Daily news summary
Government to raise payments to state insurers to plug health funding gap
The governing parties have agreed to raise more money for the healthcare system by raising payments to state health insurers. The fees should increase from the start of July and bring some CZK 2.1 million. That sum would compensate for a fall-off in health care funding caused by the centre-left government’s abolishment of fees for hospital stays. Some six million people will see their contribution to the state insurers increase from CZK 787 to CZK 845 a month. In the run-up to Wednesday’s decision the coalition parties had expressed disagreement on the matter.
Office of Government faces large fine over EU presidency contract
The tax authorities have fined the Office of the Government more than half a billion crowns for paying an excessively high sum to a company for audiovisual services during the Czech presidency of the EU in 2009, Právo reported on Wednesday. The Office of the Government is considering appealing, the newspaper said. An official told Czech Television the fine could prove fatal to the institution, as it was many times its annual budget. Investigators said the company ProMoPro had received over CZK 380 million more than it should have for the provision of audiovisual services. No tender was held for the contract. Twelve people have been charged in connection with the matter.
Supreme court sets acceptable amounts for possession of illicit drugs
The Supreme Court has set the amounts of illicit drugs that the police and judiciary should regard as “more than a small amount”. The new figures are stricter than the previous ones in the case of marijuana, with possession of 10 grammes (down from 15) considered a criminal offence. Similarly possessing 1.5 grammes (down from 2) of meta-amphetamines is illegal. However, the amounts are for orientation and other factors also apply, a court spokesperson said. Upper limits for possession were previously set by a government edict, but that was struck down by the Constitutional Court.
Top EU officials staying away from Prague Eastern Partnership conference
The head of the European Commission, Jose Barroso, and the president of the European Union, Herman Van Rompuy, have turned down invitations to attend an EU Eastern Partnership conference at Prague Castle on April 24 and 25, Lidové noviny reported on Wednesday. The EU’s foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, is also not coming, the newspaper said. Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said the senior EU officials were currently preoccupied by the Ukraine crisis. Mr. Van Rompuy is due in Prague on April 30, the eve of the 10th anniversary of Czech accession to the EU.
Zeman describes Orban as “genuine leader” in message of congratulations
The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, says the recently reelected Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, is a genuine leader, a type lacking in contemporary politics. Mr. Zeman made the comment in a message of congratulations to Mr. Orban after his Fidesz party came first in elections at the weekend. Mr. Zeman wrote that the strength of support regularly won by the party showed that Hungarians also regarded Mr. Orban as a genuine leader.
Survey: Babiš most trusted politician
Finance minister and ANO chief Andrej Babiš is the country’s most trustworthy politician, suggests an opinion poll conducted by the CVVM agency at the start of last month. Some 53 percent of respondents said they trusted Mr. Babiš, who is also a billionaire businessman. He was followed in the survey by his ANO colleague Martin Stropnický, who is minister of defence. Recent opinion polls have put ANO ahead of the Social Democrats, who came first in elections in October.
Czech annual inflation sticks at 0.2 in March
The annual rate of Czech consumer price inflation stayed at 0.2 percent in March, unchanged from its rate in February, the Czech Statistics Office announced on Wednesday. Price rises were slightly lower than most economic analysts expected. The biggest factors in pushing up prices were the cost of food and non-alcoholic drinks. Ongoing cuts in the price of electricity and natural gas forced through by the national energy regulator last year have helped to subdue inflationary pressure. The latest figures will again tend to vindicate the Czech National Bank’s assertion that its weak crown policy is not pushing up prices for consumers.
Protectorate guide wins top Magnesia literary prize
A near 800 page book about Prague under the Nazi Protectorate was awarded the book of the year prize at the annual Magnesia Litera awards on Tuesday night. Author Jiří Padevět’s Průvodce protectorátní Prahou (Guide to Protectorate Prague) lists key localities where the Nazi authorities, collaborators, and opponents were located as well as details of how and where key incidents, such as the assassination of Reinhardt Heydrich and Prague uprising at the end of the war, took place. Many of the photographs used in the book were being made public for the first time.
Contemporary artists pay tribute to Kryl at Prague concert
A tribute concert to the late Czech protest singer Karel Kryl was held at the Grand Hall of Prague’s Lucerna on Tuesday night. Artists such as Tomáš Klus, Aneta Langerová, Markéta Irglová and Michal Hrůza performed songs written by Kryl, who was born 70 years ago this Saturday. After the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia the anti-communist musician emigrated to West Germany, from where he broadcast to his compatriots on Radio Free Europe. He died in 1994 at the age of 49.
Kvitová to lead Czechs in Fed Cup semi-final tie with Italy
World number six Petra Kvitová will lead the Czech women’s tennis team in a Fed Cup semi-finals tie with defending champions Italy in Ostrava next weekend. Kvitová had missed the last round due to illness. The other members of the team are Lucie Šafářová, Klára Koukalová and doubles specialist Andrea Hlaváčková. If the Czechs get past the Italians it will be their third appearance in the final in four years.