The Senate has approved a bill that would lower value added tax on certain foodstuffs such as coffee, tea and chocolate but leave the tax rate on alcohol unchanged. The amendment would move the selected items to a preferential, 5-percent VAT bracket, harmonising taxes on all food, while the tax rate on alcohol would remain 19 percent. The bill has yet to be signed into law by the president.
The European Commission has officially informed Austria that safety standards at the Temelin nuclear power plant in southern Bohemia are adequate. The EU Commissioner for Energy Andris Piebalgs said in a letter to a member of the Austrian Parliament that Temelin's safety standard had been checked by a team of twenty inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency before the plant was put into operation and that no shortcomings were found. Austrian politicians and environmentalists who have been trying to get the plant closed on safety grounds are said to have been surprised and disappointed by the EC's response.
Czech Republic midfielder Vladimir Smicer has suffered a setback in his recovery from a leg injury, putting his participation at the World Cup finals in doubt. The Girondins Bordeaux player has been struggling for fitness since a February tendon injury behind his right knee. At the Czech Republic training camp in Seefeld, Austria, team doctors found a blood clot in his thigh muscle. Team doktor Jiri Fousek said it was unlikely Smicer would play in friendlies before the side's first game at the World Cup against the U.S. on June 12.
Two more cases of bird flu have been detected in the Czech Republic. The infected swans were found near the town of Kostice in the south eastern part of the country. Both were killed by the deadly H5N1 virus. Safety measures introduced in the region include a ban on outdoor breeding and transport of live birds and poultry products. This is the first incidence of the deadly bird flu virus in the eastern part of the country, earlier cases appeared in southern Bohemia where infected birds were found in five different localities. No new cases have been reported there since May 10th.
An exhibition on the Romany Holocaust, which premiered in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, opened on Thursday in Prague. It documents the fate of individuals and whole families who were killed by the Nazis during World War Two. The exhibition also aims to highlight prevailing discrimination against the Romany population in present day Europe. An estimated nine million Roma live in the EU countries and 15 million in the whole of Europe. Close to 11,000 people claimed Romany nationality in the Czech Republic's latest census but the country is believed to be home to some 250,000 Roma.
The Czech Intelligence Service has made public unique documents from the history of espionage. The records document the collaboration of secret services within the former communist block, particularly the collaboration between the Soviet KGB and the Czechoslovak communist secret police, or STB. Some of the documents reveal the STB tactics used against the Church, dissidents and exiles.
Meanwhile, the director of the German film Good Bye Lenin! says he does not understand why the right-wing Civic Democrats have used the movie in their election campaign. Wolfgang Becker said in a statement that the party's PR people could only regard the comedy as a warning against the dangers of communism if they were in a coma when they watched it.
The Czech international football goalkeeper Petr Cech has passed his maturita school leaving exam. The 24-year-old got a "one" in Czech, English and Social Science and a "two" in German in the exam, which took place at the Sportovni gymnazium in his home town of Plzen. Immediately afterwards he returned to Seefeld in Austria, where he is preparing for the World Cup with the Czech squad.
Neither the governing Social Democrats nor the opposition Civic Democrats have a clear position on the possible building of a United States anti-missile site in the Czech Republic, Lidove noviny reported. Social Democrat Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said he knew nothing about the project and would have to learn more about it. By contrast, Poland - the other candidate to host the site - has shown interest in further negotiations with US officials. The New York Times wrote on Monday that Czech parties were trying to avoid debate on the issue because of the upcoming elections.
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