The government in resignation has approved a loan of CZK 1 billion to the country’s biggest health insurance company VZP. The minister of health, Martin Holcát, confirmed the decision after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. The interest-free loan fills a large gap in the VZP’s budget and means it will now be able to meet payments for health procedures for the rest of this year. The government approved another loan, for CZK 700,000, three weeks ago. The combined figure is less than the CZK 2.5 billion that the loss-making insurer had been seeking.
A special independent panel is set to decide on an internal dispute at Czech Television in which journalists said their work had been subject to political interference, the news site iDnes.cz reported. The five-member panel, which includes Rob Cameron of the BBC and Radio Prague, is set to meet in two weeks’ time to consider all materials relating to the affair. At the start of October a number of news staff at Czech TV signed a petition saying that on a dozen occasions a senior editor had interfered with their work, to the benefit of some politicians, in particular President Miloš Zeman. Another group then issued a petition denying that such interference had taken place.
A thousand new police officers will be hired next year, the Minister of the Interior, Martin Pecina, has told reporters. Most of the fresh intake will be deployed in places where there is a threat from extremist groups stoking tensions between the majority population and the Roma minority, he said. The officers will receive special training in working in socially excluded districts. Foot patrol numbers will also be stepped up.
Police in Chomutov in northwest Bohemia have been searching the area around the villa of Roman Houska, a businessman and influential member of the local Social Democrats who was shot dead on Monday. Mr. Houska, who was 51, was gunned down in front of his garage in what appeared to be a contract killing. Police have refused to confirm reports that no murder weapon has been found. Media reports have described Mr. Houska, who reportedly claimed to have compromising materials on opponents, as an eminence grise in politics in the region.
Police shot an 18-year-old who was attacking staff and customers at a food stand at Prague’s Main Train Station at around 6 PM on Tuesday. A spokesperson said officers had shot the young man, who appeared to be intoxicated, in the hand and stomach after he ignored orders to desist. He later received treatment from rescue services, as did a kiosk employee.
Economic experts from the Social Democratic Party and ANO agreed on Tuesday morning on a common goal to pass a law introducing mandatory property declarations for politicians and public servants, if they were to become partners in a future government. The head of ANO’s MP’s group Jaroslav Faltýnek said that the agreement so far was that property declarations will be made mandatory for all citizens in 2015 for property costing more than 20 million crowns. After the negotiations on Tuesday, ANO representatives also said that progressive taxation and other points on which there is no agreement with the Social Democrats so far will not need to be included in the possible future coalition agreement. Tax policy is one of the thorniest issues between the two parties.
Social Democratic chairman Bohuslav Sobotka announced on Tuesday that he wants his party to hold a referendum to confirm a possible future coalition agreement with the ANO and Christian Democratic parties. The referendum could be held in January. After a meeting on economic issues with ANO representatives on Tuesday, Mr. Sobotka is planning to meet with the Christian Democratic chairman Pavel Bělobrádek on Wednesday to discuss tax policies.
Police are investigating the murder of influential businessman and member of the Social Democratic Party Roman Houska. According to the internet news site Novinky.cz Houska was shot in his garage on Monday night and the house appeared to have been ransacked following the murder. The news site says the victim recently boasted that he had compromising materials on several influential people from the world of politics and business in the Ustí region. Police have placed an information embargo on the case.
The Czech Health Ministry has issued the first license for the import of medical marijuana. The Czech company Elkoplast Slušovice was granted the license to import three kilograms of marijuana from the Netherlands, which will be sold for medical purposes in a pharmacy in Zlín. Another company has also fulfilled all the requirements for importing medical marijuana, but has not requested a license yet. The sale of medical marijuana in pharmacies was legalized this summer, but the drug has not been made available yet. Czech doctors are now able to prescribe at most 30 grams of medical marijuana per month to patients with chronic pain symptoms as well as illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, cancer or AIDS.
According to the annual report by the Czech National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, problems with alcohol abuse are growing among Czechs. Approximately one in twelve people have a problem with alcohol. Some 160 thousand adults have at least five glasses of alcohol a day. The monitoring center estimates that around 600,000 people in this country may be alcoholics. The use of illegal drugs last year was highest in the past decade, with three quarters of them using methamphetamines. Although cannabis remains the most commonly used illegal drug in the Czech Republic, the number of regular users is decreasing. The number of heroin users has decreased by more than half in the past ten years.