News

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Health care fees do not contradict constitution, rules court

Health care fees introduced by the centre-right government do not contradict the Czech constitution, the Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday. However, a provision under which patients receive no health insurance payment for the first three days of an illness has been declared illegal. The opposition Social Democrats had taken the case, arguing that fees implemented in January were unconstitutional. Both the Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and Health Minister Tomáš Julínek testified during the court hearing. Reacting to Wednesday’s verdict, the latter said he regarded it as a mandate to continue with the reform process.

Czechs have to pay CZK 30 (almost USD 2) per visit to the doctor’s, and twice that amount per day spent in hospital, under health reforms introduced at the start of the year. They are one plank of a broader reform programme which also takes in the social welfare and taxation systems.

FBI blocks website of Czech neo-Nazi group

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has blocked a website run by a Czech neo-Nazi group, the newspaper Hospodařské noviny reported. A Czech police representative said the FBI had taken that step at the recommendation of police in the UK, who said the site run by the group Blood and Honour was a terrorist site. Blood and Honour is on a US list of terrorist organisations and has links to Britain’s Combat 18 neo-Nazi group, Hospodařské noviny said. A Czech expert on extremism told the daily that Blood and Honour’s site was spreading Combat 18 materials. The former group became notorious for attacking anti-fascists in the 1990s, but has been less active since its leaders were arrested by the Czech police.

Officials to ban street drinking in Prague centre

Local officials are bringing in partial bans on drinking in public in the centre of Prague. Prague 1, which covers the very centre of the city, is to forbid the drinking of alcohol at several spots, such as Národní třída, Old Town Square and Kampa, with that edict coming into effect at the start of July. Meanwhile, Prague 2 has put forward a proposal to ban drinking at places such as Karlovo náměstí and Tylovo náměstí. The Czech Constitutional Court has previously overturned such edicts, but now the proposals seem likely to stick, as the Interior Ministry has given them its backing. They will not cover outdoor seating at pubs.

Brno sect-leader accused of serious abuse of elderly women

A man from Brno has been accused of virtually enslaving five elderly women and forcing them to carry out hard physical work, police in the city said. Jiří Adam, who is 74, says he is a leader in a sect called the Holy Grail Movement. He is accused of using his role as sect-leader to mistreat the women, several of whom lived with him and his wife in a villa in the Moravian capital. His alleged victims reportedly first came into contact with him when he conducted séances, but fell under his influence when they became part of his household. The women transferred their property to his name and gave him their pension money. Neighbours told the police the women, who were malnourished, were forced to work on Mr Adam’s extensive property even on Christmas Eve.

France opening labour market to Czechs and other new EU citizens

From July, France will open its labour market to citizens of countries, such as the Czech Republic, which joined the European Union in 2004. The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, made the announcement on a visit to the Polish capital Warsaw on Wednesday. France had originally been planning to introduce the change in May 2009. Czechs and other new EU citizens can now work in most ‘old’ states, though Germany and Austria are insisting on keeping their labour markets closed to the newcomers until 2011, which is the maximum period possible under EU agreements.

Global warming positions of hopefuls for US presidency are sad and tragic, says Klaus

The Czech president, Václav Klaus, has described the views on climate change of the three people in the running for the US presidency as sad and tragic. Mr Klaus made the comments in Washington after an event at which he presented the English-language version of his book Blue Planet in Green Shackles. In it he questions the commonly held view that mankind is responsible for global warming. The Czech president said he hoped John McCain, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton would tone down their current views on climate change if elected to the White House.

Czechs beat Lithuania 2:0 in Euro 2008 warm-up

The Czech Republic’s footballers beat Lithuania 2:0 in a Euro 2008 warm-up game in Prague on Tuesday night. Both goals were scored by Jan Koller, who increased his Czech record goals tally to 54. Prior to the game it was announced that defender Tomáš Ujfaluši would captain the Czech team at the European Championship in the absence of Tomáš Rosický, who is recovering from an operation. The Czech Republic take part in the opening game at Euro 2008 against hosts Switzerland on Saturday week.

Weather

It should remain quite sunny over the next few days, with temperatures of up to 30 degrees Celsius expected.