Former rector of Brno’s Masaryk University Petr Fiala was on Wednesday
appointed the new education minister. Mr Fiala, who has also served as
chief science and research advisor to PM Petr Nečas, assumed the post a
month after his predecessor stepped down over problems with securing EU
funds. The nomination of the former rector and political scientist, who is
unaffiliated with any political party, was agreed upon by both parties in
the ruling coalition.
Ahead of his appointment, Mr Fiala said he could not promise a miracle but would try to stabilize the education sector. The opposition has welcomed the appointment but predicted that as an independent expert, Mr Fiala will find it difficult to deal with his colleagues in the centre-right government.
The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday postponed debate on the bill
that would return church property confiscated by the communist regime in
the 1950s. Several coalition MPs have expressed objections to the
legislation, and the coalition might not have enough votes to pass it. Head
of the lower house’ constitutional committee, Civic Democrat Marek Benda,
said MPs could start debating the controversial bill in June.
Under the draft legislation, churches and religious groups would receive 56 percent of the confiscated property worth around 75 billion crowns; as reimbursement for the rest, the state would pay them 59 billion crowns over a period of 30 years.
For the second time since their introduction last year, the new state school-leaving exams began on Wednesday at Czech secondary schools with tests in the Czech language. Some 103,000 students are taking the exams this year. They are available in two versions; however only 4 percent of students chose the more difficult alternative. Besides Czech, the exams are held in either mathematics or a foreign language, with around 44 percent of students choosing maths. The oral part of the exams will be held later in May. The project of standardized school-leaving exams was criticized for excessive bureaucracy and high costs.
The Czech Republic came first in the Global Vice Index, compiled by the news agency Bloomberg, which ranks 57 countries of the world according to alcohol and cigarette consumption, drug use and gambling losses. Based on data from the World Health Organization, the Czech Republic tops the list of alcohol consumption per capita while it ranks second in drug use, fifth in the consumption of cigarettes, and 12th in gambling losses. The survey focused on those aged between 15 and 64.
Czech Health Minister Leoš Heger on Wednesday met with Vatican officials to discuss the role of the Roman Catholic Church in providing health care. Mr Heger said both sides agreed that a great majority of the funds returned to the church as part of a property restitution deal should be used to pay for health care. The Czech heath minister on Wednesday also attended the general audience with Pope Benedict XVI whom he presented with sheet music by Czech composers.
A Prague court has returned a case of alleged support of terrorism to the prosecution for further investigation over procedural errors, a spokeswoman for the court said on Wednesday. Four foreigners– three men from Dagestan and one from Moldova – were arrested last year in the Czech Republic on charges of support of terrorism. They allegedly counterfeited identification documents for members of Jamaat Shariat, an Islamist militant group in Dagestan. If found guilty, the men could face up to ten years in prison.
The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday approved legislation allowing municipalities to double the maximum fee for collecting garbage. Municipalities will be as able to charge up to 1,000 crown in garbage fees per inhabitant per year: 750 crowns for unsorted garbage and 250 crowns for recycled waste. The bill will require foreigners who stay in the country for more than three months to pay the fee. If signed into law by the president, the legislation will take effect in January 2013.
The Czech government on Wednesday approved new rules for hiring staff that deals with the agenda of EU funds, deputy PM Karolína Peake said. The new rules are part of the government’s “action plan” aimed at improving the flow of finances from EU funds; in recent years, the Czech Republic had difficulties securing allocated EU money. The rules introduce new methods for hiring staff and advertising open positions, as well as sanctions for breaching the new measures.
A court in Ostrava, in the north-east of the country, on Wednesday sentenced a 55-year-old man to 18 months in prison for failing to pay over 200,000 crowns in fees for his hospital stays. According to the prosecution, the man spent most of the time between late 2007 and last November in hospitals; he owes money to some 70 Czech hospitals. He also often ordered above-standard services although he was not be able to pay for them. The man is believed to suffer from Munchausen syndrome, a disorder characterized by feigning diseases to attract attention and sympathy. Both the defendant and the prosecutor said they consider appealing the verdict.
Car production in the Czech Republic increased by almost 14 percent in the first quarter of this year, and reached a record number of nearly 350,000 cars, according to figures by the Automotive Industry Association released on Wednesday. Production rose both in Škoda Auto and the Czech Hyundai plant in Nošovice in northern Moravia, whereas the number of cars produced by the TPCA Czech plant in Kolín registered a slight decrease.