Health Minister unveils changes to system of healthcare payments

Health Minister Tomas Julinek has unveiled his plan to introduce a number of direct payments for healthcare services. The reform proposes a 30-crown fee (about 1.5 USD) for each visit to the doctor's as well as for individual prescriptions. Patients should also pay 60 crowns for each day spent in hospital or a similar facility. According to Minister Julinek, the changes are meant to reduce the number of unnecessary medical examinations, visits to the doctor's and curb the squandering of medicines.

According to statistics, the average Czech sees his or her doctor 13 times a year which is twice the European average. The Czech Republic also leads in the consumption of prescription drugs. According to estimates, drugs worth up to 10 billion crowns are withdrawn from pharmacies every year to be never used by patients. Minister Julinek would like to see the changes in place as of January next year.

Poll: More than 80 percent of Czechs against healthcare fees

A fresh poll by the Median agency suggests that over 80 percent of Czechs are not willing to pay a fee for seeing their GP. Only just above 50 percent of those polled agreed with payments for food in hospitals. Around 2/3 of the respondents said they disagreed with fees charged for prescriptions and emergency care.

Almost 200,000 foreigners legally work in Czech Republic

According to figures released by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, a total of 194,400 foreigners were legally employed in the Czech Republic in March, which is 6,400 more than in the previous month. According to the figures, the number of foreigners working in the Czech Republic grew by 43,000 in the past year, with most people coming from Slovakia and Ukraine. Apart from legally employed foreigners tens of thousands of people from other countries work in the Czech Republic illegally, according to estimates. The number of legally employed foreigners is believed to be growing mainly due to the Czech Republic's EU membership and the country's economic growth.

Czech minister distances himself from extremists' support

Deputy Prime Minister and Christian Democrat chairman Jiri Cunek has distanced himself from the support that representatives of neo-Nazi, ultranationalist and far-right groupings expressed to him for his attitude to the Roma community. In a statement, Mr Cunek said that his behaviour had never had a racist or xenophobic motivation and he had always strived for equal treatment for everybody. Mr Cunek has been facing criticism over his recent controversial statements regarding the Roma as well a decision, in his former capacity as mayor of Vsetin, to evict dozens of Roma rent-defaulters from buildings in the town centre. Romany activists, the opposition as well as the coalition Green Party are calling on him to leave the government. According to the far-right movements, Jiri Cunek is the only politician who "is not afraid to express his views on Romanies and turns his words into action".

Czech coalition parties to discuss direct presidential elections

The coalition government of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Greens wants to open a discussion about direct presidential elections in accordance with their coalition agreement. If the coalition agreed on such a change, it would not yet concern next year's presidential elections. The first elections to be held under the new legislation would be those scheduled for 2013. Under current legislation, the Czech president is elected by both houses of parliament. According to the latest poll by the Mori agency, 88 percent of Czech voters believe that they should elect their president themselves. The poll also showed that 62 percent of respondents would like to see President Vaclav Klaus re-elected next year. The introduction of direct presidential elections was promised by the government of Vladimir Spidla in 2002, but the legislation was not passed at that time.

Skoda Auto unions refuse pay rise offered by management

Trade unions at the Skoda Auto car plant in Mlada Boleslav have refused the 13-percent pay rise offered to them by the management on Wednesday. They say they will go on strike on Tuesday. Skoda Auto offered workers a pay-rise of 10 percent, increased annual bonuses, plus inflation compensation, altogether increasing their wages by 13-percent, according to board member Martin Jahn. The unions have not made clear what the minimum increase they would accept is. President Vaclav Klaus has warned against substantial pay rises in the Czech Republic's largest company. During a visit on Thursday to another Skoda plant, he said it could have a negative impact on the whole economy.

Man to serve shorter sentence in Czech Republic for killing in Sweden

A Czech man who received a life sentence in Sweden for the murder of a Czech student is to serve a 15-year term in the Czech Republic, Czech Television reported, citing the Czech Justice Ministry. Patrik Dvorak was found guilty of killing the woman at a student dormitory in the city of Uppsala in 2003. The Swedish authorities requested that he be transferred to a Czech jail and agreed to the reduced sentence, said Czech TV.

Crowns for beauty queens stolen

The organisers of this year's Miss Czech Republic beauty contest have announced that the crowns specially made for the winners of the pageant have been stolen by an unknown perpetrator. The hand-made gilded crowns worth two hundred and fifty thousand crowns (twelve thousand USD) disappeared from the manufacturer's car on Wednesday. Crowns borrowed from last year's winners will be used at Saturday's final to honour this year's beauty queens.

Longest tunnel becomes longer, more expensive

The longest railway tunnel in the Czech Republic will be longer than originally planned, Hospodarske noviny reported. The tunnel between Prague and the town of Beroun was to be 20 kilometres in length, but will now stretch to 25 kilometres, the paper said. Costs, too, have been revised upwards, from 20 billion crowns to 30 billion. The tunnel is set to open in 2016 and will halve the time it takes to get from the capital to Beroun.

Protected status for Czech beer could help save small breweries

Czech brewers are considering registering Czech beer as a protected European trademark in order to get around strict EU regulations, Lidove noviny reported. The EU recommends that brewers use energy-saving, environmentally friendly technology, technology that small breweries in the Czech Republic would have trouble affording. If the EU recommendations become legally binding, such breweries would be threatened, Jan Vesely of the Czech Brewers Union told the daily.

Czech internationals could face each other in Champions League final

Two Czech internationals could meet in the final of the Champions League, football's most prestigious club competition. Petr Cech's Chelsea play Liverpool in one semi-final, while Marek Jankulovski's AC Milan take on Manchester United in the other. The first legs of those ties take place in two weeks' time. Only two Czechs have ever won the Champions League - Milan Baros and Vladimir Smicer, who took the trophy with Liverpool two years ago.


The coming days should be sunny and warm with daytime temperatures reaching highs of 22 degrees Celsius.