On Wednesday the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, will name MP Jan Mladek, a member of Parliament's budget committee, the new agriculture minister. Mr Mladek is to fill the post following Petr Zgarba's decision to resign over the Land Fund property scandal. A member of the Social Democrats, the incoming minister is regarded as liberal in terms of economic policy. Once named, he plans to implement reforms in the Land Fund to prevent a repeat scandal. In the case, allegations have been made that state officials - including the former minister - passed on inside information to speculators who cheaply bought-up property now worth millions more than the original price.
The head of the Czech Social Security Administration Jiri Hoidekr has revealed that 354 Czechs are 100 or more years of age, with the oldest, a woman, 108. In the group of 'one hundred year-olds' women far outnumber men. Of the 354, 292 are women. According to the Czech Social Security Administration, the majority of one hundred year olds are Prague residents. The oldest living Czech - at 108 - has been receiving a pension for 43 years.
The new Health Minister David Rath has said he will turn to the Interior
Minister for help after a Health Ministry inspector controlling the
administration of the country's largest health insurer, the VZP, received
an anonymous threat. An employee in charge of checking the firm's finances
received an anonymous call in which a male voice warned her of danger to
her person (telling her she'd have to watch herself to make it home). She
has not contacted police. The head of the forced administration team,
Antonin Pecenka, has also said his team was under external pressure.
Last week the VZP came under forced administration under the new health minister: the health insurer's debt has exceeded more than 12 billion crowns, around 480 million US dollars. Tensions between the company and the Health Ministry have continued to intensify.
The health minister, meanwhile, is reportedly seeking support from among the VZP's administration board against current VZP head Jirina Musilkova. Last week Mr Rath called on Mrs Musilkova to resign, a call she has ignored.
A new poll by the CVVM agency has suggested that among the five parties in Parliament the Communists have the highest percentage of 'core' supporters, at 24 percent, while the ruling Social Democrats, enjoy a core base of just 4 percent. The right-of-centre Civic Democrats have a core of 11 percent. The study found that the number of Czech voters who consider themselves core supporters of any political party is considerably lower than nine years ago. According to analysts, some 27 percent are not happy with any of the parties in Parliament.
City councillors from the district of Prague 1 have cancelled a tender on the renting of a villa by Prague's lucrative Kampa Park. The villa that once belonged to Jan Werich, the famous Czech actor; Werich died in 1980. The tender was won by the firm Colly, which beat out Meda Mladkova of the Kampa Museum. City councillors based their decision to cancel the decision based on the new law on public tenders. A new tender on the villa will consequently be called.
Meanwhile, far-right extremist briefly protested outside the French Embassy on Saturday, defying a ban on the rally by Prague authorities, AP reports. The National Party said it had planned the "protest against black violence" and what it called "racial terror in France." Prague's City Hall this week banned the demonstration, saying its aim would be to incite racial hatred as its organizers had voiced opposition to violence "committed by immigrants of non-French origin, mainly from Africa" when announcing the event. Roughly a dozen party members gathered in defiance of the ban, and briefly displayed banners that read "Islam in Europe leads to terrorism in the streets" and "Black racism" before they left. Party leader Jan Skacel said they were opposed to immigration because immigrants were unable to assimilate and their foreign cultures were a source of conflicts. France has been plagued by two weeks of unrest mainly in poor suburbs, marked by nightly car torchings and clashes between gangs of youths and police.
Four prisoners from a low-security in prison in Odolov, East Bohemia, escaped while on an outing Saturday evening. Two of the prisoners have already turned themselves in. Prison director Jiri Benes said that the other two still at large were serving time for economic crimes and were not considered dangerous. The incident comes less than a week after two convicted murderers escaped from a high-security prison in Plzen, West Bohemia. One remains at large; the other was apprehended in Germany on Friday.
Police shut down a neo-Nazi concert in the northern Bohemian town of Zlata Olesnice on Saturday due to the band's used of racist lyrics. Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan said that twelve people had been detained and that several face charges. The gathering had been booked as a private birthday party. When called to the scene, police found the organisers were charging a cover charge at the door and a skinhead band was performing. Police seized tee-shirts, badges, baseball caps, and electronic media with extremist slogans or content.
Doing business in the Czech Republic poses few risks for the foreign investor, but corruption and bureaucracy remain problematic, the British analytical firm Control Risks says in its annual flagship publication RiskMap 2006. The report predicts that the main opposition Civic Democrats will win the June 2006 parliamentary elections but will fail to secure a majority in the 200-member lower house. RiskMap therefore expects the ruling Social Democrats to remain in power as part of a coalition. Whatever the outcome of the elections, the Control Risks firm expects no major reforms before June and a stable economic and business climate.
A major Czech brewery has offered 160 litres of beer, the average yearly consumption of each citizen, to each member of the Czech football squad irrespective of whether the team beat Norway to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, AFP reports. The Czechs beat Norway 1-0 away in the first leg of their qualifying play-off on Saturday. The Czech players will only be able to take up the offer of free beer after the second match against Norway this Wednesday. The Czech Republic has never qualified for the World Cup, but the former Czechoslovakia reached the finals in 1934 (losing to Italy) and 1962 (beaten by Brazil) and the quarter-finals in 1990.
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