The lower house on Thursday approved in its first reading a government-proposed bill which would introduce a reduced 10 percent VAT rate on books, baby food and medicines as of January 2015. The basic VAT rate of 21 percent and the reduced rate of 15 percent will be maintained. A final vote on the bill in the lower house is expected in September, after which it will still have to win approval in the Senate and be signed into law by the president.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Thursday met with the Minister For Human Rights and Minorities Jiří Dienstbier to discuss problems and priorities in the given portfolio. He praised the minister’s strategy in fighting social exclusion and integrating the Roma minority. Minister Dienstbier is pushing ahead with plans to establish social housing and is currently working on a bill that would increase the powers of the Ombudsman.
The Višegrad Group states and South Korea have agreed to broaden bilateral cooperation in the areas of business, science and culture, the ctk news agency reports. At a meeting in Bratislava on Thursday Czech, Polish, Slovak, Hungarian and South Korean officials discussed potential areas of cooperation. The Višegrad Group countries have attracted plenty of South Korean investors. Most recently the tire manufacturer Nexen chose the Czech Republic for its 23 billion crown investment, a tire plant that is expected to create over 1,000 new jobs.
President Miloš Zeman has refused to appoint Judge Jan Veselý chief justice of the regional court in Ustí nad Labem, the ctk news agency reports. According to the president’s spokesman the head of state based his decision on the negative stand of the Czech Judges Union to the nomination as well as the poor performance of the court in Mělnik where Judge Veselý is currently chief justice.
Hundreds of people attended the funeral of one of the five soldiers killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan last week. Sergeant David Benes was laid to rest in his home town of Chomutov, north Bohemia, on Thursday. A mass served in the Church of St. Ignac was for family and friends only but the funeral at the local cemetery was open to the public. The soldier was buried with military honours.
Czech singer Michal Hrůza, who was due to perform at the Colours of Ostrava music festival tonight, is hospital in critical condition after getting into a fight outside a bar in the city in the early morning hours of Thursday. A hospital spokesperson said Hrůza had suffered severe brain damage and the prospects were uncertain. The police is investigating the incident.
The plane manufacturer Aero Vodochody has signed a contract with the American firm Draken International on the sale of 28 of the Czech army’s surplus L-159 combat aircraft. The deal is being brokered by Aero Vodochody since under Czech law the Defence Ministry cannot sell off its surplus equipment directly. The company did not say how much Draken is paying for the aircraft. According to earlier reports the price is from 16 to 18 million crowns for one plane.
The Supreme Court on Thursday sentenced physician Jaroslav Barták to 12 years in prison for sexual assault and blackmail, reducing an earlier sentence by two years and ordering the Prague municipal court to review some of the charges against him. Mr Barták was convicted of assaulting 10 women between 2006 and 2011 who worked as his assistants. The 54-year-old, who co-owns a well-known Prague clinic and served as the head of a local branch of Lions Club International, has consistently denied the charges and may once again appeal the verdict. He has in addition been charged with conspiracy to murder.
After seven hours of debates, Czech MPs on Wednesday night backed the government’s civil service bill which is now set for approval; the final legislative round is to begin in the lower house next week. The opposition has threatened to filibuster the draft legislation; the TOP 09 and Civic Democrat parties claim that if passed, the bill would make it difficult to dismiss public servants currently holding positions in the state administration. The bill is long overdue according to the EU and several anti-corruption NGOs which believe that it should, among other things, curb corruption among public employees.
The 13th edition of the annual international music festival Colours of Ostrava kicks off in the eastern city of Ostrava on Thursday. One of the biggest such events in central Europe, the festival’s line-up this year features more than a hundred bands and artists including the singer Robert Plant, the US bands The National and MGMT and as well as a number of Czech performers. The festival, which is held in a former mining and industrial complex in Dolní Vítkovíce, runs until Sunday; some 35,000 people are expected to attend.