Prime Minister supports Communist proposal to discontinue 'screening' process

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek supported a Communist Party proposal on Wednesday to stop the screening process that prevents former Communist agents and other people associated with the former regime from taking government and civil service posts. According to the Prime Minister, the screening laws, which were adopted in the early 1990s, are redundant.

Controversial bank bill makes first reading in parliament

A bill that compensates clients of bankrupt banks has made it through to the second reading in parliament. Under the bill, affected clients will be compensated up to four million crowns (a little under 165,000 US dollars). The Czech National Bank, the Association of Banks, and the Deposit Insurance Fund, are among the organisations and institutions that oppose the plan. They mainly object to the bill making up for money lost by anonymous depositors.

Lower House approves introduction of passports with biometric data

The lower house of the Czech Parliament has approved the introduction of passports with biometric data, namely digital photographs and fingerprints. The European Union decided to introduce passports with microchips that hold such data last year. The Interior Ministry says Czech passports with electronic images of the holders' faces will be issued in mid-2006; passports with digital fingerprints in 2008. One of the conditions for the United States to consider waving the visa requirement for Czech citizens is the introduction of such passports.

Patients and medicine producers oppose new health ministry order

Several patients' associations and producers of medicine have been calling onto the Health Ministry to revoke an order that transfers the rights to buy some medicine to hospitals. As of January 1, hospitals instead of the country's biggest health insurer, VZP, will be responsible for the acquisition of expensive medicine. Health Minister David Rath made the decision in order to lower the 14 billion crown debt of the VZP, which was put under forced administration earlier this month. Patients fear that hospitals would use the money to settle their debts instead of buy medicine and producers say they would have no guarantee that their medicine will be bought.

Dozens protest against low financial support of cultural sector

Several dozen people gathered at Prague's Malostranske namesti, or Lesser Town Square on Wednesday to call onto the government to allocate more money to the cultural sector. The Czech Parliament is currently discussing the state budget for next year. The current proposal earmarks less than 0.5 percent of the budget to the Culture Ministry; the EU average is one percent of the state budget. The amount allocated to culture in the Czech Republic has been decreasing gradually since 1998. This year, is the first time that it has reached below the 0.5 percent mark.

Thousands of trade union workers expected to gather in Prague

Thousands of trade union workers will be gathering in Prague this Saturday to protest against an amendment to a proposed new Labour Code. The bill went through the first reading in parliament but employers and some politicians have been calling for an amendment, fearing it gives trade unions too much power. The trade unionists will be travelling to Prague in hundreds of buses and a special train.

Weather forecast

The next few days are expected to have overcast skies with occasional showers and snow. Daytime temperatures will range between 0 and -4 degrees Celsius.