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Fuel tax bill voted down in lower house

The Chamber of Deputies on Friday voted anew on a bill aimed at lowering the excise duty on fuel. This time MPs voted down the proposal, which first passed in the lower house on Wednesday - to the surprise of the ruling coalition. One of its members had inserted changes into the bill that lowered the tax on petrol and diesel across the board rather than just for farmers, which would have negatively impacted the state budget. After another coalition MP on Wednesday, however, challenged the result, arguing his vote had been incorrectly recorded by the electronic system, a new vote was scheduled. The centre-right opposition, which had threatened to petition the Constitutional Court if a new vote was held, walked out of the chamber.

Finance minister calls steps taken by MPs in lower house "an embarrassment"

The head of the ANO movement, Andrej Babiš, vented disgust in the media on Friday over the recent behavior of some in the lower house, saying he would prefer to resign as an MP if he had a capable successor. The finance minister was reacting to the handling of a fuel tax reduction bill for farmers on Wednesday, which was modified by a fellow coalition MP and former minister for industry and trade to be across the board. The bill, which initially passed but was subjected to a new vote on Friday following a complaint, would have thrown a spanner in government plans. The opposition Civic Democrats say they will petition the Constitutional Court over the matter.

Komárek to step down as head of anti-corruption unit

Milan Komárek will step down as the head of the country’s anti-corruption and financial crime unit on July 31st, his superior, Police President Tomáš Tuhý, told reporters Friday. Komárek took over as head of the unit last June and oversaw the founding of team Kobra, targeting tax crimes. Before, he had worked as a regional deputy chief of police in Central Bohemia. Police President Tuhý said he respected Komárek’s contribution and made clear the unit head was stepping down for personal reasons. The job will be filled in the interim by deputy head Jaroslav Vild. A successor should be found by the autumn.

Deputy expresses interest in top ministerial post

The deputy minister for regional affairs, Klára Dostalová, confirmed on Friday her interest in the post of minister for regional development following the departure of Věra Jourová to the European Commission. Ms Jourová has backed the deputy for the job but Dostálová otherwise had not been contacted. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who reviewed the Ministry for Regional Development on Friday, said it was up to coalition partners in ANO to propose a nominee.

Political parties with fewer female candidates could lose out

Political parties fielding fewer female candidates in communal and regional elections this autumn could receive less money from the state per mandate gained, according to a draft amendment to the election law, the daily Právo reports. According to the newspaper, 30 percent of women candidates could be the minimal requirement to avoid the consequences of the provision initiated by Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier of the Social Democrats. Právo writes that government coalition partners, ANO as well as the centre-right opposition parties and the Communists, are not in favour of the legislation which the Interior Ministry has now sent to ministries and other institutions for feedback. A Czech NGO backing equal representation for women in politics, by contrast, has strongly welcomed the initiative, saying the number of women in politics in the Czech Republic has long been low.

ČEZ says monopoly office charge unfounded

The power utility ČEZ has been asked to issue a stance on an accusation by Bulgaria’s antimonopoly office charging the company abused its dominant position on the local market, the company’s spokeswoman Barbora Pulpanová told the Czech News Agency. She stressed that there was no new accusation but that it was related to an inquiry from last March. The spokewoman repeated that ČEZ rejected it as unfounded. Besides ČEZ, Bulgaria's anti-monopoly office on Friday also accused Czech energy company Energo-Pro and Austrian firm EVN of abuse of their dominant position on the market. The companies have been accused of making it difficult for corporate clients to switch electricity supplier or buy electricity on the free market.

Customs officers detain foreign national for ivory smuggling

Customs officers detained a foreign national at Prague’s Václav Havel Airport earlier this week, who had tried to smuggle 24 kilos of ivory on the Prague – Seoul route. The information was released on Friday by the spokeswoman for the Czech Environment Inspection office. The ivory, tusks from the protected African elephant, had been sawed down to size: fifteen pieces which had been wrapped individually and hidden in two pieces of luggage. It is the third time this year that an ivory smuggler at Václav Havel Airport has been caught.

Fortieth Uherské Hradiště film school starts

The 40th Uherské Hradiště summer film school starts Friday with thousands of film fans expected and more than 200 short and full length films being screened. Some of the stars making appearance will be US independent film director and script writer Todd Solondz, who has won prizes at the Sundance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival. The main guest is British director Peter Greenaway. Spanish films are one of the main themes of the summer school this year.

New football season begins with Sparta vs Bohemians

This Friday sees tthe start of the new football season, with Sparta facing Bohemians 1905. There will be two matches on Saturday in the top flight. Saturday will see Příbram face off against Plzeň while Jablonec will face Slavia. Last season, Příbram long had to stave off possible relegation before improving to a solid overall 34 points. Plzeň finished second behind season champions Sparta.

Czech clubs progress in Europa League qualifiers

Czech football clubs Mladá Boleslav and Slovan Liberec have cruised through to the next qualifying round of the Europa League. Mladá Boleslav beat Bosnia Heregovina club Široki Brijeg 4:0 away and Slovan Liberec put three goals past Slovak club Košice without reply at home. Both team won the first leg matches. Slovan will face Lyon in the next round with Mladá Boleslav’s opponents Romanian club Giurgiu.