Russian President Vladimir Putin starts his first official visit to the Czech Republic on Wednesday, with energy issues expected to be high on the agenda of the talks. The two sides are also due to discuss economic, cultural and military cooperation with an emphasis on the war against terrorism. President Putin is expected to arrive in Prague at around 3pm on Wednesday. His first engagement will be a meeting with his Czech counterpart President Vaclav Klaus.
Jiri Vyvadil has been recalled from his post of deputy justice minister and will now return to the Supreme Administrative Court. The decision was taken by the chairman of the country's court, Josef Baxa. Mr Baxa indicated that Mr Vyvadil did not sufficiently address judiciary reform in his post. But, Mr Vyvadil has primarily come under criticism in recent days for having met with controversial Czech businessman Tomas Pitr, appealing an eight-year sentence for tax evasion. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek allegedly knew about the meeting, which took place in January. Vyvadil's relocation has diffused growing tension between Justice Minister Pavel Nemec who intended to sack him and Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek who said he saw no reason for his dismissal.
On an official visit to the Czech Republic the Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhannen said his country would open its doors to workers from the Czech Republic and the European Union's nine other new members as of April. The Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek thanked his Finnish counterpart, saying that he hoped other EU countries would follow Finland's example. At the moment only three of the EU's old members -Britain, Ireland and Sweden - have welcomed workers from the newcomer states. Portugal and Spain are believed to be considering a similar move.
The Czech Republic is to order a bigger supply of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu thought to be effective against the bird flu. The National Security Council approved the decision on Tuesday in connection with the growing incidence of bird flu on the Continent. The increased reserves should suffice for 20 percent of the Czech Republic's ten million inhabitants. In the event of a pandemic the government would be ready to finance a vaccine for approximately 60 percent of the population as soon as it is made available, with high risk groups getting priority.
Thomas McKeever, head of NATO's Security Office, is expected to pay a two day visit to the Czech Republic to discuss the situation at the National Security Office following the resignation of its head Jan Mares. Mares resigned earlier this month over suspected ties with a gang prosecuted for fraud and criminal conspiracy. The Czech Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan said there was concern at NATO headquarters as to possible information leaks. Mr. McKeever is expected to arrive in Prague on Thursday.
Football goalkeeper Petr Cech was named Czech footballer of the Year on Monday evening when the results of the elite survey were announced during a gala event. The best Czech player is chosen by players and coaches alike, with Cech winning over his nearest rival Borussia Dortmund's Tomas Rosicky by 153 points. In all Cech, who plays for London's Chelsea, received 4,235 votes. Pavel Nedved, of Juventus Turin, came in third.
The Czech Exporters Association, which groups around 50 companies, has set up a crisis committee to coordinate efforts against the strengthening of the Czech crown. Exporters have suffered losses of around 15 to 20 billion crowns /530 -706 million euros/ as a result of a strengthening crown over the last few months. The association's president Jiri Grund predicted growing unemployment, possibly even bankruptcy of some exporters. Exporters say the government is directly responsible for their plight, which is further aggravated by the inaction of the Central Bank. Responding to the criticism, the Prime Minister said on Tuesday that exporters should be prepared to deal with the situation. He predicted earlier this month that the Czech currency would stand at 25 crowns per euro when the country adopted the single European currency in 2010.
In related news, the teaching hospitals in debt will receive some 350 million crowns - divided up by the Health Ministry - this week to begin paying off some of their debt. The decision is in keeping with the health minister's plan to help the hospitals recover by the end of the current government's term in June 2006. On Monday, Health Minster David Rath and Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka met to discuss the issue, with the health minister saying the Health Ministry would have to modify its annual budget. According to Mr Rath the hospitals' total liabilities are worth 2 billion crowns. The ministry expected to find between 700 and 800 million to help the hospitals out of financial difficulty.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who turns 75 this week, told journalists in Moscow on Monday that he believed that relations between the Czech Republic and Russia would further improve in the future, indicating economic issues would play a dominant role. Mr Gorbachev made the comment ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin's upcoming visit to the Czech Republic this week. Discussing Czech issues, the former Soviet leader expressed regret over the 1968 Soviet-led invasion that crushed Czechoslovakia's Prague Spring - the reform movement dubbed 'socialism with a human face'. He called the decision to intervene "a mistake", indicating it had had a fateful impact on both countries.
The Czech antitrust office has said that will begin administrative
proceedings against companies that halted medicine supplies to three
teaching hospitals. The bureau will be attempting to uncover whether
the companies entered into a cartel agreement. The announcement was
made on Monday by the antitrust bureau's Martin Pecina, but the Czech
Association of Wholesale Drug Distributors, has denied any cartel
agreement. Two weeks ago four medicines wholesalers stopped supplies to
three Czech hospitals over outstanding debt (Prague's Bulovka and
Thomayer teaching hospitals and the St Ann Teaching Hospital in Brno).
They owe distributors 400 million crowns - the equivalent of almost 17
million US dollars.
One of the four members of the association, Pharmos, resumed supplies, but is expected to halt them again this week.
The country's health minister, David Rath, is among those who suspect the medicines distributors of a cartel agreement. But, Mr Rath himself has come under criticism by the International Association of Pharmaceutical Companies, which has likened his plan to select a sole supplier as breaching rules of economic competition.
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