Civic Democrats protest passing of bill on non-profit hospitals
A new bill passed on Friday that promises to create a chain of non-profit hospitals is being strongly challenged by the opposition Civic Democrats. The lower house passed the bill, drafted by the ruling Social Democrats and supported by the opposition Communists. To become law, the bill must still be signed by President Vaclav Klaus. Critics of the bill on non-profit hospitals say it will harm patients and lead to lay-offs and hospital closures. On Saturday, the deputy chairman of the Civic Democrats said that his party will most likely bring the matter before the consitutional court. The Civic Democrats are also vowing to abolish the law if they secure an election victory in June.
New Czech General Consulate opens in Toronto
A new Czech consulate has opened in Toronto, which is home to the largest number of Czech immigrants in Canada. Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda attended the opening ceremonies on Friday as part of his 4-day state visit to Canada. The Toronto consulate is the third in Canada; the other two are located in Montreal and Calgary. The Czech foreign minister is also scheduled to meet with Canadian government officials to discuss the issue of visa requirements. Visa relations are currently not asymmetrical, as Czech citizens require a visa to visit Canada, but Canadians have not required a visa for the Czech Republic since May 1st, 2004.
Czech writer Josef Skvorecky and his wife, Zdena Salivarova, who settled in Toronto in the 1960s and established the exile publishing house Sixty-Eight Publishers, were also honoured by the Czech foreign minister for their good work promoting the Czech Republic. Since 1969, Skvorecky and Salivarova have published over 220 books, the bulk of them banned by the Czechoslovak communist censors prior to 1989.
Former Prime Minister Stanislav Gross returns to political life
Former Social Democratic prime minister Stanislav Gross is returning to political life as the new head of the Social Democratic Party's Committee on Security. The news has raised speculation over whether Gross' return could harm the Social Democratic Party in the upcoming June elections. The party's acting head, Bohuslav Sobotka, says that the decision will not have a negative effect on his party at the polls. A year ago Stanislav Gross resigned as Czech prime minister and then as chairman of his party over a financing scandal connected to his Prague apartment.
Discarded hazardous materials discovered near Hradec Kralove
Police in the north Bohemian town of Libcany near Hradec Kralove have arrested a group of people disposing of hazardous materials. A large quantity of the yet unidentified material was discovered on the property of a local company, Vertex. Fire fighters and a special decontamination unit have been called to the site, but no evacuation order has been issued for the area.
Two Czechs released from a Turkish jail
Martin Tancos and Zdenek Simbersky, two Czech citizens who spent two years in a Turkish jail, have returned to Prague. The two were serving time for heroin smuggling, but earlier this week a Turkish court released them when the real perpetrators were uncovered. Tancos and Simbersky were arrested in April 2004 while crossing the Turkish-Greek border; they had been hired to transport textiles from Turkey to the Czech Republic and say they unknowingly became accomplices in a heroine trafficking operation.
Czechs celebrate Earth Day
For the 15th year in a row, Czechs are celebrating Earth Day this weekend. There are a number of organized group bike rides happening throughout the country, and the Prague Zoo is hosting an event highlighting recycling. The leader of the Green Party, Martin Bursik, is taking part in public events; polls show that the Greens may gain enough votes to make it into parliament after the next elections. Earth Day has been celebrated since 1970 and it became an internationally recognized day in 1990.
The weekend is expected to be warm and sunny with daytime temperatures hovering between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius.