Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, the chairmen of both houses of parliament, the leaders of political parties in parliament, and the heads of parliamentary clubs met on Friday to discuss the increasing problem of restitution claims involving the Benes decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion and confiscation of property of some 2.5 million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia in 1945 and 1946. They also agreed to prepare a bill through which a locality that does not have enough funds for restitution cases could, in the future, be represented by the office dealing with property claims on behalf of the state. Although Prime Minister Spidla believes that the current law is efficient and problems arise with misinterpretation, the senior politicians decided to entrust lawyers with the examination of the law and the constitution. But according to the Deputy-Chairman of the Czech Supreme Court, Pavel Kucera, judges cannot be ordered to make concrete decisions on restitution cases concerning the Benes decrees. The law only allows the Supreme Court to suggest what steps judges should follow during the decision-making process.
The Czech Republic should become the leader among the candidate countries for EU membership in the area of medicine, Health Minister Marie Souckova told journalists on Friday. It is in a position to provide the best medical service by allowing doctors from the other future EU member states be trained in Czech teaching hospitals, and giving patients from the same countries a chance to get treated under better conditions. Mrs Souckova said that the Czech Republic is viewed positively in terms of its medical system. There is no reason, she added, why her proposal should not be accepted at the summit to be held in Prague this September, at which she will meet with the health ministers of all candidate countries as well as Greece, Italy, Austria, and Germany.
The Ministry of Culture has been criticised by the Chairman of the Czech Bishops' Conference, Jan Graubner, who says it is responsible for the Catholic Church not being able to work efficiently. Mr Graubner said on Friday that the Catholic Charity, for example, failed to get the documents necessary to function despite a positive Constitutional Court verdict. He suggested affairs involving the church should no longer be under the responsibility of Culture Minister Pavel Dostal but rather be transferred to Deputy Prime Minister Petr Mares. Mr Graubner was speaking at a two-day Czech Bishops' Conference meeting in Velehrad, Moravia, discussing the relations between the state and the church.
The state-controlled Czech power utility CEZ and its German rival E.ON AG said on Friday they completed a share-swap that splits the 4 billion US dollar Czech power market. "CEZ and E.ON signed today a series of transactions whose result will be a mutual exchange of minority stakes in Czech energy companies," CEZ said in a statement. It said there would be an additional unspecified cash payment but gave no further details. The deal, which must be cleared by the cartel authorities, confirms E.ON a second place on the liberalised Czech market, well behind dominating CEZ.
Owners of the largest Czech crude oil refinery Ceska Rafinerska agreed to a reorganisation plan, a shareholder said on Friday, ending a lengthy dispute that pitted a state-run chemicals firm against big foreign oil companies. The deal, effective from August 1, will transform the refinery into a processing unit, which its majority owner and chief customer, state-controlled chemicals group Unipetrol, hopes will reduce purchasing costs. Unipetrol lacks management control in Rafinerska, which processes eight million tonnes of crude oil a year, despite its majority stake. ENI unit Agip, Royal Dutch/Shell and ConocoPhilips hold equal shares of the remainder of Rafinerska, as well as the authority to set prices charged to Unipetrol.
The opposition Communist Party currently enjoys more public support than the senior ruling coalition Social Democratic Party, according to a public opinion poll. The results of the poll conducted by the TNS Factum agency suggest that, if parliamentary elections were held at the end of last June, the Communists would receive 21.7% of votes and the Social Democrats 20.4%. The opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats would be the clear winners with 32.7%.
The Czech international football player Tomas Rosicky ended speculation about a possible move abroad on Friday when he extended his contract at the German Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund until 2008. "I know the team will be very successful in the coming years," the 22-year-old mid-fielder said. Rosicky joined Borussia Dortmund in January 2001 from Sparta Prague for more than 2 million Euros on a contract until 2006. He was linked with Spain but Dortmund officials refused to let him go.
Saturday has been forecast with partially cloudy skies and scattered showers throughout the country. Temperatures will reach a maximum of 21 degrees Celsius.
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