The Lower House of Parliament on Wednesday voted in favour of raising TV and radio license fees to 100 crowns and 45 crowns a month respectively. This fee is to be paid by all households regardless of whether they do or do not own a television and radio receiver. The proposed amendment also envisages less advertising time for public broadcaster Czech TV - a reduction to 0.8 percent from the present 1 percent of overall broadcasting time. The bill was approved by a one vote majority and has been strongly criticized by the opposition. It must now pass through the Senate and then be signed by the president.
The Senate on Tuesday overturned a proposed bill that would have banned abortions in the Czech Republic. The bill was drafted by the Christian Democrats and would have sent a doctor who performed an illegal abortion to five years in prison. Anyone found guilty of helping a woman to get an illegal abortion or persuading her to have it would have faced up to a year in prison. 134 out of 170 senators present in the upper chamber voted against the bill.
On a visit to Finland, the Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla criticized movement of labour restrictions within the enlarged EU. Of all the EU member states only Britain and Ireland have opened their labour markets to the newcomers. The Czech Prime Minister said the restrictions introduced against the new EU countries were ungrounded and based on prejudice. The Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen countered that although his country had introduced a two year restriction period it is at the same time very flexible in granting labour permits. 8o% of all applications submitted have been granted, he said.
Four seriously ill children from the town of Basra, southern Iraq, are expected to be flown into the Czech Republic on Wednesday to get free medical attention. The children will be treated as part of a humanitarian programme under which Iraqi citizens are offered free medical care in the Czech Republic. Eighteen children, mainly with heart problems, already benefited from the programme last year. This year, the government has reserved five million crowns for the project.
Czech students have launched a week of public protests demanding more funds for the education sector. They argue that under the given conditions the quality of education in the Czech Republic will suffer a serious setback. The lack of funds is already said to be affecting the state of school laboratories, school books and staff. While the majority of EU member states devote an average 1,5 percent of GDP to the education sector, the Czech government has released only O, 7 percent of the country's GDP. The planned protests include marches, public debates and happenings.
Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has begun an official two day visit to Finland. He is scheduled to meet with the Finnish President Tarja Halonen, members of Cabinet and the country's business leaders. On Tuesday the Czech Prime Minister is expected to present a lecture on what the Czech Republic expects of EU membership.
The South Bohemian Border Police have decided to have more guards along the Czech-Austrian border, in reaction to the increasing number of foreigners attempting to migrate to Austria. A border police spokesperson said on Monday that ever more Chechens and Georgian nationals, sometimes entire families, apply for asylum in the Czech Republic, only to cross the country's border into western European states.
The country's civil servants may go on strike to protest against Sunday's Cabinet decision to give them only limited end of year bonuses, in line with the government's fiscal reform plan. Despite protests from trade unions the Cabinet agreed to pay the country's 450,000 civil servants only 10 percent of their so-called 13th monthly salaries, a special end of year bonus which was guaranteed by law in the past. Civil servants say their annual incomes will drop significantly without this supplement to their wages and have threatened to launch various protest actions. At a meeting of trade union representatives on Monday, trade union leaders agreed to call onto all union members and civil servants to go on a one-hour strike after the Easter holiday.
Investigators have come to the conclusion that no one can be held responsible for last December's fall of a 30-metre Christmas tree, which left five people injured. The tree crushed to the ground on Prague's Old Town square after a strong gust of wind snapped it at its base. One of the people injured, a 54-year old British tourist, is now in a wheel chair after suffering fractures to both femurs and the spine. A Prague police spokesperson said on Monday that the tree snapped because it was made of bad wood and not because it was not stabilised properly.
The Czech government is meeting late on Sunday to decide whether or not to grant civil servants so called 13th and 14th salaries, special end of year bonuses which were guaranteed by law in the past. A meeting between Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and trade union leaders produced no tangible result. Union leaders said Mr. Spidla had listened to their arguments but made no promises. Civil servants say their annual incomes would drop significantly without this supplement and have threatened various protest actions if the Cabinet fails to find the extra money. Trade unions believe the outlooks are not good since most ministers support the payment of only symbolic end of year bonuses amounting to 10 percent of the monthly wage.