former finance minister Eduard Janota. Among those present were Prime Minister Petr Nečas, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg and former central bank governor Zdeněk Tuma. The mass was celebrated by Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka. Mr. Janota, 59, died of a heart failure last week while playing tennis. As a highly respected, non-partisan civil servant he was in charge of drafting several state budgets for both centre-right and centre-left governments. After the fall of the Topolánek government in 2009 he served as finance minister in the caretaker cabinet of prime minister Jan Fischer.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has told the junior coalition party Public Affairs that if they continue to oppose key reforms they will be asked to leave the government. According to the internet daily aktuane.cz the prime minister issued the warning at Wednesday’s meeting of coalition leaders, at which the junior party opposed the bill on health reform because of disputes over what should constitute standard and above standard heath care. The prime minister reportedly told the party that unless agreement on the bill was reached within a week they should leave the Cabinet. The two stronger parties in government –the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 – have repeatedly criticized Public Affairs for playing the role of an opposition party within the government in order to increase its flagging popularity with the public.
Members of the junior coalition party Public Affairs are to meet over the weekend to confirm the party’s new leadership and debate the conditions under which Public Affairs would be prepared to remain in the Nečas cabinet. Following the loss of two ministers over a corruption scandal, Public Affairs is demanding a broad cabinet re-shuffle and four ministerial posts for itself, conditions which the two stronger parties in government find hard to accept. Although the three party coalition has agreed to shelve its internal problems for the time being Public Affairs has not yet committed to supporting the government in a vote of confidence expected to take place in June.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas and opposition leader Bohuslav Sobotka met on Friday to debate the pension reform and ways of curbing the election campaign expenditures of political parties, which the cabinet would like to push through Parliament. The opposition has long complained that it was not consulted in advance about key reform bills and has threatened to block them in the Senate where it has a majority. Mr. Sobotka said that the talks had also covered the ongoing political situation, but declined to provide any details. The meeting comes amidst speculation regarding growing problems within the centre-right governing coalition.
The leader of the opposition Social Democrats Bohuslav Sobotka on Friday presented the party leadership with a reconstructed shadow cabinet, in the wake of the party’s annual conference. Four shadow ministers have been replaced among them former party leader Jiří Paroubek and Michal Hašek who unsuccessfully challenged Bohuslav Sobotka for the party’s top post. The party leader has newly introduced an anti-corruption portfolio in the shadow cabinet, mirroring a newly established and still vacant post in the coalition government.
A Teplice lawyer has accused Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek of having accepted a bribe in return for allowing five lottery firms to introduce internet betting. The lawyer, who is a member of the junior coalition party Public Affairs, claims that one of the firms offered to give the finance ministers party –at the time the Christian Democrats – ten million crowns as a sponsorship gift if was included on the list of companies which could introduce internet betting. The firm in question was among those which got the green light. The finance minister, who is now a member of TOP 09, has rejected the accusations. The claims are being investigated by the country’s anti-corruption police.
City transport workers in Ostrava are to go on a one day strike against low wages on June 1st, the ctk news agency reports. Trade unions have been pushing for an eight percent pay rise but the transport company is not willing to go higher than 3 percent. The company employs 2,000 people whose average monthly wage is 22,000 crowns. Trade unions have warned that they will not let up the pressure until they get a positive response. Talks with the city transport company and city hall officials have dragged for over six months.
The 10th annual Prague Fringe Festival opened in the Czech capital on Friday offering audiences nine days of comedy, theatre and music in different venues in the city’s Lesser Quarter. This year the festival brings together close to 50 artists from 15 countries including the US, Great Britain, Spain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The hour long performances are innovative, very visual and highly entertaining aimed to attract a mixed audience and overcome language barriers. This year’s performances include Cooking for Love, Life is Too Good to be True and There’s no such word as can’t.
Around 900 houses of worship across the Czech Republic will open their doors on Friday night for the annual Night of Open Churches event. Twelve Christian churches are taking part in the event which will start at 6 PM and will go on until late night; visitors will often be able to view church interiors that are normally not open to the public. The event also offers concerts, exhibitions and other programmes. Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka will visit several Roman Catholic churches in and outside Prague aiming to arrive at Prague’s St Vitus Cathedral just before midnight.
According to the results of a survey focussing on satisfaction with health care provided, Czechs are most satisfied with the dental care they receive and least satisfied with the standard of care in hospitals. The survey conducted by EHIS indicates that 88 percent of Czechs are happy with the care provided by their dentist, and 85 percent are satisfied with their GP, but only 65 percent of respondents could say the same of care provided in Czech hospitals.