Prime Minister Petr Nečas said on Friday the government had agreed on 90 percent of the planned pension reform and would iron out final details by early March. Speaking to journalists he stressed it would still be necessary to discuss whether the planned pension system showed enough solidarity in relation to families with children. But he called the Czech social system the most pro-family in Europe, underlining welfare payments and long parental leave. Next Wednesday, the cabinet will discuss only draft legislation reacting to last year’s Constitutional Court verdict under which the pension calculation system must be changed in view of the excessively low pensions for high-income earners at present. The new legislation is to provide for parametric changes to the present pension system, he said.
The prime minister pointed out that the date of the introduction of a single VAT rate of 20 percent, agreed on Thursday, should be linked to the introduction of a second pillar in pension reform which brings private pension funds into play, allowing those younger than 35 allowed to divert up to 3.0 percent of social insurance payments into private funds.
Czech firms will benefit from the moving of the Galileo Supervisory Authority (GSA) headquarters to Prague, the authority’s Italian head Carlo des Dorides told journalists in the capital on Friday. Czech firms will be able to take part in the development of signal receivers or applications for the Global Navigation Satellite System. The Transport Minister Vít Bárta stressed that the GSA transfer to the Czech Republic could be a major advantage in maintaining competitiveness, calling the space programme, like nanotechnology, promising areas. Plans for relocating some 50 GSA staff from Brussels to Prague should be ready in around three months. The Czech transport minister stressed that he expected the signing of a host agreement at this time. The exact date of the GSA headquarters transfer to Prague has not been specified yet.
Major problems with smog continue in the eastern city of Ostrava, where an air pollution warning affected Thursday has been expanded to surrounding areas. All meteorological stations in the area registered the air dust concentration at two times the permissible limit. Factories must restrict their production and public transport in the city of Ostrava has been made free or charge so as to cut down on automobile traffic. People with respiratory or cardiovascular problems as well as children have been advised to limit outdoor and sports activities.
Following the signing of a joint memorandum between the health minister and the head of the Czech Doctors´ Union on Thursday, hospital doctors at the regional facility in Česká Lípa, Liberec rescinded on their threat to quit. So far, 13 have done so, including five maternity ward specialists. Other hospitals have not announced any numbers yet regarding the withdrawal of resignations but are expected to do so in the coming days, after the looming healthcare crisis was averted this week. Some 3,800 hospital doctors were to quit on March 1, unless the government agreed to raise wages significantly. In the Liberec region around 116 out of 800 local doctors took part in the organised protest.
In related news, Prague’s Royal Vinohrady Teaching Hospital has reportedly refused to take back one of the main organisers of the doctors’ protest, Martin Engel, on the grounds another person had been given his post. The spokeswoman for the hospital Jana Jelínková confirmed the news. She said it was not possible for all personnel who had threatened to quit to be given back their job. Under the circumstances, hospital doctors who quit the facility have again threatened they will not return, out of solidarity. The head of the Royal Vinohrady Teaching Hospital, Marek Zeman, stressed that the facility was ready to take almost all doctors back but reiterated that it was simply not possible in all cases.
Police officers from the country’s anti-organised crime unit have arrested three men suspected of the contract killing of a 30-year-old Ukrainian businessman in Litomeřice, North Bohemia, in 2003. The unit’s spokesman Pavel Hanták said on Friday that all three would be held in custody awaiting trial. Two of the suspects, he said, had ties to the Ukrainian underworld operating on Czech territory. Of the three, one is a former Ukrainian national and a Czech citizen. In the murder, the victim was repeatedly shot with an automatic weapon and police expressed little doubt it was conducted by professional killers; if found guilty, the suspects could face extraordinary prison sentences.
Black coal imports in the Czech Republic have been on gradual increase in recent years, last year growing by one quarter to 5.6 billion crowns, according to data from the Czech Statistical Office. The main importer was Poland (around 4 billion crowns), followed by Russia (992 million). Except for a drop in 2009, black coal imports to the Czech Republic have grown steadily. According to experts, coal imports are important for the functioning of the Czech market and price formation. They are not expected, however, to dominate over domestic production in the future, experts say.
Regarding brown coal, domestic mining companies expect a considerable fall in output in the coming years, mainly due to the mining limits. Coal prices for heating plants and other customers are therefore expected to go up.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych has been knocked out of the Open 13 tournament in Marseille, France, losing in the quarterfinal on Friday to Croatian player Marin Cilic. It was the third time the two players have faced each other and Berdych’s first loss. The number 2 seed in the tournament was defeated by a score of 3:6, 4:6. It is the third time in a row the 25-year-old Czech player lost in an ATP quarterfinal. Next week he will play in Dubai, the week after in Ostrava, in the east of the Czech Republic, where the Czechs kick off their campaign in this year’s David Cup by facing Kazakhstan.
Czech football club Sparta Prague and Liverpool fought to a lacklustre 0:0 draw in the capital on Thursday evening in the first leg of their Europa League match-up. Both sides had several chances, with Sparta eventually dominating in the first half on shots. But neither side was able to score. In the second half, Sparta appeared strong in the final minutes as first Matějovský and then Kweuke went close, but Liverpool were able to hold on for the draw. The teams face each other again at Anfield next Thursday.
Czech hockey forward Aleš Hemský scored twice for Edmonton on Thursday in the Oilers’ match up against the Montreal Canadiens. The players scored the opening goal of the game on a wrist shot and also scored the game’s last, an empty net goal with less than a minute remaining. The Habs managed only one goal on the night, with Roman Hamrlík earning an assist. The final score was 4:1.
Conditions over the coming days are expected to be cloudy with a chance of snow and rain and daytime temperatures hovering around the freezing point.