The Czech Doctors’ Trade Union has called on members not to withdraw their resignations and show solidarity with union leader Martin Engel. A computerised mail was sent to doctors on Friday night with the request, according to a union member. Prague’s Royal Vinohrady Teaching Hospital has confirmed that it has refused to take back Mr. Engel on the grounds another person had been given his post. Prague city authorities scheduled an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss the situation saying that preparations would have to be made if hospital doctors do not go back to work. The refusal to rehire one of the leaders of the doctors’ protests for better conditions is threatening to scupper a deal under which the government has offered more pay if around a quarter of the country’s hospital doctors withdraw their threat to quit at the start of March. Shadow health minister for the opposition Social Democrats, David Rath, called for the health minister to intervene immediately and branded the hospital’s move as an attempt by the main government part, the Civic Democrats, to torpedo the deal with doctors.
Around 1,000 union leaders met in Prague on Saturday to weigh up and decide their next steps in reaction to reforms pushed through by the centre-right coalition government. Top of their agenda was the government’s proposal to sweep in a single rate of Value Added Tax at 20 percent to pay for pension reform. Union leaders have already denounced the step saying that it will mean that main burden of paying for the change will fall on the poor. Union leaders also debated a new labour code, health and wider tax reforms. Union leaders were also scheduled to return to the issue of public sector pay cuts which already sparked a one-day strike in December.
Czech tourists have begun to return to Egypt in the wake of the demonstrations that toppled the president. The first two aircraft carrying Czech tourists left Prague on Saturday morning. The charter flights were operated by ČSA and Travel Service with the destination the Red Sea resort of Hurghada. ČSA said its flight was almost filled to capacity in spite of a still standing warning from the Foreign Ministry not to visit. A further three flights to Egypt were due to follow on Sunday. Flights from the Czech Republic to Egypt were interrupted for two weeks during the disturbances there.
Air pollution limits have been exceeded in northern Bohemia and Moravia-Silesia on Saturday. Limits of air-borne dust were twice the recommended limit around the town of Most, north Bohemia. In Moravia-Silesia, limits were exceeded at all measuring stations across the region. The worst situation was at Český Tešín and Třinec where dust particles were almost four times the limit. Some polluting industries have already stopped worked with free public transport offered in the city of Ostrava.
European Union President Herman Van Rompuy will visit the Czech Republic on February 23. He is due to meet with Prime Minister Petr Nečas and also meet President Václav Klaus. Van Rompuy visited Prague last year to introduce himself to Czech politicians after his election in late 2009. Klaus is known for his Euro-sceptical opinions and he was one of the staunchest opponents of the Lisbon treaty that introduces the post of a long-term and full-time president of the European Council. After their meeting last year, Klaus said their opinions on the EU’s functioning completely differed. The EU is now feverishly discussing a German-French proposal for a competitiveness pact or a mechanism for a euro zone rescue package destined for the euro zone countries that may run into economic problems.
Czech state controlled power giant ČEZ says that it sounding out interest in its stake in Turkish electricity producer Akenerji. The Czech company has a 37.4 percent stake in one of Turkey’s biggest privately held electricity companies, the same stake as its joint venture partner, local firm Akkok Group. A ČEZ spokesman said no decision about a sale had been taken. ČEZ, which is around 70 percent owned by the state, has pared its interest in foreign assets to concentrate on domestic power projects.
Czech speed skater Martina Sábliková has set a new world record for 5,000 metres. She improved on her almost four-year-old existing record by nearly three seconds cutting the new record to 6:42,66. The two times gold medal winner at the Vancouver Winter Olympics made it clear that she was going for the record at the Salt Lake City circuit in the US, where she set the previous record in 2007. The 23-year-old got off to a flying start and said later that she could not believe the initial times given to her by her trainer. She said tiredness set in later but she said she was able to keep on track thanks to her technique. The 5,000 metres distance is the longest for women speed skaters.
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.
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.
Skier Šárka Záhrobská failed on Saturday to win a fourth Alpine World Cup Skiing Championship slalom medal in a row. At the Garmisch-Partenkirchen event, Germany, she finished 12th. Austrian Marlies Schild took the gold medal. Záhrobská was already 15th after the first round with an almost three second gap to make up. She improved in the second round but was unable to make up the gulf. She won a silver medal at the event in Val d'Isére in 2009. The latest race rounds up a poor start to the season for the Czech skier.
Conditions over the coming days are expected to be overcast with a chance of snow and rain. Daytime temperatures will hover around the freezing point.