President Klaus has signed a law re-classifying some food products into a lower tax bracket. Coffee, tea, and chocolate are among the goods that will now be taxed at the lower 5% rate, rather than the previous rate of 19%. According to food producers, the change in tax rates is likely to effect prices on store shelves, though the new prices are not likely to be discounted by the full 14% difference.
The Czech Republic is among those states listed in a new Council of Europe report that names countries suspected of participation in secret CIA operations. The CIA is thought to have secretly transported terrorist suspects across the globe and imprisoned them for interrogation. While the report names Poland and Romania as countries where secret CIA prisons were or are likely located—allegations both countries deny—the Czech Republic is named as a country which allowed refueling stopovers for CIA planes. The Czech Ministry of the Interior denies knowledge of such incidents, and declared so formally in a letter to Amnesty International in April. The Council of Europe investigation was led by Swiss senator Dick Marty, and its report is the result of a seven-month inquiry that began last November following an outcry over allegations of CIA detention centers in central Europe.
Czech doubles player Kvetoslava Peschkeova and her Italian doubles
partner, Francesca Schiavone have been defeated in the quarter finals
of the French Open. They lost to the number-one-ranked team of Lisa
Raymond and Samantha Stosur 6:7 (5:7), 6:0, 6:1.
Meanwhile, rising Czech tennis star Nicole Vaidisova awaits her first career grand slam semi-final match. She is scheduled to meet Svetlana Kuznetsova on the court at Roland Garros on Tuesday afternoon.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus on Tuesday warned the government of outgoing Prime Minister Paroubek not to take any strategic decisions and to act only as a caretaker administration. Mr. Paroubek's centre-left government had "lost its legitimacy" after the conservative Civic Democrats' victory in legislative elections held Friday and Saturday, the president told a news conference in Prague.
On Wednesday the Czech government approved over 441 million crowns ($20 million USD) to be put towards lowering the developing world's debt. Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda made the announcement, saying that the money will be made available between 2007 and 2044, as part of the Multilateral Initiative for a Debt-free Developing World. The international project is coordinated by the Association for Development, which is an economic body that belongs to the World Bank group and runs projects targeting education and health issues in the developing world. Over 81 countries currently access monies from this fund.
Organizers of the annual contest that determines the best Czech beer have announced that this year's contestants will include a total of 47 breweries from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, with 194 different brews in the running for the title. Now in its tenth year, the contest that awards the title Best Beer of the Czech Republic has attracted five more breweries than last year. The festivities begin in Ceske Budejovice, south Bohemia, on Thursday and run until Saturday.
Czech Television reports that the leaders of the two largest political
parties in the Czech Republic met behind closed doors on Tuesday
evening. Mirek Topolanek, the leader of the right-of-centre Civic
Democrats who won the largest number of seats in last weekend's
election, and his rival, Jiri Paroubek, the current prime minister and
leader of the Social Democrats, are said to have held an unofficial
meeting to exchange their basic negotiating positions in the wake of a
tense election. But both men deny that they met on Tuesday and say that
they are scheduled to meet, together with their respective negotiating
teams, on Friday morning.
The Civic Democratic leadership is currently negotiating coalition agreements with the Christian Democrats and the Green Party, which if successful, will still make for only 100 seats in the 200-seat lower house. These three parties are due to meet for formal talks on Thursday.
Meanwhile, President Klaus has invited Mr. Paroubek to Prague Castle for post-election consultations on Thursday. The president made a televised speech last Saturday night, criticizing the immediate post-election remarks of Mr. Paroubek, in which the Social Democratic leader compared the election results to the communist coup of February 1948.
President Klaus will attend a European Union summit in Brussels next week and present the Czech position on the draft European constitution instead of the prime minister, the daily Lidove Noviny says in its Wednesday edition. The EU constitution will be one of the main topics discussed at the summit. Mr Klaus is strongly critical of the proposed constitution, and the prime minister has allegedly agreed to have the president replace him at the EU summit, since, as he said, Czechs had just elected "a Eurosceptical government".
Some members of the defeated Social Democratic Party are in favour of supporting a Civic Democrat-led government for a period of two years in exchange for a change of the election law from a proportional to majority system. Party chairman Jiri Paroubek told Lidove Noviny this was not the position of the party's executive committee. The two big parties -the Civic Democrats and the Social Democrats - have attempted to push through this change in the past but it was strongly opposed by the smaller parties in parliament whom it would effectively wipe out.
A Prague court has ruled in favour of extraditing a Swedish national of Lebanese origin, who is suspected of assisting terrorists, to the United States. Oussama Kassir was detained at Prague's Ruzyne Airport on the grounds of an international arrest warrant last December. He was on a stop-over flight from Stockholm to Beirut. Kassir is suspected of having provided terrorists with financial assistance. He could face up to 15 years in jail in the US.
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