The Czech football team could be without its prolific striker Jan Koller on Saturday for its World Cup qualifier against Finland. Koller, who has scored a Czech record 34 goals in 61 appearances, and made four of the Czechs' six goals in World Cup qualifiers thus far, was injured during a match with his regular season club in Germany last weekend. The Czech Republic is now tied with Finland for third place in Group One, with nine points each. Striker Vratislav Lokvenc is Koller's likely replacement.
Former Prime Minister Milos Zeman, the long-serving chairman of the Social Democrats, has told the party's national conference meeting in Brno that he will not seek a return as party leader. Zeman retired from politics several years ago, but has remained a vocal critic of the current leadership. There had been speculation that he would announce his return to politics at the Social Democrat party congress, which continues until Sunday, and at which some 600 delegates are meeting to elect new leadership.
A bumper harvest across Central Europe has forced the European Commission to intervene, buying up and moving large amounts of surplus stocks from growers across the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to prevent a market collapse. The EU has already committed to buying up 13.5 million tons as "intervention stocks," taking these stocks to their highest levels for six years, with about 60 percent of this coming from the new EU member states. The EU has tried to solve the surplus issue by increasing export subsidies on the free market.
The popularity of the current party chairman, Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, is at an all-time low of 19 percent, following weeks of strong criticism over alleged irregularities in his family's personal finances, including how he bought a luxury Prague apartment several years ago, as his official salary was insufficient to have funded the purchase. If Stanislav Gross is not confirmed as party chairman, it could mean the eventual collapse of his Social Democrat-led coalition government. His main rival for the chairmanship is the current Labour Minister, Zdenek Skromach.
A young health care worker at a retirement home close to the southern town of Jihlava has been killed by a pensioner. The twenty-two year old social worker was stabbed by the 55-year old man, who was living in the home. He died from his injuries soon after he was rushed to hospital. Police say the pensioner was under the influence of alcohol and psychologists are determining the motive behind the stabbing.
Some eighty university professors and Academy of Science workers have
signed a letter calling onto Prime Minister Stanislav Gross to resign.
The petition was forwarded to his assistant on Thursday. The group of
academics say they want Mr Gross to step down because recent events
show that he lacks the qualities needed to lead the country as a
competent prime minister.
Mr Gross has been criticised for failing to explain how he could afford a Prague flat in 1999. His wife, Sarka, was also involved in dubious business transactions. In the letter, the signatories write the economic activities of Mr Gross' family are a sad example of a lack of personal morale and are having a devastating effect on the social climate.
The Czech Academy of Sciences has a new chairman. The 62-year old head of the Institute for Molecular Genetics, Vaclav Paces, was elected to head the country's most senior scientific research institute on Thursday. The scientist will be replacing the 67-year old biologist and academic Helena Illnerova, who was the first woman to chair the Academy. Mrs Illnerova, who chose not to stay on for another term, intends to spend more time with her family and do more laboratory research.
Should the ruling coalition break up, Czech President Vaclav Klaus would
want the parties of a new government to guarantee that they will have
majority seats in parliament, Mr Klaus told Czech Radio on Thursday. The
Czech President reacted to speculation that the main party in the fragile
coalition, the Social Democrats, plans to form a minority government with
the tacit support of the Communists in parliament.
According to Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, the president's remark is one of many others made by those who hope to influence decision-making at this weekend's Social Democratic Party's nationwide congress, at which the party's future role in government will be discussed and a new leadership is elected.
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.