The lower house of Parliament has passed a new version of the Civil Code. If ratified in the Senate, the extensive, 3,000-paragraph bill will be valid until 2014 and will introduce three basic spheres of private law – family, ownership and contracts. The Justice Ministry hails the new codex as ensuring better protection for the rights of citizens. The Communist Party, which has stalled the bill since the summer, counters that it benefits owners and the wealthy. The approval of the new Civil Code, which was ten years in the making, has been one of the government’s top priorities. The current civil code came into effect in 1964 and, despite being updated since, does not take into account all areas of modern life.
The Czech governing coalition has agreed on postponing its tax reform until 2014. Zbyněk Stanjura, chairman of the Civic Democrat parliamentary party told reporters on Tuesday the new rules would be effective as of 2014, but a new system of gambling taxation would be introduced at the beginning of next year. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said the move was necessary in order to harmonise the legislation with the Czech Civil Code. The coalition leaders agreed that lottery tax revenues would be divided between municipal authorities and the state, with 70 percent staying with the local authorities and 30 percent going to state coffers.
Doctors’ unions negotiating pay rises with the Ministry of Health failed to reach any agreement on Wednesday after a meeting with minister Leoš Heger. Mr Heger is insisting on a 6.25% rise from January in place of the 10% he negotiated earlier this year. An analysis of January income, he says, will not allow him to provide more, and he plans to make up the remaining percentage during the course of 2012. The unions are demanding the agreed rises as of January and have organised a series of protests to try to hold the ministry to its word. At the beginning of the year, hospital physicians threatened mass resignations if their salaries were not raised to meet Western European standards.
Education Minister Josef Dobeš says he knows who was responsible for publishing the sensitive information of Roma students on the ministry’s website on Monday. Mr Dobeš told reporters on Wednesday that he was still unsure whether the leak was intentional or accidental, but that the individual will be fired. Information about almost 900 Roma students receiving financial support – including their names, addresses and dates of birth – was published temporarily on Monday on the website of the Ministry of Education before being reported on by Czech Television.
The Prague City Gallery has moved another ten of the 20 canvasses of Alfons Mucha’s Slav Epic to the capital and plans to complete the move in the coming days. No date has yet been set for when the paintings will be put on display. The gallery says it is negotiating a contract for special wooden structures on which to hang the enormous Art Nouveau works and is arranging special heating for the hall in which they are to be presented.
Wednesday’s Lidové noviny reports that so-called “donor consultants” have begun work in the Czech Republic to assist in finding appropriate donors for critical organs. Such donors would be patients who are officially dead, i.e. brain dead or whose hearts have conclusively stopped. The consults are experienced physicians funded in part from European funds. Within the next few years there should be 70 in all working at all teaching hospitals. According to statics, about 200 donors a year save or improve the lives of some 450 others. The work of donor consultants could double those numbers.
A new anti-corruption prize, the Bílá lilie (White Lily) has been awarded for the first time to Oldřich Kužílek, a former MP and advisor for transparent administration. Mr Kužílek received the award – a crystal vase in the shape of a lily and 200,000 crowns – from the hands of former president Václav Havel, who is the patron of the prize. The aim of the annual award is to reward transparency in public administration and the struggle against corruption.
Anti-corruption police say they have launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding a multimillion-crown deal between an investment company and the mother of the current Industry and Trade Minister Martin Kocourek back in 2008. The daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Friday that in 2008, the firm Key Investments sent bonds worth 16 million crowns, or nearly 880,000 US dollars, to an account owned by the minister’s mother Jindřiška Kocourková. According to a police spokesman, investigators are currently gathering and studying documents.
Environment ministers from the Visegrad Group countries, Bulgaria and Romania have agreed that cutting down on carbon dioxide emissions should not harm local economies and that the United States, China and other states must also take part in the reductions. The EU produces 12 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions but according to Czech Environment Minister Tomáš Chalupa it keeps cutting emissions despite having one of the lowest economic growths. Speaking at meeting outside Prague on Tuesday, Minister Chalupa said that if the largest polluters do not participate in reducing CO2 emissions, further cuts in Europe would harm its competitiveness. The six central and east European countries – about one-fifth of the EU in terms of both population and territory – coordinated their stances ahead of an U.N. international conference on climate change opening in Durban, South Africa, in late November.
Anti-corruption police raided the headquarters of the Ministry of Education last week seeking information on a suspicious tender, the daily Lidové noviny reports on Tuesday. According to the paper, the police are investigating a multimillion-crown tender being prepared for support of research and development and confiscated a number of computers and documents in the raid. Education Minister Josef Dobeš says he was unaware of the raid.