Vol 1, No 3, 12 July 1999
C E N T R A L E U R O P E A N N E W S:
Last Week in the Czech Republic
Economists expect record highs in the unemployment figures for June of this year - namely 8.5%.
Parliament ratified the European Social Charter, which outlines the basic standards of social security for EU countries. The majority of ODS MPs opposed the charter, claiming it had a partially socialist character.
According to the expert medical opinion of Minister of Health Ivan David, as published on the third page of the daily Mlada fronta Dnes this week, mistresses and young wives can have a favourable influence on the self-confidence of politicians. But alas only at the beginning of the relationship - from which we are probably supposed to infer that it's best to keep a revolving-door policy.
This expert analysis was not enough for the Federation of Private Physicians and Medical Entrepreneurs, however, who called for David's dismissal in connection with the death of two patients who were not transferred in time to the appropriate specialist departments in another hospital and died in the Mountain Hospital Krkonose in Vrchlabi. When the hospital refused to take the patients, the Vrchlabi hospital faxed a request to the Ministry asking for help to transfer the patients but according to the Ministry's press secretary a fax was not considered to be an official document and the request was not heeded. Minister David will form a regional investigative commission to look into the matter.
The Czech producers of everybody's favourite alcoholic cough syrup - Carlsbad Becherovka bought out the German manufacturer of the herb liqueur from the French concern Pernod Ricard and will transfer production to Carlsbad at the end of July.
Speaking of the sleepy spa town. The 1999 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival wound up this week with a premier of Russian director Nikita Michalkov's new film, which was attended by President Havel and wife.
The Social Democrats (CSSD) and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) interchanged their respective representatives on the commission drafting a new electoral law after the commission was unable to come to any conclusions. Under the so-called opposition agreement between CSSD and ODS, the two parties must draft a joint proposal for constitutional reform which includes reform of the electoral system.
The bill for a new publication law passed in Parliament on its first reading and will now be examined by the appropriate parliamentary committees. The proposed law is being accused of restricting freedom of the press due to a stipulation which will obligate newspapers to print replies to any published reports concerning a person's respectability, reputation or private life. See related story in this week's CER.
Parliament passed a bill on a new citizenship law, which - if it passes in the Senate -will enable former Czech citizens living abroad to regain their Czech citizenship. The law will also affect the large number of Roma living on Czech territory who were left stateless when they did not apply for Czech citizenship after the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993 and hence could not vote, obtain a passport or social security or work without a work permit.
Employees of Czech Television and other media sent a letter to Premier Milos Zeman asking him to uphold "appropriate relations" with them. The letter came in reaction to the bevy of kind words the Premier has recently had for members of the Czech press. Zeman referred to journalists as manure, scum, amateurs and graduates of "special" schools. See related story in this week's CER.
According to a quick survey conducted by the polling agency STEM, 36% of the population believe that the so-called opposition agreement which exists between the two largest political parties- CSSD and ODS - has benefited the Czech Republic, 26% believe it is justified today and 46% that it has no more meaning. Over 63% believes that the agreement is intended to lead to the liquidation of smaller parties.
According to the press department of the Prison Office, Czech prisons are on average overfilled by 20%. There are approximately one thousand more people serving prison sentences than at the end of last year.
The government will debate the recently released report on the approach of government organs toward prosecuting racially motivated violent crimes. The report found that last year, 133 racially motivated crimes were committed, this represents a drop of 26 from last year but according to the report the crimes are of a more violent nature and there has also been a marked increase in membership of extremist groups.
Railway workers threatened to strike if they are not paid out the wages which have been held back in May and June. According to the workers, the key decision will come Monday 12 July when the banks decide on the financing methods of the railways for the latter half of the year.
During his first foreign visit as head of state, the recently elected President of Slovakia, Rudolf Schuster, proposed a joint plan of action on integration of the Romani community to his Czech counterpart, President Vaclav Havel. Schuster's concern came on the heels of new Visa restrictions imposed on Slovakia by Finland following an recent exodus of Romani citizens from Slovakia to Finland.
The Czech government approved the basic concept of integration of foreigners on Czech territory. The intention is to create conditions for better relations between ethnic communities living in the country, ensure the rights of immigrants and restrict illegal migration. The concept is based on certain principles, standards and recommendations of the European Commission, the EU and other international agreements which the government has signed. It revolves around 15 main points which the Interior Ministry will carry out and for which, according to Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich, it will need 4 million crowns.
No new information has been released in the case of massive cheating at the Law Faculty in Prague. Last week, entrance exams with answers which were allegedly being sold to Law School applicants were dropped off anonymously at several media offices in Prague as the entrance exam was taking place. See related story in last week's CER.
Kazi Stastna, 11 July 1999
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