The lower house of the Czech parliament has approved changes in the law on theVAT. The amendment lowers the standard VAT rate from 22 percent to 19 percent while the reduced rate stays at 5 percent. As of May this year, restaurant services will be transferred to the higher rate as will accommodation services in January 2005. Tap water, magazines and tickets to cultural events will stay in the reduced 5-percent rate despite earlier proposals they be moved to the standard rate. The bill has yet to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president.
Czech forwarding firms and customs agents have said they will stop clearing goods at border crossings with Germany and Slovakia on Friday. The protest is due to the government's reluctance to discuss compensation for companies that will have to sack up to 1,500 staff after Czech accession to the EU. The protest will start at 8:00 am on Friday at eight border crossings. The Association of Border Forwarders and Customs Agents says the protest will affect about 60 percent of trucks heading for Czech borders.
The Czech Republic's national air-carrier, Czech Airlines, has said it will announce a public tender for the supply of 15 passenger aircraft in April. Czech Airlines' fleet is to be expanded by 40 percent. Czech Airlines President Jaroslav Tvrdik has said the company will be choosing between Boeing and Airbus aircraft.
The Czech land-line operator Cesky Telecom said on Thursday it suffered a 1.8 billion-crown loss in 2003 against profits of 4.3 billion crowns a year earlier. The shortfall was due to a one-off book write-off of part of an investment in the telecommunication network, worth 9.9 billion crowns. A spokesman for Cesky Telecom said that without the write-off, the company would have reported hefty profits. Revenues dipped by 2.5 percent to 51.5 billion crowns, in line with expectations. Telecom's performance was affected in particular by growing competition from mobile operators who had 9.7 million clients at the end of 2003. The Czech population numbers 10.2 million.
The head of the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft Bernd Posselt has called on the Czech Senate and the president to prevent the bill on the merits of Czechoslovak President Edvard Benes from becoming law. The bill which pays tribute to President Benes's contribution to the development of the Czechoslovak state was approved by the lower house on Tuesday. Mr Posselt calls the law an affront to millions of victims because, in his opinion, President Benes was responsible not only for expelling Sudeten Germans and Hungarians from Czechoslovakia after the Second World War but also for bringing Czechs and Slovaks under Soviet rule for decades.
A district court in Breclav, South Moravia, has remanded Belgian citizen Debuyser Lutz in custody until he stands trial for forcibly crossing the Czech-Slovak and Slovak-Hungarian borders last week. The Belgian man had escaped from a Czech prison and sped across two international borders a week ago. The man managed to overpower Czech border police before making his way into Slovakia. Several hours later he was seen speeding through a Slovak-Hungarian border crossing at more than 100 miles per hour. He was eventually detained in Budapest. Mr Lutz has been charged with assaulting a police officer and illegal crossing of state borders. If found guilty he faces up to three years in prison.
Friday is going to be overcast with snow in places. Daytime temperatures will range from minus 5 to plus 2 degrees Celsius.
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