The government has approved a proposal for hospitals to get 2.1 billion crowns in 2014 as compensation for scrapped hospital fees which went to cover food and accommodation services provided to patients. In 2015 hospitals would get 4.2 billion crowns for this purpose. The money would come from a higher state contribution to health insurance for children, pensioners and the unemployed. The proposal still needs to win approval in Parliament and be signed into law by the president. Hospital fees were scrapped as of the start of this year by a ruling of the Constitutional Court which upheld a complaint that they were unconstitutional in view of the fact that patients are already paying health insurance.
Police investigating the Czech fugitive Radovan Krejčíř have brought new conspiracy to murder charges against him, linking him to a plan to kill a top crime intelligence officer and a private investigator. Krejčíř had been suspected of involvement in the plans but was not among those charged until the police found evidence that he personally ordered the contract killings. New witnesses have also stepped forward who are willing to give testimony. Krejčíř is currently fighting a number of cases against him in courts across Gauteng. He and three others face charges of kidnapping, assault and attempted murder.
The Finance Ministry has ended cooperation with 13 lawyers’ offices which provided the ministry with legal advice and outsourcing services. The ministry said it would use its own lawyers for this purpose, saving an estimated 4.3 million crowns. Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has made it clear he will not tolerate millions of crowns being spent on outsourcing services for tasks that should be handled by the ministry’s own staff. He has moreover ordered an internal reorganization that should further cut administrative costs.
The modernization of the D1 highway is entering a critical phase on Monday when road workers are expected to gradually close off large sections of the highway channeling traffic into two lanes in each direction. The speed limit along those stretches has been reduced to 80 kms per hour and drivers have been warned to expect pile-ups. The left lane in each direction is moreover only 2.5 meters wide and is not intended for larger vehicles. The situation is expected to worsen next weekend when half of the highway will be closed for repair-work, significantly slowing down the flow of traffic between Prague and Brno.
Overall confidence in the Czech economy grew in March, according to the Czech Statistics Office. Compared to the previous month, the confidence indicator rose by 1.4 points to 6.9 points in March. Entrepreneurs’ confidence in the economy increased by 0.9 points to 10 points while consumers’ confidence index grew from -9 points in February to -5.5 points recorded this month. A survey among consumers also found they are less concerned about possible economic slowdown and their own financial situation; they also showed less concern about rising unemployment.
Finance Minister Andrej Babiš wants Czech state-controlled owned energy firm ČEZ to pay all of last year’s profit to its shareholders, the daily Hospodářské noviny reported on Monday. ČEZ posted a net profit of 35.2 billion crowns in 2013. The Czech state, which owns a near 70-percent stake in the firm, would receive around 25 billion crowns, some 10 billion more than the year before. In recent years, ČEZ paid out between 40 and 45 percent of its profits in dividends to shareholders. Mr. Babiš’ plan is to be discussed by coalition parties; a spokesman for the company said the decision was up to shareholders.
An inter-ministerial team will draft up measures to tackle the record high Czech unemployment levels, the minister of labour and social affairs, Michaela Marksová-Tominová told the news agency ČTK on Sunday. The team will include experts from the ministries of labour and social affairs, education and industry and trade, according to the minister who presented the outlines of her plan to President Miloš Zeman at the weekend. With nearly 630,000 jobless people, the unemployment levels reached a record high in January.
Former high-ranking official of the totalitarian Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, Miroslav Štěpán, died on Sunday at the age of 68, the news website novinky.cz reported. Mr Štěpán, who served as chair of the party’s Prague organization and member of its central committee in the late 1980s, rose to national notoriety as a vehement opponent of the Velvet Revolution of 1989. He was arrested shortly after the collapse of the regime, and served two and half years in prison for his role in suppressing anti-communist protests. Miroslav Štěpán was one of few Communist officials to have been sentenced after 1989; he never relinquished his ideology, and blamed Soviet leaders for abandoning their comrades in Prague.
Czech painter and illustrator Jaroslav Šerých died in Prague on Sunday, his wife said. He was 86. A graduate of Prague’s Academy of Fine Arts, Šerých specialized in graphic art and illustration. His work is represented in some 30 galleries in the Czech Republic and abroad, the news agency ČTK wrote. He illustrated over 70 books including poetry collections by Vladimír Holan, Jiří Orten and Zdeněk Rotrekl. In 2008, Jaroslav Šerých was awarded the Czech Republic’s Medal of Merit.
If asked, the Czech Republic is ready to deploy its military aircraft in protection of countries close to Ukraine, Defence Minister Martin Stropnický said. Speaking on Czech TV on Sunday, Mr Stropnický said no such petition had arrived; however, if need be, Czech fighter jets could be deployed in Romania or other countries in the region. The defence minister also said the Czech Army was most likely not going to take party in any massive NATO exercise in response to Russia’s military activities in Ukraine.