The Czech cabinet has reached a decision on a strategy for increasing public awareness on the EU constitution prior to a possible referendum. The campaign will be headed by the prime minister's office, though the Ministry for Foreign Affairs had expressed an interest. It is estimated that the campaign, which would begin this year and last into 2006, will cost almost 10 million US dollars. The campaign will be run mostly through the media, but it is unclear whether it will be strictly informative or in open support of the constitution treaty.
The Association for Health Care Insurance Consumers has released figures showing the country's health services spent more than one quarter of their funds on patients' medication last year. According to the association, expenses for medication have risen six-fold since 1992, with consumption rising two-fold. Last year some 52 billion crowns - around 2.3 billion U.S., from expenses of around 200 billion crowns, were spent on medication.
A poll released by the STEM agency has shown that voter preferences for the ruling Social Democratic Party have continued to fall. The poll suggests the party would place 3rd if elections were held today, garnering a little over 13 percent of the vote, behind the Communist Party at 2nd, with 18 percent, and the opposition Civic Democrats at 1st, with around 35 percent of the vote.
An Irish investment and development company, Markland, has bought Kotva - the popular Prague department store built under Communism in 1975. Markland is estimated to have paid more than 67 million US dollars for the store, located in central Prague. Company representatives told journalists on Wednesday that they were confident they could raise consumer interest to pre-1989 levels, when Kotva was Czechoslovakia's most visited shopping centre.
Two people were killed and three injured on Wednesday morning when a Prague streetcar derailed and collided with waiting pedestrians. Tram no. 22 derailed as it made a right turn at Prague's busy Charles Square, its rear wagon hitting those on foot. A 59-year-old man and a 64-year-old woman did not survive the accident. Two people are in hospital with serious injuries. The police are investigating the cause of the accident.
The British mobile phone company, Vodafone Group, has confirmed that it will buy the majority stake of the Canadian company Telesystem International Wireless (TIW) in Oskar Mobil, the smallest of the three Czech cell phone operators. Vodafone, which will also buy TIW's shareholdings in Romania's MobiFon, will pay 3.5 billion US dollars for both operators. The purchase in Oskar, which has an estimated 17 percent share of the Czech market, will cost the British company around one billion dollars.
The Christian Democrats will leave the coalition government if Stanislav Gross remains Prime Minister after his party, the Social Democrats, hold their conference at the end of the month, the Pravo newspaper reported on Wednesday. Prime Minister Gross has been at the centre of a government crisis after he failed to explain how he paid for his luxury flat in Prague. After exerting pressure on him to resign from office, the Christian Democrats agreed to give the strongest party in government more time to resolve the matter in its own way.
President Vaclav Klaus has signed a decision on the appointment of twenty one new judges, all of whom are over thirty or will turn thirty this year, and sent it to Prime Minister Stanislav Gross for counter signature. The President last week refused to appoint 32 trainee judges who had not yet reached the age of thirty on the grounds that they were too young for such a responsible post. His decision evoked strong criticism since the Czech Republic is suffering from a lack of judges and has lost several court cases in Strasbourg over protracted proceedings.