Doctors’ union representatives from the Czech Republic may join forces with their colleagues in neighboring countries – Slovakia, Poland and Hungary – to stage another set of protests, similar to last year’s ‘Thank you, we’re leaving’ campaign. Mlada fronta Dnes daily reported on Saturday that doctors want to protest against similar problems as last year, but in addition to persistently low salaries, they are also criticizing plans to further privatize, and the insurance companies’ unfair practices. The unions are planning to stage a warning to the government and the Health Ministry and have doctors stop working for a few minutes on November 20th. If their demands are not met after that, union representatives are threatening massive resignations from doctors around the country, but said that this will not happen until after Christmas, so as not to complicate matters for patients during the holiday season.
Former Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek also spoke at the Civic Democratic conference on Saturday, saying that the party needs to regain the credibility that it has lost. Mr Topolánek expressed his belief that the Civic Democratic party’s survival is under threat, and that a special emergency team should be named to carry the party over to the next conference after January’s presidential election. He also criticized President Václav Klaus for threatening his former party.
On Friday, President Václav Klaus signed a bill that simplifies the single national high-school leaving exams into law. For high school students who have to register for the exam by 15 November this will mean that there will be only one level of difficulty, instead of two, and that they will have to pass only two required subject tests, instead of three. The controversial national exams were tested out last year, and lead to numerous complaints from students and teachers. Education Minister Petr Fiala said that the current bill only introduces temporary changes that will be in place until more comprehensive reworking of the exams can be carried out.
The first day of women’s tennis Fed Cup final in the Czech capital ended with triumph for the home team. The Czech team won both of the Saturday’s matches. Lucie Šafářová beat Serbia’s Ana Ivanović in two sets, 6-4, 6-3. And the eight seed Petra Kvitová was victorious over former top world player Jelena Janković. Although Kvitová was first losing 2-4 to her Sebian rival, she did not lose a single game after that finishing the set 6-4, and the next one 6-1. There were doubts about how well Kvitová could perform in this weekends final, because of an illness she’s been fighting for the past week. But the youngest player in the Czech team did not seem to be struggling with her cold during the game. The final will continue tomorrow with two more singles matches and a double match.
In his opening remarks at the Civic Democratic party conference on
Saturday morning, Prime Minister and party chairman Petr Nečas said that
he takes full responsibility for the party’s losses in the recent senate
and regional elections. The prime minister added that the Civic Democrats
should look for the faults within their own party, and said that the main
problem the Civic Democratic party has to face is that its name has become
associated with corruption and a government of money. The Civic Democrats
need to get rid of this negative label.
During the following deliberations at the conference, former Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra announced that he will not re-election as the vice chairman of the Civic Democratic party. Another current vice chairman Pavel Drobil also said he will not be asking for a nomination.
During the following deliberations at the conference, one of the rebel MPs Ivan Fuksa said that he and the others who have gone against the tax reforms do not want to see the current government fall. He added that the only way they will vote for the reform would be if the bill would not raise the VAT at all.
In an interview in Saturday’s Lidové noviny newspaper, Head of ING’s Czech Pension Fund unit Jiří Rusnok said that he considers investing in the proposed second pillar of the pension reform to be risk both ofr pension funds and customers. Mr Rusnok, who was one of the main advocates of the reform, expressed his dissapointment at the lack of political consensus. ING announced on Thursday that the fund is not planning on introducing financial products that would comply with the embattled pension reform. One of the main reasons, that the former Finance Minister Rusnok cited in the Saturday interview, is that given the opposition’s pledge to repeal the reform once the Social Democrats win the next parliamentary election, the new type of funds will cease to exist in two to three years time.
The LIDEM party is also holding its conference in Brno this weekend. As
expected, deputy prime minister and LIDEM’s main founder Karolina Peake
was elected chairwoman of the party on Saturday. The 70 delegates present
at this founding conference voted in Peake's preferences for vice
chair-people. Dagmar Navrátilová was elected first
deputy chair, and MP Viktor Paggio, Jiří Neumann and Jiří Rusnok were
also elected as deputy chairmen.
The Liberal Democratic party was formed this spring after a number of MPs from the Public Affairs party, including Ms Peake, left the party over disagreements with its leadership. The Public Affairs party subsequently left the governing coalition, while Ms Peake formed LIDEM, which instead became a coalition partner.
In the first nine months of this year, 165 more patients with the HIV virus were registered in the Czech Republic. During the whole of 2011, there were only 153 new HIV patients in the country. Miroslav Hlavatý, from the Czech AIDS Help Society, warned that this most likely means that this year the Czech Republic will cross the 200 mark in terms of new HIV-positive patients, which has never happened since these statistics began to be gathered in 1985. Ten years ago, the number of people who tested positive for HIV was 50, during the whole year. So far the highest number of new cases was registered in 2010, when it reached 180. Since 1985, 186 people died of AIDS in the Czech Republic.
Bohuslav Sobotka, the chairman of the opposition Social Democrats, has called on financial institution on Friday not to offer products that would comply with the second pillar of the pension reform system, which has not been approved yet by the lower house of parliament. Mr Sobotka advised banks and pension fund providers to put off offering partly private pension funds, that the government wants to introduce with the reform, until the next parliamentary elections. If the Social Democrats win a strong enough majority in the next elections, they are prepared to revoke the so-called second pillar of the planned pension reform. Even before Mr Sobotka’s announcement, the Czech branch of ING Commercial Banking as well as AXA had announced that they will not offer the new type of pension savings scheme. The remaining seven retirement plan providers are mostly likely counting on introducing the new type of financial product, if the lower house passes the bill.
The Civic Democratic party, which leads the current ruling coalition, will gather this weekend in the Moravian regional capital Brno for the closely watched party conference. Party members will vote for its leadership and will determine whether Prime Minister Petr Necas will keep his position as the chairman. The other important topic on the agenda is the position of the Civic Democrats in the lower house of parliament, where they have lost the ability to effectively pass proposed legislation due to growing opposition and rebelling MPs from their own party. Petr Tluchoř, one of the rebel MPs, has made it clear that even if Mr Nečas is reelected, he and his five colleagues will not change their negative stance on the current proposal of the tax reforms, which the lower house will vote on next week.
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