Two committees to investigate circumstances at hospitals

Health Minister Tomas Julinek has said two committees of experts will be set-up to investigate circumstances at separate hospitals that employed alleged serial killer Petr Zelenka. On Friday the health minister visited one of the hospitals, the site where the murders took place. The accused has admitted to killing patients using lethal doses of the drug heparin in one of the country's worst serial murder cases. No murders reportedly took place at the second facility in Jihlava, where Zelenka was employed for only a short period. Controversy has surfaced in Mr Zelenka's case, over whether officials at the Havlickuv Brod hospital did enough to speed up involvement by police.

Senators: Vsetin town hall likely infringed on human rights in a number of cases

Senator Josef Pavlata - the head of the Senate Committee on Human Rights - has indicated that in all likeliness the city hall in the east Moravian town of Vsetin did not respect human rights when it relocated several Roma families to a number of areas in the Jesenik region, including Vidnavy, Stare Cervene Vody and Vlicice. The families were evicted from their original homes for repeatedly defaulting on rent. The committee, inspecting in the region over two days, found the circumstances of the families' evictions were not in order. The committee has criticised the fact that families were moved to new locations either at early morning or night, with no opportunity to see the homes first; as well they were reportedly pressured into signing new leases.

By comparison, on Thursday the Senate committee visited a highly-publicised site of portacabin homes in Vsetin, where thirty-six mostly Roma families were relocated. There, they found city hall had not infringed on human rights.

Greens withdraw from four-party coalition talks

The Green Party led by Martin Bursik has withdrawn from negotiations on a four-party government. The party's leader announced the decision on Friday. Mr Bursik indicated that the Greens were unsatisfied that their programme priorities had not made it into the draft proposal put forward by the Civic Democrats, titled the "magnificent seven reforms". Mr Bursik made clear he would prefer the right-of-centre Civic Democrats - leading the talks - to return to an earlier three-party proposal with his party and the Christian Democrats. But, such a coalition would not have a guaranteed majority in the lower house. The current attempt by politicians to form a viable government is the second since elections proved inconclusive in June.

Zeman declines committee's invitation

Former Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman has declined an invitation to attend his party's central executive committee's meeting next week. According to reports, the Social Democrats invited Mr Zeman on the basis of media reports he was trying to orchestrate something of an inner-party coup against current chairman Jiri Paroubek. Mr Zeman left active politics in 2002, but has remained highly critical of his party's leadership and has retained influence on the political scene. Earlier, Mr Zeman stated in the media that he would prefer the Social Democrats to withdraw from coalition talks in favour of going into the opposition. He called the Social Democrats' joining a coalition with the Christian Democrats as well as election-winners the Civic Democrats "undignified".

Czech economic growth higher than expected in third quarter

The Czech Statistical Office has announced that Czech economic growth hit 5.8 percent in the third quarter of 2006, a slight slowing down compared to the second quarter's 6.0 percent. Analysts had expected growth to slow more sharply, but high consumer spending - up 4.0 percent compared with the same period last year - continued to boost the economy; investments also increased with exports continuing to outdistance imports.

Unemployment down

Others figures released by the office reveal that unemployment in the month of November dropped by a tenth of a percentage point to 7.3 percent - the lowest unemployment figure in the last five years. Currently, 400,044 people are listed as out of work. Analysts contribute the drop in numbers partly to, for example, recent graduates finding first-time employment.

Czech crown hits new high against dollar

The Czech crown hit a new high of 20.88 to the dollar late Friday, tracking the euro's climb against the US currency. Local macroeconomic factors also helped to boost the currency. The GDP growth announced on Friday was higher than expected, helping to strengthen the crown.

The crown may still set some new record highs but is likely to weaken by the end of the year, some analysts have said.

Lower house backs "early election" bill

The lower house will continue debate on a bill that would make it legally easier to hold early elections in the Czech Republic. The draft amendment was passed in a first reading on Friday. If eventually passed into law, the bill will allow Czech lawmakers - and ultimately the president - the option of dissolving parliament following a government's resignation, in order to pave the way for early elections. Any such move, however, would require sufficient political will. As proposed now, the legislation would give the president the right to dissolve the lower house only if the move were approved by a majority of the country's two hundred MPs. Deputies, though, are aiming to make the conditions more strict so that the decision would require a constitutional majority, that is three-fifths of deputies in favour.

Deputies are also expected to debate a provision lowering the number of MPs in the lower house from 200 to 199, a measure intended to prevent deadlock in the chamber.


The next few days should be partly cloudy with scattered showers and temperatures around 10 degrees Celsius.