With the parties of the centre-right governing coalition deadlocked over personnel issues, the leadership of the junior party Public Affairs has announced it will shelve its decision on whether or not to leave the cabinet, conditioning the move on a new set of demands to be met by its coalition partners. The junior party, which has accused its partners in government of trying to marginalize its position in the wake of a corruption scandal, said on Tuesday that it would leave the cabinet at the end of the month if its personnel demands were not met and if the government failed to push its key reform bills through the lower house by that date.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas said he welcomed the chance to push ahead with reforms, but said his party’s position on the junior coalition party’s personnel demands remained unchanged. The prime minister has made it clear he will not be pushed into a cabinet reshuffle on the whim of the junior coalition party and considers the offer made – the post of deputy prime minister linked to an anti-corruption portfolio - to be perfectly adequate.
The lower house of Parliament is set to open a debate on the government’s key reforms on Tuesday. The bills are geared towards streamlining the country’s welfare and health care systems, introducing a single rate for parental benefits and changing welfare for disabled persons. MPs are also to debate a proposed hike in VAT that should pay for the overhaul of the country’s pension system and several other bills. The Nečas cabinet has said it will link its future to the said reform bills in a vote of confidence, but has not cleared up the technicalities of how and when it would be prepared to take such a step.
The opposition Social Democrats have said they will vote against the proposed changes in both houses of Parliament. Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka described them as ill-conceived, socially unjust and damaging to the country’s economy. He said the opposition Social Democrats had not been consulted about the reforms and would not support them.
The blood plasma technologies and production company Diag Human says it has filed more requests for seizure of Czech state property with courts in the US, UK and other EU member states. The company, which claims it is owed close to ten billion crowns by the Czech state for damaging its business interests, has had similar claims recognized by Austrian and French courts. A number of Czech art works were recently impounded by bailiffs in Vienna. The Czech side is trying to prove that the arbitration process is not closed.
The Czech Helsinki Committee has launched a campaign in aid of children who have one or both parents in prison. The head of the Invisible Children project Dana Vrabcová says that the Czech authorities are still following the policy that the less children see of a parent in jail the better. The Helsinki Committee has approached both the Justice Ministry and individual jailhouses with a request that children of jailed parents be allowed regular contact with them and get help in understanding the circumstances that led them there. Currently at least 20 thousand Czech children have one or both parents in jail.
The government should be faster and more flexible in reacting to the new synthetic drugs that periodically appear on the market, according to the head of the National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug addiction Viktor Mravčík. Mr. Mravčík told Czech public television he was concerned about the wide availability of new synthetic drugs which are sold in Czech shops as “souvenirs” not intended for consumption. Experts have warned that these drugs are particularly dangerous in that it is not clear what chemical substances they contain, in what quantity and how much of a health risk they present. Parliament last amended the respective law in April of this year adding 33 more addictive substances to the list of banned drugs. Stores selling them briefly closed before reopening with a different selection.
Doctors at Prague’s Bulovka hospital have announced they will be conducting free tests for tuberculosis among Prague’s homeless community. The tests are being paid for by Prague City Hall which wants to isolate sufferers and prevent the spread of the contagious disease. Although the Czech Republic has one of the lowest TB rates in the world, last year doctors registered 662 cases. The homeless are considered a high risk group. President Klaus recently signed an amendment to the law which will formally end the practice of vaccinating newborns against TB across the board.
Czech industrial output growth was the slowest in 16 months in April as manufacturing expansion weakened. Overall production increased an annual 4.7 percent, the weakest reading since December 2009, compared with a revised 9.2 percent growth rate in March, the Czech Statistics Office said on Tuesday. Czech industrial output is driving the country’s recovery from its worst economic recession since the fall of communism two decades ago, with exports including Skoda Auto AS cars and auto parts heading mainly to Germany and other EU member states. Economists cite the high price of oil and other commodities as a factor in the slowdown.
The police say they have retrieved the body of a 44-year-old German tourist who went missing at the weekend after taking a boat out on the Máchovo jezero lake. The man’s body was found floating in the middle of the lake and the police have ordered an autopsy to ascertain the cause of death.
The present heat wave should give way to a bout of cold and rainy weather on Thursday when day temps are expected to drop to around 20 degrees Celsius.