News Babiš and unions reach deal over maintaining latter’s tax breaks

17-06-2014 13:41 | Ian Willoughby

Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has reached agreement with trade unions on maintaining their tax breaks. An income tax bill pushed through by a previous finance minister, Miroslav Kalousek, was to have done way with tax exemptions for unions from the start of next year. That provision will now be dropped, the head of the Bohemian-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions, Josef Středula, said after talks with Mr. Babiš. Benefits such as staff public travel passes and rewards for long-term service in the police or army will also now remain untouched by the changes to income tax legislation.

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Lights on Christmas tree at Old Town Square turned on

28-11-2015 17:05 | Jan Velinger

Lights at the Christmas tree on Prague's Old Town Square were turned on on Saturday but not in a traditional ceremony for security reasons, news website iDnes reports. The lights will also be turned off on the hour for a few minutes for an undetermined period of time before they stay on for the greater part of the Christmas period. Key sites in Prague saw security increased until the end of the year at the earliest, following the recent attacks in Paris. 

Outgoing TOP 09 leader expresses disgust over president's stance towards migrants

28-11-2015 13:55 | Jan Velinger

TOP 09's Karel Schwarzenberg, due to step down as party leader, has said that in the migrant crisis the Czech Republic, the EU and even his party faced the challenge of a generation, the same way predecessors had to deal with the realities of Nazism or communist rule. At his speech at his party's congress in Prague on Saturday, the former foreign minister, who has long championed human rights, said it was important to be open and friendly to refugees, suggesting anyone could become a refugee under certain circumstances. He added that the 25 year period following the Velvet Revolution had been golden but that it had ended. After his speech, he told journalists that he was disgusted by President Miloš Zeman's position on migrants; Mr Schwarzenberg went head-to-head against the current head of state in the presidential election in 2013. 

Schwarzenberg to pass baton to Kalousek at TOP 09 party congress

28-11-2015 12:28 | Jan Velinger

The leader of TOP 09 Karel Schwarzenberg, 77, is to step down as chairman and pass the baton to deputy chairman Miroslav Kalousek at the party's congress launched in Prague on Saturday. The former foreign minister and presidential candidate is stepping down after successfully leading TOP 09 to third place in elections in 2010, not long after the party was formed. TOP 09, now in the opposition, was in the former government of Petr Nečas with the Civic Democrats and Public Affairs. Giving up the post, Mr Schwarzenberg will be named honorary chairman. The new party leader, Miroslav Kalousek, 54, is a seasoned politician who twice served as finance minister. 

Air quality in Moravia-Silesia improves but limits still exceeded

28-11-2015 10:58 | Jan Velinger

Air quality in smog-hit Moravia and Silesia improved on Saturday although all 14 measuring sites still measured levels of particulate matter higher than existing limits. Prior, levels had progressed to twice the legal amount, the Czech Hydro-Meteorological Institute said. The region of Moravia-Silesia regularly suffers from poor air quality related to heavy industry and other factors. 

Police shelve CzechTourism case

28-11-2015 10:45 | Jan Velinger

Police have shelved charges filed by the the Minister for Regional Development earlier this year over the alleged past manipulation of public tenders at the state agency for tourism, CzechTourism. Minister Karla Šlechtová filed charges against unknown perpetrators in March. The police, however, did not find evidence that any crime had been committed. CzechTourism is tasked with promoting travel in the Czech Republic, both at home and abroad. 

Government to discuss security ahead of Council of Europe meeting

28-11-2015 10:19 | Jan Velinger

Members of the government are to take part in a special meeting to discuss security in the Czech Republic as well as the European Union ahead of a Council of Europe meeting on Sunday. The prime minister is to push for stronger controls of the EU's Schengen borders. Other aspects of the continuing migrant crisis are also to be discussed. Security is at the forefront following the recent attacks in Paris which saw 129 people die at the hands of extremists. Saturday's meeting is to be attended by the head of the police as well as intelligence officials. 

NHL action: Krejčí scores winner against Rangers in 59th minute

28-11-2015 10:05 | Jan Velinger

The Boston Bruins' David Krejčí found the back of the net with just a minute remaining in the Bruins' match against the New York Rangers on Friday to seal a 4:3 result. The Bruins are on a five-game winning streak and are currently third in the Atlantic division, behind Ottawa and Montreal.

In other hockey action on Friday, Philadelphia Flyers' goalie Michal Neuwirth turned away 33 shots in his team's 3:2 overtime win against Nashville. Neuwirth was named the game's second star. 

Opposition lawmakers filibuster bill on e-cash registers

28-11-2015 09:51 | Jan Velinger

Opposition lawmakers in the lower house of Parliament on Friday successfully obstructed a planned vote on a new bill on electronic cash registers, sought by the Finance Ministry to curb the grey economy and clamp down on tax evasion. The system is also to bring in an extra two billion crowns. The sum of two billion is accounted for in the draft state budget for 2016. If the bill on electronic cash registers is not passed in time, Finance Minister Andrej Babǐs said the shortfall would not be a major problem to cover from other sources. A final reading on next year's state budget is scheduled for December 9. The centre-right opposition opposes the electronic cash register system on the grounds it will add extra work and expenditures for business owners and end up hurting small businesses. 

Babiš: Prague should consider lawsuit over EU refugee quotas

27-11-2015 17:21 updated | Ian Willoughby

The Czech Republic should consider following Slovakia in filing a lawsuit against the European Union over compulsory refugee quotas, the country’s minister of finance, Andrej Babiš, said on Friday. The ANO chief described the quota system as nonsensical and unworkable and said he would discuss the matter with cabinet colleagues. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who opposed the quotas but accepted an EU vote on the matter, said he could not understand Mr. Babiš’s change of view on the subject. 

Reported metal thefts fall by over half after ban on cash payment

27-11-2015 16:31 | Ian Willoughby

The number of reported crimes in the Czech Republic involving the theft of metals decreased by over half between March and November compared to the same period last year. Police recorded just over 8,000 such crimes in those months in 2014; this year the figure was slightly more than 3,400, according to the Ministry for the Environment. Officials said the fall was connected to an edict issued on March 1 barring the payment of cash for metals. 


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