A Cuban refugee couple living in the Czech Republic were reunited with
their two children in Prague on Saturday, 18 months after being
separated. Liuver Saborit and his wife Mayda Arguelles came to the
Czech Republic in the summer of 2003 and were granted political asylum
in December. Their nine-year-old son and two-year-old daughter were not
allowed to leave Cuba and remained in the care of their grandparents.
The couple say they were forced to leave after being threatened with prison following a large wave of repression against dissidents. Since then, they have staged a numer of protests in Prague to pressure the Cuban government into releasing their children.
Government and trade union representatives failed to come to an
agreement over the future of the Czech health care system at a meeting
on Saturday. Trade unions, health insurance companies, and doctors,
have been opposed to a health ministry plan that seeks stronger state
involvement in the management and financing of health care. The meeting
proved there was further disagreement over organisational issues.
At the end of the month Health Minister Milada Emmerova hopes to introduce her long-term health care plan to the Czech cabinet. On Saturday, the country's trade unions, health insurance companies, and doctor associations were asked to draw up their proposals regarding financial aspects of the plan and forward them to the ministry.
Czech teenage tennis player Nicole Vaidisova is out of the Australian
Open after Lindsay Davenport defeated her in straight sets (6-2, 6-4)
in the third round of the single's match on Saturday. Lindsay
Davenport, the 28-year-old American top seed, was pushed hard by the
talented 15-year-old Vaidisova before her greater experience had her
Czech Radek Stepanek is also out of the tournament, defeated by Guillermo Canas of Argentina 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.
The Social Democrats held conferences in six regions on Saturday ahead of
their party congress in March, at which a new leadership will be elected.
Prime Minister and acting party chairman Stanislav Gross opened the
conference in Prague, while his competitor in the run for party leadership
Transport Minister Zdenek Skromach attended the conferences in the Moravian
cities Zlin and Brno.
Mr Gross warned the Social Democrats, the main ruling coalition party, had adopted an image of a divided and 'extinct' party that has nothing to offer its supporters. He called onto his colleagues to put aside their differences and unite to prove the party is active, has goals, and strives to achieve them.
The lower house has voted to extend the mission of a Czech military police unit in Iraq. If the decision is approved by the Senate next week, the Czech unit will remain in Iraq until the end of the year; they had been due to return at the end of February. The Czech soldiers, around 90 in total, are training Iraqi police officers in the south of the country.
It will take Czechs, Poles and Hungarians decades to reach Western European income levels, according to a study by the Economist Corporate Network quoted in the Czech paper Lidove noviny on Friday. The report suggests the new EU member states will never catch up with Germany in terms of wages, but should reach the same levels as the Spanish and Portuguese in 14 to 18 years.
A diplomatic row has erupted between the Czech Republic and Belarus; on Friday the Czech authorities expelled a Belarusian diplomat, soon after the expulsion of Czech diplomat Pavel Krivohlavy from Minsk. He had been arrested and briefly detained on Wednesday evening, reportedly while drinking alcohol with a 17-year-old boy. The Czech Foreign Ministry said the authorities in Belarus had contravened international law by failing to respect diplomatic immunity. The Czech charge d'affaires in Belarus, Vladimir Ruml, has also returned to Prague, at least temporarily.
Former health minister Marie Souckova has been charged with abuse of office, in addition to earlier charges of breach of public trust. Both accusations follow a controversial contract Ms Souckova signed with a lawyer who represented the Health Ministry in an arbitration case. If found guilty the former minister, who recently quit the Social Democratic Party, could face up to ten years in prison.
The lower house has passed a bill banning the country's regional authorities from transforming hospitals into private companies, overturning earlier approval from the Senate. Regional governors and the opposition Civic Democrats have strongly criticised Friday's vote, saying they may take the matter to the Constitutional Court.
Support for the opposition Civic Democrats has risen to 36%, the party's strongest ever backing, suggests a poll just released by the STEM polling agency. Last year the right-of-centre party came first in European Parliament, regional and Senate elections. Second in the latest poll were the Communist Party with 17 percent support, followed by the ruling Social Democrats with 14 percent.