With less than a week before the referendum on EU membership is held in the Czech Republic, activists used the week-end to make a number of last-minute attempts at convincing Czechs to go to the polls. While pro-EU gatherings, attracted numerous passers-by, only a small group of people held protests against EU membership in Prague on Saturday and a similar event planned for Sunday in the town of Havlickuv Brod was only attended by two protesters with information leaflets and a group of journalists.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said on Sunday that it was not certain whether the cabinet would be dissolved if Czechs vote "no" in the referendum. Speaking in a TV discussion programme on the commercial station Nova, Mr Spidla said his cabinet would first have to evaluate the consequences of a "no" vote. The leader of the opposition Civic Democrats, Mirek Topolanek, said in the same programme that a government call for a vote of confidence in Parliament would be appropriate in such a situation. Mr Spidla also agreed to a propsal from the Civic Democrats in which Czechs should approve the European Union constitutional treaty in a referendum if they say "yes" to EU membership.
The Czech Republic goes to the polls on Friday in a two-day referendum on joining the European Union. Unlike in neighbouring Poland or Slovakia, the result will be binding. Should Czechs say "no" to EU membership, the country will have to wait two years before a new referendum can be held.
On Monday, university professors will go on strike in the town of Olomouc in northern Moravia for the first time since the fall of the Communist regime. Teachers at Palacky University's Philosophical Faculty will stop work for one hour in protest at what they call an "unsystematic approach to the education system's development". Numerous state universities are in debt, totalling some fifteen billion Czech crowns. The lack of money in the education sector has triggered numerous protests in the past few years. Since 1989, the number of students in universities has doubled while the money allocated out of the state budget has not increased accordingly.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has called a meeting with Health Minister Marie Souckova, to take place on Monday, in order to discuss the financial situation in the health sector. On Friday, the board of directors of the national health insurance company, Vseobecna Zdravotni Pojistovna, which covers some seventy percent of Czechs, said hospitals around the country will have to pay back money owed, totalling 836 million Czech crowns. This radical step is expected to leave the hospitals affected in serious financial trouble. In most cases, insurance coverage will not be paid for the next two months and hospitals will have to cut staff bonuses and hold off payments to suppliers.
Czech politicians should express their clear regret over the Benes decrees, Otto von Habsburg, the oldest son of the last Austrian emperor and former European Parliament member, said on Sunday. Speaking at the 54th Sudeten German meeting, which took place in Augsburg this weekend, he objected to the couple of paragraphs in the decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion of ethnic Germans and Hungarians from Czechoslovakia after World War II. However, Mr von Habsburg rejected calls to keep the Czech Republic from becoming an EU member, adding that he had always promoted EU enlargement during the 20-years he was an EP member. "I am interested in Czechs playing a role in the European Union and if possible, a positive one," he said.
Monday has been forecast with overcast skies and rain, in some places thunderstorms, throughout most of the day. Day-time temperatures will range from 24 to 29 degrees Celsius.
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