News Reduced VAT rate and abolition of some health charges agreed
A cut in Value Added Tax to 10 percent for books, baby food, and drugs was approved by the government on Wednesday at its regular weekly meeting. The reduce rate of sales tax should come into force from the start of 2015. Babies’ nappies did not make it into the basket of tax reduced items because of fears that a reduction here would conflict with European rules. The introduction of a reduced rate of tax is one of the government’s flagship measures. The Cabinet also agreed to abolish charges for visits to doctors and hospitals with the exception of use of emergency services.
For the daily news summary, available after 8pm CET, click here.
Family, friends and members of the public paid their last respects to legendary film and theatre Lubomír Lipský who died on October 2nd at the age of 92. The ceremony took place at ABC Theatre in Prague, where the actor performed for more than 50 years. More than 40 fellow actors attended on Friday to say goodbye.
The presidents of the Visegrad Four countries, together with the Croatian head-of-state, have agreed on the necessity for the European Union’s outer borders to be strengthened in the face of the migrant crisis. Hungarian President Janos Ader spoke with reporters after their two-day meeting on Friday. Hungary, along with Croatia, both face a strong influx of refugees from the Middle East and north Africa. The five presidents also agreed that detention centres for asylum seekers should be established in Turkey through which many refugees were coming to Europe. Czech president Miloš Zeman criticized the EU, saying it had proven “zero ability” to protect its outer borders.
The police have passed the case against three members of the guerrilla art group Ztohoven on to the state prosecutors office, police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulová has confirmed. The members of the renegade group, between the ages of 33 and 41, made international headlines when they posed as chimneysweeps, climbed onto the roof of Prague Castle, and replaced the presidential flag, an official symbol of the Czech Republic, with a pair of enormous red underpants. The move was meant as criticism of the current head-of-state’s past public behaviour and policies. The police charged the three with disorderly conduct, theft and the damage of private property; damages incurred in the stunt have been tabulated at 90 thousand crowns.
The outgoing head of Czech Radio, Peter Duhan, whose resignation was accepted by Czech Radio’s supervisory council earlier this week, will receive 10 months’ severance pay amounting to at least two million crowns, according to the news website aktualne.cz. The final sum could be higher if the council grants Mr Duhan an annual bonus as high as 480 thousand crowns. Mr Duhan resigned this week, citing health reasons, ahead of a meeting of the supervisory council which was investigating the employment of his son, not allowed under existing regulations. Mr Duhan, 69, oversaw broad changes at Czech Radio, including the introduction of new moderators and a new logo.
This weekend will see the launch of a nationwide-police operation aimed at curbing underage drinking. Police offers, paramedics and members of the Czech Trade Inspection Office will be making inspections of pubs, bars and restaurants around the country to make sure alcohol is not being sold to adolescents. The inspections should continue until the end of the year. Alcohol abuse among teenagers has increased by 100 percent in the past 20 years and the Czech Republic now tops the European ladder in underage drinking.
The Czech Republic will extend random controls along its borders with Austria on Saturday, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec told Czech Television on Thursday night. The minister said security measures would be taken depending on how the situation develops in Austria, which earlier indicated it might close its borders at the weekend. If that were to happen Mr. Chovanec said the Czech Republic was ready to deploy soldiers and officers on the border and effect controls on international trains in order to prevent a massive influx of migrants.
A Prague court has sentenced Qatari Prince Hamid bin Abdal Sani to 11 months and 8 days in prison for having sex with underage girls in Prague. The verdict, which overturned an earlier court ruling, was delivered in absentia since the Prince was extradited to Qatar in 2005. The jail sentence corresponds exactly to the amount of time the prince spent in a Czech jail before his extradition.
The government’s Council for Human Rights is pushing for a more humane approach in dealing with refugees. The council on Thursday approved a list of basic principles that the authorities should adhere to – among them that families with children should not be placed in detention and that they should be provided with psychological and legal assistance, as well as the services of an interpreter. The council has likewise criticized the fact that migrants are being made to pay for the time they spend in detention. The Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Jiří Dienstbier is to present the document to the government at its next session.
The Czech Republic will not join Slovakia in filing a complaint about temporary migrant quotas so as not to fall into isolation in further negotiations with EU member states, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said in an question and answer session in the lower house on Thursday. The prime minister said the government’s goal was not to bring the Czech Republic into isolation within the European Union, but to prepare the ground for pushing through its arguments against permanent migrant quotas. “It would be meaningless to act in a way that would frustrate our communication with other member countries where our arguments would no longer be listened to and would not be taken seriously," Sobotka said.
A new direct air-link between Brno and Munich is to be set up by the end of the year, the governor of South Moravia Michal Hašek told journalists on Thursday. The BMI regional flights should be six days a week with the exception of Saturdays and the planes will have a capacity of 50 seats. Mr. Hašek said Brno had waited years for a direct link to Munich and expressed the hope that it would spur business and tourism in the region.