Former White House advisor Norman Eisen took office on Friday as the US ambassador to the Czech Republic, presenting his credentials to Czech President Václav Klaus. The position has been vacant for two years following the departure of Ambassador Eisen’s predecessor Richard Graber.
Mr Eisen was appointed by US President Obama directly and can therefore only serve for one year, unless his term of office is prolonged by the Senate. After leaving Prague Castle the new US ambassador held his first working meeting with Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.
Health Minister Leoš Heger on Friday offered doctors an additional 2 billion crowns for salary hikes this year if they withdraw their resignations and desist from further destabilizing protest actions. The extra money is to be acquired by scrapping 10 000 hospital beds which the minister says are not essentially needed. The head of the medical chamber Milan Kubek and the head of doctors trade unions Martin Engel have welcomed the offer but said they want guarantees that the money will be used as stated and that all doctors who have handed in their notice will be allowed to return. Some 3 800 doctors have handed in their notice over low salaries, with the resignations due to take effect on March 1st.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas said on Friday that he fully backed the health minister’s offer of an additional 2 billion crowns but promised no guarantees. He said that in his view the extra money should not only be used to raise salaries and stressed that it was up to individual hospital directors who they were prepared to take back on board. Some hospitals have made it clear they will consider carefully who they want to reemploy and will use the resignations to let go unwanted staff members.
Czech MEP Jan Zahradil of the Civic Democrats has confirmed his intention to run for the post of chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament. Mr. Zahradil said that if elected he would try to attract more deputies to the group and improve its communication strategy. At present he is drumming up support for his candidacy. A new chairman is to be elected on March 8 to replace Michal Kaminski who is leaving the post in connection with his departure from the Polish Law and Justice Party.
Managers of debt-ridden lottery giant Sazka have started talks with creditors about the possibility of asking the court for a moratorium which would avert the threat of insolvency for three months, daily Hospodarske noviny said Friday. People on the management of the Czech Sports Association, which is Sazka's biggest shareholder, are allegedly beginning to accept the fact that an investor who would be willing to pour 2 to 3 billion crowns into the ailing company would become a shareholder. The sports association had thus far rejected such a possibility, wanting to keep an absolute majority in the company. In recent years the company generated a debt of around 10 billion crowns, mainly related to the 2004 construction of Prague’s O2 Arena.
The Office of the Government on Friday issued a statement in support of Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra as regards a questionable, multimillion-crown contract made by the Office of the Government during the country’s EU presidency in 2009. The government statement dismissed claims that the person responsible for signing the overpriced contract for audiovisual equipment with the private company Promopro was then deputy prime minister Vondra who was responsible for the government’s EU portfolio. Another government official, Jan Novák, was responsible for such commissions at the time, the statement said. The Finance Ministry has filed a criminal complaint regarding the deal which was assigned without a tender.
The international rating agency Standard & Poor´s has confirmed an A+ rating on the Czech insurer Česká pojištovna with a stable outlook. The Czech insurer has enjoyed the highest possible rating since 2009, based on its high profit margin and its strategic position in Generali PPF Holding group which operates in 13 Central and East European states.
Doctors report a heightened incidence of flu and viral diseases in several parts of the country. Central and western Bohemia, as well as the easternmost parts of the Czech Republic are reportedly nearing the threshold of an epidemic. Three primary schools have closed for a week as a result of illness and many hospitals are closed to visitors. Doctors say people who have contracted the flu are likely to have the swine flu –the N1H1 strain –which has been confirmed in two dozen patients. The flu has already killed two people this year and eight are in serious condition in hospital.
The number of people with HIV in the Czech Republic is reported to have tripled in the last 10 years. In 2010 doctors registered 1522 HIV positive cases and 321 people with developed AIDS. 169 people have died of AIDS in the Czech Republic. In 70 percent of cases the infection was transmitted as a result of unprotected sex within the gay community, the second most vulnerable group are drug users.
A thirteen-year-old girl was killed on the slopes of the Jeseniky mountains on Friday after veering off course and crashing into a tree. Despite wearing a helmet the young skier suffered serious head and chest injuries. Although the mountain rescue service was there within minutes and a helicopter arrived to airlift her to hospital an hour-long resuscitation effort failed. The mountain rescue service has warned skiers not to overestimate their abilities on the slopes.
The coming days are expected to be partly cloudy with more snow and day temperatures dropping to minus 4 degrees Celsius.