The Czech anti-monopoly watchdog on Thursday launched a review of a tender for new welfare cards, a project initiated by the country’s Labour and Social Affairs Ministry. In an official letter to the opposition Social Democrat party, which asked for the tender to be reviewed, the anti-monopoly authority expressed concern that the ministry might have breached the law in organizing the tender. The ministry now cannot conclude any contracts related to the project until it is cleared by the anti-monopoly authority. The government is planning to issue the new cards to welfare recipients in 2012 as part of its social reform.
As of January 2012, patients in Czech hospitals will be able to pay to be treated by doctors of their choice, Health Minister Leoš Heger told the daily Hospodářské noviny on Thursday. It is not clear however how much these fees will be as this is likely to be determined by individual hospitals that will share the money with medics. The ministry believes the measure will stop the current practice when patients often pay bribes to be treated by top obstetricians, orthopaedists and other specialists. The move comes as part of a broader health care reform pursued the centre-right Czech government.
The Czech Senate on Thursday voted to postpone the introduction of a compulsory foreign language test as part of the new secondary school leaving exams. The senators approved an amendment that originated in the lower house and which determines that school leaving exams will in 2012 be held in the same form as this year; foreign language tests might therefore be introduced in 2013 at the earliest. Education Minister Josef Dobeš welcomed the vote, saying many vocational schools were not ready for compulsory foreign language tests.
Over 90 percent of the pilot emission of Czech government bonds for individual investors, issued earlier this month, have been paid for, the Finance Ministry said on Thursday. People have so far paid 19.4 billion crowns, or over 5 billion US dollars, for the bonds; overall, orders have been placed for bonds worth of 21.2 billion crowns. The ministry was originally planning to accept orders until November 1; given the great interest of investors, however, people were only able to order the bonds between October 3 and 7.
The police in the south Bohemian city of České Budějovice are looking for a man who reportedly threw a caustic substance at a young woman. The incident occurred at around 4:30 PM on Wednesday when an unknown perpetrator spilled the substance on a woman on a pedestrian crossing; she ended up in hospital with burns on her legs. The police said the woman failed to see the attacker; they have asked any witnesses to contact them.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg on Wednesday presented British playwright Sir Tom Stoppard with the Gratias Agit award for promoting the good name of the Czech Republic abroad. Sir Tom, one of the most internationally performed dramatists of his generation, was born in Czechoslovakia, but left the country in 1939 fleeing imminent Nazi occupation. He settled with his family in Britain after the war, but maintained a close interest in his homeland, supporting Czech dissidents during the communist era and helping authors banned by the regime.
An appellate court in the eastern city of Zlín on Thursday confirmed a 27-month prison sentence for an Egyptian national who was found guilty of abusing his Czech wife. The 32-year-old foreigner physically and psychologically abused his wife for over three years and threatened to kidnap their child to Egypt. The attacks gradually intensified and in February, the man assaulted his wife with a knife; she called the police and had her husband arrested. The judge said the man wanted to change his wife’s personality. While the convicted abuser denied all accusations, his lawyer said they would consider an appeal to the Czech Supreme Court.
Bakers in the town of Pelhřimov on Thursday marked the International Bread Day by baking the country’s largest ever loaf of bread. Made of wheat and rye flour, the 18-kilo loaf will be inducted into the Czech Book of Records. The manager of the bakery said it took four hours to bake the loaf. Production of bread in the Czech Republic decreased last year by 6 percent; nearly 290,000 tons of bread were produced in the country in 2010.
The Czech national football team was on Thursday drawn against Montenegro in the playoffs for next year’s European championships. The first match will take place in the Czech Republic on November 11 or 12 and the second leg will be held a week later in Montenegro. The Czechs finished second behind Spain in the qualification Group I after they beat Lithuania 4:1 in Vilnius on Tuesday. The national side manager Vladimír Šmicr said the draw was “neutral” as the team wanted to avoid Turkey which was also in the draw and which would have been a more difficult opponent.
In the NHL, Czech hockey veteran Jaromír Jágr had an assist in the Philadelphia Flyers’ first home game of the season in which the hosts beat the Vancouver Canucks 5:4 on Wednesday. Another Czech player on the Flyers’ roster, forward Jakub Voráček, scored a goal in the game, his second in the season. 39-year-old Jágr, who returned to the NHL this year after three seasons in the Russian KHL, said he was able to play in his own style in the game. In the three games of the season, the veteran forward scored two assists and took seven shots on goal.