Government officials, trade unions and employers failed to reach a consensus on Thursday on the valorisation of the minimum wage in the coming year. The government proposal envisaged an increase by 600 crowns a month but trade unions considered it inadequate and pushed for an 800 crown increase to seven and a half thousand crowns. Employers want to keep the minimum wage at its present level.
A team of EU inspectors are checking out hygiene conditions in Czech meat and milk processing plants. An earlier inspection at the beginning of this year revealed that some plants were still short of fulfilling all EU hygiene criteria and they were given a few more months to comply. The plants are being chosen at random. The Czech Hygiene Office has already closed down 600 out of 4,000 plants which were unable to meet EU requirements.
The senior opposition Civic Democratic Party wants to call an extraordinary session of the lower house of parliament after police disclosed they had been monitoring the phone calls and bank accounts of the party's head, Mirek Topolanek. The party wants to establish an investigative committee in parliament and Mr Topolanek himself asked the Justice and Interior Ministers to explain the police activities. Police say they have transcripts of Mr Topolanek's phone calls recorded during the investigation of a recent alleged bribery case. But it is not clear whether the police were monitoring Mr Topolanek's phone or the phones of the two suspects in the case, Mr Topolanek's assistant, Marek Dalik, and lobbyist Jan Vecerek.
A public opinion poll carried out by the STEM polling agency ahead of the upcoming Senate and regional elections suggests that the ruling Social Democrats are gaining on the opposition Civic Democrats, who are in the lead with 28.2 percent of public support. Since July, the Social Democrats have gained 4.7 percent and now enjoy 18.3 percent of public support. The third strongest party, the poll suggests, are the Communists with 16.6 percent.
The longest-surviving Czech with a heart transplant is going to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of his successful surgery this Saturday. Sixty-eight-year old language teacher Rudolf Sekava from the eastern town of Jihlava is in good health. He still teaches at a local high school although long past retirement age. Mr Sekava had been diagnosed with a fatal heart condition and operated on in 1984 at the Prague Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine. The institute has so far carried out over 500 heart transplants out of the Czech Republic's total of 740. There are currently 400 Czechs living with a heart transplant.
The European Commission has said none of the ten newcomer states are ready to join the single currency and pressed for continued efforts. European Union financial chiefs concluded at their meeting on Wednesday that none of the countries vying to join the now 12 nation Euro zone fulfilled the five tests for Euro membership. They noted individual progress on some targets. The Czech Republic meets the criteria for inflation but falls short of the requirement of keeping its public deficit below 3.0 percent of GDP. The Commission has declined to forecast how soon the newcomers could swap their currencies for the Euro.
Minister without portfolio Jaroslav Bures has been put in charge of the government's anti-drug policy. He has been commissioned to draft a national anti-drug strategy for the next four years, working closely with the interior, health, justice and education ministers. Mr. Bures has allegedly requested two months to prepare the document. He told the media that he intended to focus on prevention rather than repression and said that instead of investing money into prevention programmes which state what is common knowledge the public should be given shock therapy and made to see the everyday reality of drug addiction.
The government has approved a plan for the establishment of special institutions for dangerous juvenile delinquents. The proposed amendment to the law on institutionalized care comes in reaction to a series of brutal murders committed by underage delinquents, most of whom were on the run from institutions for problem children. The idea is to isolate underage delinquents who are considered a threat to society and give them professional supervision and care. The cost of establishing such institutions would be covered by the Education Ministry.
The Czech Republic is striving for visa-free relations with Russia, according to the Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda. The visa regime between the two countries was introduced in 2000 at the Czech Republic's initiative. During talks with the visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov, Mr. Svoboda said that, following a decline in the 90s, relations between the Czech Republic and Russia were once again very good. Despite the friendly tone, the Russian foreign minister faced some tough questions in the Senate where he was asked to explain Moscow's policy with regard to Chechnya. Czech President Vaclav Klaus is to pay a state visit to Moscow in May of next year.
Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda and his Norwegian counterpart Jan
Petersen signed a mutual understanding agreement in Prague on Tuesday
that will see the Czech Republic receive around 65 million euros, or 2
billion crowns, in funds over the next five years. The finances are
meant to be divided among smaller projects not covered - or not covered
fully -by EU structural funds, including protection of the environment
and historic sites, improving human resources, and financing research
projects and health care.
The conditions for drawing money are to be similar to those that guide funds in the European Union: with funds being divided up by the Finance Ministry. It will be possible to submit first project proposals in November.
Norway's contribution follows a provision through which more well-off states in the European Economic Area contribute financially to economically weaker countries in the European Union. Norway itself is not a member of the EU.