Meanwhile, the Czech Doctors' Association has called on the minister of health, Milada Emmerova, to force the country's health insurers to pay the money they owe to doctors and hospitals. Public hospitals and hospital pharmacies are currently owed some three billion Czech crowns (over 130 million US dollars) by the General Health Insurance Company. This leaves them unable to pay their debts to medicines distributors.
The International Association of Pharmaceutical Companies is taking the Czech Republic to the European Commission over what it calls a lack of transparency regarding the pricing of medicines in the country. The Czech health ministry abolished a committee which decided on which medicines were covered by health insurance, taking on that responsibility itself. The pharmaceutical companies say the ministry is preventing more effective medicines from entering the Czech market, denying patients the right to the most up-to-date cures.
Over 50 percent of Czechs think the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans after World War II was just, suggests a poll released on Wednesday by the CVVM agency. Two-thirds of respondents said the Benes decrees, which sanctioned the expulsions, should remain in force. An estimated two and a half million Germans were forced to leave their homes and property in Czechoslovakia after the War.
The Social Democratic Party's deputies group in Parliament has rejected early elections as a possible way out of the government crisis. The group met to debate the issue after the Christian Democrats, a smaller coalition party, suggested that an agreement on early elections could break the coalition deadlock. The Christian Democrats have given the main ruling party an ultimatum: either Prime Minister Stanislav Gross resigns or they will trigger the collapse of the coalition government and try to bring about early elections. The third party in the governing coalition - the Freedom Union - has also said it is against the idea of early elections.
A new poll just released has suggested that as many as 60 percent of Czechs feel the country does not need new immigrants, answering with ambivalence or in the negative to a question regarding whether foreigners should be allowed to stay. Responses were similarly negative to the question whether or not the Czech Republic needed immigrants for the future. The Czech Republic has an aging population, and experts generally agree the country would benefit from a new influx of immigrants. Some studies suggest that by 2050 a quarter of the population could be made up of immigrants, a number that echoes general EU estimates.
Liverpool footballer Milan Baros has drawn criticism from both rivals as well as a team mate following a late challenge against Everton's Alan Stubbs that saw the Czech player sent off the pitch on Sunday. After the match Liverpool team captain Steven Gerrard complained that Baros had complicated the team win. The Czech striker could now miss up to three matches in a row, which would leave Liverpool momentarily without a single regular line-up striker: Morientes, Mellor, and Cisse are all on the sick list.
Rossman, the international drugstore chain, has apologised for discriminating against a Romani woman whose job application was rejected for reasons of ethnicity. The woman's lawyer says her client received 50, 000 crowns - or a little over 2,000 U.S. dollars - in compensation as well as a written apology, an end to a case the drugstore chain had been planning to appeal. A Czech court first ruled in the Romani woman's favour in April last year.
The Czech tourist office, Czechtourism, has revealed that a record number of tourists visited the Czech Republic last year. According to the numbers the Czech Republic saw 7.9 million foreign visitors in 2004, a 19 per cent rise, year-on-year. The greatest number of visitors to the Czech Republic traditionally come from Germany, but the number of tourists from Great Britain rose markedly in 2004, to almost 800, 000 - an increase of almost 60 percent.
Meanwhile, a Prague advertising agency is offering Czechs the chance to appear on billboards critical of the prime minister, at a special cut-price rate, the newspaper Nedelni Svet reported on Sunday. For 3,000 Czech crowns (or around 130 US dollars) people can have their own photo on the billboards, beside the slogan "I'm ashamed of my prime minister". The billboards are something of a parody of Social Democrat pre-election adverts from last year featuring Mr Gross.