News Unions ask for coalition meeting over health care funding

02-05-2014 17:26 | Jan Richter

Health care workers’ trade unions have asked Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka for coalition talks over health care funding. After a meeting with the prime minister and the health minister, the head of the unions, Martin Engle, said heads of the coalition parties should discuss issues such as doctors’ overtime and education as well as possible cost-cutting measures. Doctors complain that on average, they annually work more than 1,000 hours overtime while EU legislation only allows for 416 hours a year. Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček said earlier this week his ministry would like to save around 1.5 billion crowns this year.

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Prime minister rejects former foreign minister’s stance on arms for Ukraine

01-10-2014 14:09 | Jan Velinger

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has rejected a stance being taken by Karel Schwarzenberg, the country’s former foreign minister and head of the opposition party TOP 09, that the Czech Republic should provide arms supplies to Ukraine. The former minister told the German daily Rheinische Post, in an interview published on Wednesday, that Ukraine needed weapons or that it “had no chance in the fight against well-equipped and trained Russian units”. Prime Minister Sobotka stated that the government had no intention of supplying weapons to Ukraine, saying such a move would be perceived as escalating the situation. He also said that the truce between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels had largely held. Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Bělobrádek, the head of the Christian Democrats, has taken a similar view. 

Civil service bill passed by Senate

01-10-2014 12:47 | Jan Velinger

The Czech Senate on Wednesday approved the draft of a new law aimed at depoliticizing and making more efficient the country’s civil service. Forty-one of 71 senators voted in favour. The bill was approved without changes following two hours of debate. The legislation is a compromise with the centre-right opposition, with the government having agreed to drop a provision to create a top civil servant whose office would control the entire system. The new bill also includes a provision under which every minister will have at most two deputies who are political appointees. The later has repeatedly been criticised by President Miloš Zeman. The president has warned MPs that he will take the civil bill to the Constitutional Court if a veto does not suffice. 

PM: Czech Republic to provide additional aid to countries hit by deadly Ebola outbreak

01-10-2014 12:36 | Jan Velinger

The Czech Republic will provide humanitarian aid worth 4.14 million crowns to countries in Africa hit by the deadly Ebola outbreak, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka confirmed on Wednesday. Funds will be provided by the Czech Health and Interior ministries as well as the Administration of State Material reserves. Most will be used to buy protective gear, including special suits, gloves and goggles. The prime minster stressed that earlier the Foreign Ministry sent three million crowns worth of material aid through Doctors Without Borders. More than 3,000 people have died of Ebola in the worst-hit countries: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. 

EU funds department head nominated to succeed Jourová as minister for regional development

01-10-2014 12:23 | Jan Velinger

The head of the EU Funds Department at the Office of the Government, Karla Slechtová, has been nominated by her party ANO to succeed Věra Jourová as the country’s minister for regional development. The post becomes vacant as of October 3, with Ms Jourová leaving to represent the Czech Republic in the European Commission. Jourová, 50, is to take up the post of EU commissioner for justice, consumer protection and gender equality. The choice of the EU Funds Department head to succeed her has been greeted positively by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. 

Religious statute sent to Norway for safekeeping returning to Plzeň after half century

01-10-2014 09:51 | Ian Willoughby

A statue of the Madonna and Child sent to Norway for safekeeping during the communist period is set to be returned to Plzeň’s Cathedral of St. Bartholomew on Wednesday. A priest there asked visiting Norwegian woman named Gerd Qvam to take the sculpture – a copy of a piece made in the 14th century – back to her country at the end of the 1950s for fear that it might be destroyed or confiscated. It is being returned with the help of the Norwegian Embassy in Prague and Norway’s Barrat Due Institute of Music. 

Prague Velvet Centre to host arts events linked to 1989 revolution

01-10-2014 09:41 | Ian Willoughby

A cultural space named the Velvet Centre is set to open in Prague’s Malá Strana district on Wednesday ahead of 25th anniversary celebrations of the Velvet Revolution, which brought communism to an end in Czechoslovakia. The centre on Cíhelná St., a short distance from Charles Bridge, will host workshops, lectures and debates centred on the revolution, which began on November 17 1989. 

New US ambassador calls on Prague to continue to increase defence spending

30-09-2014 19:23 | Ian Willoughby

The new US ambassador to Prague, Andrew Schapiro, says the Czech Republic should continue to increase its defence spending. After presenting his credentials to Czech President Miloš Zeman at Prague Castle, Mr. Schapiro said the Czechs were increasing their military spending to 1.4 percent of GDP; however, the NATO target is 2 percent and the US would like to see more progress in this direction. The American envoy said he and Mr. Zeman had also discusses the economy and energy, adding that he regarded the latter area as one in which the US could provide help to the Czech Republic. 

Police raid 40 public offices in investigation linked to EU funds and IT contracts

30-09-2014 16:02 | Ian Willoughby

The police’s anti-corruption unit carried out around 40 raids on public offices around the Czech Republic on Tuesday. The searches were in connection with European subsidies and contracts for IT systems, the Czech News Agency reported. The town halls in Olomouc, Přerov and Zlín were raided, as were the regional government offices in Zlín and Olomouc. Police also intervened at the offices of a company in Olomouc owned by the brother of Social Democrat senator Martin Tesařík. 

Prague’s Blanka tunnel finally set to open in December

30-09-2014 15:54 | Ian Willoughby

A major new road tunnel in Prague is set to go into trial operation on December 2, a city official said on Tuesday. The Blanka tunnel was originally meant to open in 2011 but the date was repeatedly put back. The project to build the country’s longest tunnel has been surrounded by controversy and is set to cost the tax payer almost CZK 37 billion crowns, CZK 6 billion more than originally stated. 

Czech cyclist König signs for Team Sky after coming seventh in Tour de France

30-09-2014 14:01 | Ian Willoughby

The Czech cyclist Leopold König will be a member of Britain’s Team Sky from next season. König, who is 26, finished seventh in this year’s Tour de France – his first – with the second-division team NetApp-Endura. He has signed a two-year contract with Team Sky, which features among other riders Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins. 

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