Prime Minister Petr Nečas has announced significant concessions to the government’s S-card system streamlining social and welfare benefit payments that is to come into effect in January next year. In line with a fresh agreement reached with Ceska Sporitelna and the Czech Postal Service S-Cards will not be mandatory for payments and will only serve for identification purposes. Under the proposed amendment, people will be free to decide whether they want their benefits sent to the S-card account, a different account or by post.The only exemption concerns those suspected of exploiting the welfare benefits system.
Friday morning’s meeting between the leaders of the coalition parties brought no answers to the new appointments of defense and transportation ministers. Prime Minister Petr Nečas said that he hopes to pick the candidates for the ministerial positions next week. He has previously indicated that if the Civic Democrats and the LIDEM party exchange the two posts, it is possible that LIDEM chairwoman Karolína Peake would become the Defense Minister. President Václav Klaus expressed doubts on Friday over Ms Peake’s suitability for this appointment.
The Chamber of Deputies has approved a bill on Friday that legalizes the use of marijuana to alleviate some medical conditions. Patients will be able to purchase marijuana only with an electronic prescription from a doctor. The bill still needs to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president to come into effect.
President Václav Klaus has refused to sign an addendum to the Lisbon Treaty on the creation of a European Stability Mechanism. The president said on Friday that he considers the European Stabilization Mechanism to be ill-conceived and absurd. The addendum to the treaty which was agreed on at an EU summit last December has been ratified by both chambers of Czech Parliament, but the president’s refusal to sign it makes the Czech Republic the only EU member state not to have completed the ratification process. The Senate called on the president on Thursday to sign the addendum without further delay, noting that failure to comply with Parliament’s decision in this matter would be in violation of the constitution.
The academic senate of Prague’s Charles University has issued a statement saying that it disagrees with the current proposal for higher education reforms. According to the senate’s spokesperson the Education Ministry’s current proposal does not resolve even the basic problem of separating universities into scientific and professional ones. They also claim that the ministry has not allowed for enough time to negotiate possible changes. The academic community has rejected a number of proposals for reform s in the past few years. Thousands of students and academics protested against the reforms proposed by the former Education Minister Josef Dobeš this February.
The Czech GDP fell by 0.3 percent in the third quarter of this year, and by 1.3 percent year-on-year, the Czech Statistical Office confirmed on Friday. This means the Czech economy has been in recession since the end of last year, which some analysts say equates them to the most indebted south European countries like Greece and Spain.
The Czech ombudsman Pavel Varvařovský is planning to lodge a legal complaint against the system of checks for the unemployed called DONEZ, which will come into effect starting January. DONEZ requires people registered as unemployed to appear at public administration centers a few times a week. The measure is meant to prevent people who receive unemployment benefits from working illegally. Mr Varvařovský believes this constitutes an excessive encroachment on human dignity.
The Czech Meteorological Institute has issued low temperature warnings for nine regions, mostly in the east of the country, for the whole of the upcoming weekend. In some mountainous areas, temperatures are expected to dip as low as -17 degrees Celsius during the nights. Day temperatures may be around -10 degrees in some parts of the country. Extreme temperatures should become more moderate by Monday morning.
A gorilla named Kamba, who resides at the Prague zoo, is due to give birth in January, but already a month before sixty people are ready to step in at any moment, to help the mother who most likely is also suffering from a heart condition. Because of her condition, the birth may be tricky and dangerous, so the zoo’s veterinarian has a list of in-house and external specialists who are on call and would be able to help with the delivery. Another gorilla in the zoo named Kyjiva will also give birth around the same time, but the staff do not expect complications in this case.
Viktoria Plzeň finished top of their group in the Europa League after beating defending champions Atletico Madrid 1:0 at home on Thursday night, thanks to a goal from Václav Procházka. Plzeň had already qualified for the knockout stage of Europe’s second-tier competition prior to their final group stage game. The same applied to Sparta Prague, who drew 0:0 away with Athletic Bilbao. The pair’s success means it will be the first time two Czech clubs have still been in European competition in the New Year since 2004.