Tobacco prices are set to increase as the government has approved new consumption taxes. A gradual increase of four crowns per pack of cigarettes will likely be made over the next two years. The Finance Ministry expects the tax to bring in 1.4 billion crowns next year and 1.9 billion in 2014, with inflation over that time expected to rise by 0.14%. The minimum consumption tax per cigarette will thus rise from 2.10 crowns to 2.25 crowns.
Polls indicate that the opposition Social Democratic Party continues to suffer popularity losses due to the scandal around David Rath. One of the party’s most vocal national politicians, Dr Rath resigned his party membership shortly after being arrested last month, but has since indicated that the money he was caught and arrested with may have been part of a party financing scheme. The STEM polling agency suggests that Social Democrat preference has tumbled to less than 22% from 23.3% in May and 37% in late April. The Communist party also lost slightly while TOP 09 improved its chances by nearly two points - all of which entails that the left would not have a constitutional majority in Parliament if elections were held today.
The gross margin that the Omnipol arms company gained for mediating the purchase of CASA transport military planes for the Defence Ministry has reached 85 million crowns now, director Michal Hon said Tuesday, dismissing media reports of hundreds of millions in profits. He also dismissed a report by the firm American Appraisal which said the Czech state lost 658 million crowns in the deal. The police want parliament to release MP Vlasta Parkanova for prosecution over the allegedly disadvantageous contract, which was signed by her deputy when she was defence minister in 2009.
President Václav Klaus has vetoed a bill that would allow authorities to ban repeat offenders from a location for up to three months. Mr Klaus said the legislation is ill-conceived, easy to abuse and probably unconstitutional. He also pointed out the government, the ombudsman and the parliamentary committee for social policy has been opposed to the legislation. The bill was proposed by controversial MP Ivana Řápková, who is well known for crackdowns on ‘non-adaptable’ urban residents. Under the proposal, non-residents could have been temporarily banned from a location for prostitution, drinking or begging, among other things.
Czechs are mostly happy with the state of the natural environment in the country, according to a poll conducted by the CVVM agency. The survey suggested that three fifths of Czechs are satisfied with the environment nationally, and three out of four give a positive assessment of the environment where they live. Residents of the more industrial regions of Moravia-Silesia, Ústí nad Labem and Prague were more likely to be dissatisfied – in north Moravia usually due to water quality and in Prague due to traffic and noise. The regions rated highest were Olomouc and Vysočina.
The Constitutional Court has rejected a complaint from imprisoned MP David Rath regarding his prosecution. The former health minister and governor of Central Bohemia, who was arrested in May after receiving seven million crowns, protested against a number of aspects of his case, including his house search and detention. The court found no encroachment into the MP’s constitutional rights and said he was not qualified to complain as he had not exhausted other legal avenues.
The Supreme Audit Office has discovered irregularities in the use of EU funds in Prague that may lead to certain projects going unpaid. According to the office’s report, released Monday, some of the recipients made mistakes in selection procedures while others were found to have violated budgetary discipline. He auditors focused on the “Prague Adaptability” operational programme in which roughly 3.25 billion crowns were earmarked for investment in professional education, social integration and modernising education in 2013. The office has criticised Prague City Hall for both running and auditing the programme. Some of the findings were transferred to the financial authorities, which may impose fines.
Anti-corruption police are working with the Supreme Audit Office to investigate the sale of real estate by Czech Railways, according to the daily Hospodářské noviny. The paper writes that the state-owned rail company sold a palace estate in Prague City Centre to the Nymburk company Apuro for 200 million crowns, whereupon it was resold as separate buildings to Charles University for twice that amount though Apuro reportedly invested nothing in it. Meanwhile, most of the money for the purchase, or 372 million crowns, was donated by the Ministry of Education. Apura declared bankruptcy a year after the transaction. Czech Railways insists it did not sell the buildings for too little, while Charles University says it did not pay too much, both citing property assessments.
An exhibition covering the history of the social and sports organisation Sokol opened on Monday to mark exactly 130 years since the organisation’s first meeting in Prague. The military museum in Prague’s Žižkov district will be hosting some five hundred exhibits showing legendary members, the organisation’s role in wartime and Olympic medals won. The exhibition will be open until the end of the year. The Sokol movement was founded in 1862 and, beyond its athletic output, played an important role in Czech nationalism and cultural awareness in the 19th century.
The Foreign Ministry has also announced that additional Czech consular offices will be opened on a temporary basis for the summer, namely in Barcelona, Spain, the seaside town Burgas in Bulgaria and in Split and Rijeka in Croatia. The Czech embassies in Spain and Croatia will also have additional staff for the summer. Eight Czech police will be operating in Croatia, which is the most popular summer destination for Czech tourists, in order to help their Croat colleagues deal with cases involving Czech citizens. The ministry noted that Czech citizens may address a diplomatic mission of any other EU country if they are staying in a state where there is no Czech consulate.
Archaeologists unearth seven graves dating back to Great Moravian Empire
“Einstein in Bohemia” – Part II: how alienation in ‘half-barbaric’ Prague led him to a new theory of gravity, eventual love of a free Czechoslovakia
Czech Republic bracing for wind storm Sabine
Ron Perlman: Cinema is a much bigger art-form than superhero movies represent
“Einstein in Bohemia” – part 1: how a Prague sojourn sparked his theory of general relativity, journey of self-discovery