Former Prime Minister and ex-chairman of the Social Democrats Jiří
Paroubek announced on Friday that he is stepping down as chairman of his
party LEV 21. Mr Paroubek told the website Vaše Věc that he wanted to
devote more time to his family, and focus on business and publishing
activities, adding that his return to politics was unlikely.
Jiří Paroubek, who is now 62, headed the Social Democratic Party from 2006 to 2010 and served as Prime Minister between 2005 and 2006. After leaving the Social Democrats in 2011, he established his own left-oriented party LEV 21, which failed to win seats in the lower house in the past general election. Mr Paroubek currently works as economic advisor.
Prague is hosting an international conference on home births, a highly controversial topic in the Czech Republic. Although births at home are officially not allowed for safety reasons, hundreds of women are opting for home deliveries and increasing pressure on lawmakers to make this an option. In response to the pressure, an amendment to the law now allows women to give birth only with the help of a midwife, although the birth must still take place in a medical institution where doctors could take over in the event of an emergency. Advocates of home births are pushing for a complete liberalization of the law which would allow women to deliver in the comfort of their own home.
Ex-president Václav Havel has been honoured with a memorial bench in Oxford. The bench, located on the university campus, is designed to invite discussion and like others located in Georgetown, Dublin, Barcelona or Prague, it was designed by Mr. Havel’s close friend architect Bořek Šípek. The bench in Oxford's University Parks is the first and only one in the UK. Its unveiling was scheduled to coincide with the November events marking the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution that toppled communism.
Police specialists are launching an inspection of 18 munitions depots around the country this week. The inspections, which are expected to last for several weeks, are to ascertain the conditions in which vast amounts of munition are stored in these warehouses. The move comes in the wake of a devastating explosion at a munitions depot in Moravia, which pyrotechnics experts have not yet been able to bring fully under control. According to inside sources the amount of munitions in the said depot exceeded given security norms. Around 20 private firms store munitions in around 30 warehouses around the country. The Czech Army has seven more munitions depots of its own.
The Czech National Bank on Thursday revised its economic growth forecast for 2014 down to 2.5 from its previous July estimate of 2.9 percent. Next year’s growth which it previously estimated at 3.0 percent was also revised down to 2.5 percent. In 2016 the central bank predicts a growth of 2.8 percent. At a press briefing in Prague the bank’s governor, Miroslav Singer, confirmed that the forex interventions launched last year would not let up before 2016.
President Miloš Zeman on Thursday signed into law a bill abolishing regulatory health care fees as of January 1st, 2015. As of next year patients will not have to pay a 30-crown fee for a visit to the doctor and the same amount for a prescription. The 90-crown fee for emergency care will remain in place.
During talks with Palestinian leaders in Ramallah on Thursday Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek condemned the continuing acts of violence between Israelis and Palestinians and urged the two sides to resume their peace-talks on a two-state set up. Mr. Zaorálek said that acts of violence, similar to the one that killed one person and wounded three others in Jerusalem on Wednesday, only led to an escalation of tension. At the same time he said acts of humiliation on the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem only stirred up fresh violence. On a visit to the Aida Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem, the Czech foreign minister described it as a “ticking bomb”. The Czech Republic has not officially recognized the Palestinian state and maintains that a lasting solution to the conflict can only come through peace talks between the two sides.
A 39-year-old hunter who accidentally shot dead a man sleeping rough in a field has been sentenced to 3.5 years in prison and order to pay 6 million crowns in compensation to the man’s family. The hunter claims he thought was shooting at stag in the early hours of dawn. The Czech Hunters Association has appealed for greater discipline among its members, saying it is unacceptable to fire at a moving object in the foliage which the hunter cannot properly see.
The Czech Republic’s foreign trade balance showed a surplus of 19.3 billion crowns in September. Economists say the news is encouraging and proves that the slide in August of this year was a temporary problem caused by seasonal factors and the fact that the automobile producer Škoda, one of the main driving forces in foreign trade, was in the process of launching production of its new model Fabia.
TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzenberg said in an interview for the APA agency that he has no plans to resign as party leader following the party’s debacle in the recent local and Senate elections. Mr. Schwarzenberg said the party was paying the price for the austerity measures introduced while it was in government between 2010 and 2013. He likewise put TOP 09s poor showing in the elections down to a lackluster campaign.