The Communists and Social Democrats have agreed to form a coalition in the regional council in Ústí nad Labem, which will be headed by the Communist Oldřich Bubeníček. Mr Bubeníček will be the first communist regional governor in the Czech Republic since the fall of the Communist regime in 1989. Mr Bubeníček will have two deputies, one from each of the coalition parties. The Communist Party won 20 of the 55 seats on the Ústí council in last month’s regional elections.
The Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday night approved a bill on church restitution for a second time, after it was vetoed by the left-controlled Senate. The long-discussed legislation will see denominations including Christian and Jewish religious institutions regain around half of the property seized from them by the Communist regime that fell in 1989. They will receive nearly CZK 60 billion in compensation for the rest of their properties in 30, indexed yearly payments. The bill now goes to the Czech president for ratification. The issue has divided public opinion, with one poll last year suggesting 70 percent of Czechs were opposed.
Also on Wednesday evening, the lower house approved the last of a triad of controversial bills that were on the table this week – the last part of the government’s pension reform. The law, which introduces the second pillar of the pension reform, was vetoed by President Václav Klaus in September. The semi-private pension fund scheme that the law establishes will be introduced at the start of next year. The opposition Social Democrats say the new scheme will increase the deficit and have said they will repeal it if they win power at the next elections.
The rate of unemployment in the Czech Republic rose in October to 8.5%, according to figures released by the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry on Thursday. There were approximately 3,500 more people without work than in the previous month, and the number of job vacancies decreased by two tenths of a percentage point. The ministry said that the unemployed made up 6.7% of the country’s population. The main problem, according to analysts, is the low job creation rate. The Ústí nad Labem region had the highest unemployment rate in October of 13.2%, while the lowest was, traditionally, in Prague, where unemployment rate has stagnated at 4.4% for the second month in a row.
Around 200 people staged a protest on Thursday morning against the presence of the Communist Party in a newly formed coalition government in the Zlín region in East Moravia. The party will share power with the Social Democrats and the Party of Citizens' Rights – Zemanovci (SPOZ). The demonstrators warned against the return of the old repressive Communist regime. Protesters were also present at the council session, the first since elections last month, and booed Communist councilmen during the swearing-in ceremony.
Surgeons at Prague’s Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine (IKEM) performed the first ever six-way paired kidney transplant in the Czech Republic on Tuesday and Wednesday. Six patients in need of a kidney received them from six donors. The so-called “six-way domino” surgery relies on the fact that someone who is close to a transplant patient but is not a match offers his or her kidney to another patient, and six such pairs form a donor chain. According to Doctor Jiří Froněk from IKEM, one of the donors was not related to any patient, but simply wanted to donate a healthy kidney. The first six-way kidney transplant in the world was performed in the US in 2008.
The Czech government approved the proposal for a national action plan for renewable energy sources on Thursday. The plan outlines the way the Czech Republic will reach renewable energy targets set by the EU. According to the plan, renewable energy sources will make up 14% of the total energy usage of the Czech Republic. According to the Industry and Trade Minister Martin Kuba, financing for most renewable energy sources will be cut as of 2014, since the current system of government support has caused problems for Czech industry and consumers.
Czech President Václav Klaus on Thursday gave a positive assessment of the fact that the current government survived Wednesday’s confidence vote, which was linked to the vote on the tax reform package. Although he has often criticized actions of the current cabinet, President Klaus said that if the government had fallen the situation would have been chaotic.
At a regular meeting of the army commanders, President Vaclav Klaus said that the time of large deployments is over for the Czech army with the gradual pullout of troops from Afghanistan. President Klaus also said that the army should now focus more on exercises at home and with NATO partners. Defense Minister Alexander Vondra said that according to a proposal for a new defense strategy, which was recently approved by the government, the number of civilian army staff will be cut and the organizational strategy should change starting in 2014.
The Czech men’s tennis number one Tomáš Berdych beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the ATP World Tour Finals in London on Wednesday evening to keep himself in with a chance of qualifying for the knock-out stage of the prestigious, end-of-season competition. After losing the first set, Berdych recovered impressively to beat the Frenchman 7-5 3-6 6-1. His next opponent will be world number one Novak Djokovic of Serbia. The Czech had lost all three of his previous matches in the UK capital this year.
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