The newly appointed Health Minister David Rath imposed forced
administration on VZP, the largest state-owned Czech health insurance
company, on Thursday. He said the move was supposed to improve the
company's ailing finances. Health Minister Rath along with Prime
Minister Jiri Paroubek called on the VZP's director Jirina Musilkova to
resign but she refused to step down.
The government's move has been criticised by the opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats as well as Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who is on a state visit to India.
The former Czech President Vaclav Havel said that people in post-communist states, including the Czech Republic, will sooner or later call for changes as they will not tolerate the interconnection of economic and political elites that replaced communist regimes in the 1990s. Speaking in Prague on Friday at a meeting of the Club of Madrid, Mr Havel said that the public refuses to accept mafia practices at a certain moment and people start awakening as citizens. He also said the call for change has been already evident in Ukraine or Georgia. The former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, who's also attending, said on Friday the European Union should make more efforts towards the democratisation of Belarus. The Club of Madrid was established in the Spanish capital three years ago and its members, former heads of states, meet regularly. The present forum is its first event held outside Spain.
Health Minister David Rath said on Friday he suspected Tomas Julinek, the shadow health minister of the opposition Civic Democrats, of having drafted his health sector reform for money coming from the state-owned health insurance company VZP. Mr Rath called on Mr Julinek to prove how his project was financed. Mr Julinek denied the allegations. His Civic Democratic Party say they will commission legal examination of the forced administration imposed on the VZP on Thursday as they say it was in breach of law. The Civic Democrats have also called for an extraordinary session of the lower house of parliament.
The head of the Czech Prison Service Ludek Kula has said that at least six other people will be held accountable for the escape of two convicted murderers from a prison in the west Bohemian town of Plzen on Tuesday. The head of the prison was sacked on Tuesday and one prison guard was suspended on Thursday. The two prisoners made their escape by hiding themselves in a pallet which was then driven out in a van. They are both still at large. Police say the two men had at least two accomplices.
The Prague Jewish Community has elected a new leader after a year of rows within the community. The new chairman, Frantisek Banyai, has been acting leader since last year when the previous chairman Tomas Jelinek was dismissed. The term of the new leadership will expire in 2008 and according to deputy chairman Jakub Roth, its main goal is to stabilise the situation within the community.
The government has decided to award the Czech Brain prize to Armin Delong, the founder of electron microscopy and initiator of the production of world-competitive electron microscopes. Together with the award Professor Delong will receive one million crowns (over 40,000 dollars). Armin Delong, 80, is best-known for his pioneering work in holography, emission electron microscopy and slow electron microscopy. Most recently he has focused on low-voltage scanning microscopy which is used in biology.
The Sudeten German Landsmannschaft protested against a request made to the European Commission to limit the use of the famed "Karlovarske Oplatky" or Carlsbad Wafers name. The Czech Government would like the name to be recognised and protected as a geographic indication of the place of origin that cannot be used by manufacturers of wafers outside the west Bohemian region. According to the Landsmannschaft - an organisation representing ethnic Germans who were expelled from the Czechoslovak border area after WWII, the original recipe of the wafers came from baker families of Sudeten German origin.
Czech Agriculture Minister Petr Zgarba will resign from office next week, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek announced on Thursday. Mr Zgarba is the chairman of the Czech Land Fund which is responsible for the sale and management of state-owned land. The Fund's Board has been accused of corruption after it was discovered that it sold property to speculators that is now worth hundreds of times the asking price. Mr Zgarba plans to step down from his post as agriculture minister on Wednesday, November 16. Mr Zgarba will be succeeded by Social Democrat Member of Parliament Jan Mladek.
Some of the world's most renowned former presidents and government
leaders are in Prague to attend the Club de Madrid's general assembly.
The gathering will also include a discussion forum "Democracy in the
Post Communist World: What has been learned and how can it be applied?"
Among the several dozen participants will be former US president Bill
Clinton, former French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, and former
Brasilian President and current Club chairman Fernando Henrique
Czech President Vaclav Klaus, his predecessor Vaclav Havel and Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda attended the opening ceremony. The event comes to a close this Saturday.
The two convicted murderers, who escaped from Pilsen's Bory prison on Tuesday, were not assisted by the facility's guards, prison management said on Thursday. One guard, however, has been suspended for neglecting his duties. Police are still determining how the men managed to escape undetected and believe they had at least two accomplices.
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