Minister of Finance Eduard Janota said on Wednesday that he might consider resigning should all the changes to the 2010 state budget that were suggested in the lower house’s annual session be approved. He added that if all the changes went through, none of the original money saving measures would remain untouched. The Czech lower house was holding a second session to discuss the distribution of next year’s state budget on Wednesday and will vote on the budget in a week. The Social Democrats, which suggested changes in budget distribution that would amount to 12 billion Czech crowns, and the Communist Party oppose cuts of the budget for social services, and both are demanding a higher budget for the Ministry of Agriculture.
In related news, European ministers of finance warned the Czech Republic that if it didn’t lower its state budget deficit to less than three percent of the Gross Domestic Product by 2013, it could face serious sanctions.
Czech President Václav Klaus and his Greek counterpart Karolos Papulias agreed on Wednesday that Turkey should be one of the Balkan states to be allowed to join the European Union, provided that it fulfills all conditions imposed by the EU. Mr. Papulias is visiting Prague to discuss Czech-Greek trade relations, EU issues and the upcoming climate summit in Copenhagen. Mr. Klaus made no secret of the fact that he disagrees with the Greek president on climate issues and stated that the best possible outcome of the summit would be no agreement at all. Mr. Papulias, who is traveling with an entourage of Greek entrepreneurs, is to meet Prime Minister Jan Fischer and will stay in the Czech Republic until Friday.
Minister of Health Dana Jurásková told journalists on Wednesday that after receiving a second batch of swine flu vaccines, the government has extended the group of vaccination recipients to include children between 10 and 17 diagnosed with serious and chronic diseases. Some 72,000 doses have just been delivered to the Czech Republic and will be distributed by the end of the week. Minister Jurásková added that it was up to each person to decide whether they wanted the vaccine; she admitted that across Europe even patients who qualify sometimes refuse to get the vaccination. The risk of complications is much higher in those with chronic diseases and a weakened immune system, and the vaccination is the only preventive measure for those patients, she said.
Another three victims of swine flu have taken the official number of deaths in the Czech Republic related to the H1N1 virus to 14. The latest victim of the disease was a 72-year-old man who died in the Karlovy Vary hospital on Tuesday night. A day before, a 57 year-old man succumbed to the disease in Cheb. The first death of swine flu in the Czech Republic occurred on October 22, also in the Karlovy Vary hospital.
At a ceremony in Prague on Tuesday night, doctors who treated a child who suffered serious injuries in a racist arson attack were the first recipients of an award honouring Czechs who actively try to improve the situation of Roma in Czech society. The doctors from the children’s department at the intensive care unit of Ostrava hospital received the Gypsy Spirit prize for their care of Natálka, who suffered burns on 80-percent of her body during a fire-bomb attack on her family’s home in Vítkov, north Moravia. The Gypsy Spirit award was created by Minister for Human Rights Michael Kocáb. Former president Václav Havel was amongst the members of the award committee.
After eight months of recovery and numerous operations, Natálka was released from the hospital on Wednesday and is moving into the new home of her parents. She will need to be brought to hospital twice a week as an out patient, her mother Anna Siváková said on Tuesday. Four far-right extremists have been charged in connection with the fire-bomb attack on the family’s home in April.
Minister of Defense Martin Barták said on Wednesday that he may send an additional hundred soldiers to the Czech mission in Afghanistan. Other nations, including the United States, have already pledged to send additional forces. Mr. Barták said he wanted to discuss the matter with all political parties as soon as possible, especially with the Social Democrats, who oppose sending additional forces to Afghanistan. The Czech army’s reconstruction team and the 601st special forces unit are currently stationed in the Logar province.
On Wednesday, over 3500 farmers gathered in Prague for a demonstration. The farmers marched from Prague’s Hradčanské námestí to the parliament, where the annual budget negotiations are in progress. There, the farmers burst through a barricade the police had built and voiced their demands through a megaphone. The demonstrators then handed over their declaration to Bohuslav Sobotka, the head of the parliament’s budget committee. In the declaration, farmers are demanding an increase of the budget for agriculture by 1.5 billion crowns. The vice-president of the Agrarian Chamber, Jindřich Šnejdrla, said that incomes of Czech farmers would sink to the lowest level in history next year and that in addition, prices of agricultural products were sinking because of the financial crisis, putting farmers in a precarious position.
The head of the Civic Democrats Mirek Topolánek harshly criticized the work of the Social Democrats in the regions that they have governed in the last year. Mr. Topolánek told journalists that the Social Democrats had taken the nation a step back in the last year. He judged the presence of representatives of the Communist Party in regional governments as alarming, and added that the regions were breaking the law by paying hospital fees that are meant to be paid by patients. The Civic Democrats were governing in 12 of the country’s regions before last year’s elections. After suffering a drubbing at the polls, they lost power in every one of them.
The 27-year-old actor Krýštof Hádek will be one of ten young European actors to receive the title of “Shooting Star” at the Berlin film festival in February. The organization European Film Promotion announced on their website on Wednesday that they had chosen Hádek for his mature selection of roles and wide repertory. Other actors that were chosen include the Norwegian actor Baasmo Christiansen and the Irish actor Robert Sheehan.
It should be cloudy with some sun over the next few days with highs of up to 7 degrees Celsius.