Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has held talks with the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin. The two men discussed the adoption of a European constitution and the future financing of the EU, and praised the good working relationship between Germany and the Czech Republic. However Mr Spidla once again criticised the decision by almost all of the present EU states, including Germany, to introduce labour restrictions on the 10 mostly post-Communist countries which join the EU in May.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has said it would like to invite Iraqi experts to the Czech Republic as part of the country's programme for the reconstruction and renewal of Iraq. Meeting with Czech businessmen on Wednesday, who accompanied the foreign minister on a visit to Iraq in January, Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said Iraqi experts would receive training at Czech firms, which he indicated would strengthen the countries ties. Deputy Foreign Minister Petr Kolar then stated that the Iraqi experts could arrive as early as three-weeks to one month's time. The Foreign Ministry has proposed the project be funded from 520 million crowns already approved for the reconstruction of Iraq.
On Wednesday opposition MPs in the Lower House tried but were unsuccessful at blocking the government's new VAT bill in a second reading, and hours of debating failed to yield further results. The government's bill on raising the second part of the dual-rate VAT from 5 to 19 percent on some goods and services, has been criticised by opposition MPs from the ranks of the Civic Democrats, who tried - but failed - to push through a proposal on Wednesday recommending returning certain goods and services to the 5 percent rate; including, for example, home services and feminine hygiene products. The government's bill, which aims to reduce the predominant 22 percent VAT rate on most goods and services to19 percent, has also come under heavy fire from the Communist Party, which criticised the ruling coalition of "improvisation".
The European Commission has revealed the Czech Republic's future commissioner to the EC, Milos Kuzvart, will work in tandem with the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection David Byrne, during the first sixth months following European enlargement on May 1st. Previously, Mr Kuzvart, a former environment minister in the Czech Republic, had hoped to continue in either the environment, or work in the science, research, or education fields. His assignment to work in tandem with an experienced commissioner echoes that of assignments of new commissioners representing nine other accession countries.
Meanwhile, in related news, Milos Kuzvart revealed on Wednesday one of the members of his new three-member assistants team will be Ramiro Cibrian, the European Union's former ambassador to Prague.
A court in Pilsen sentenced a 45-year-old man, Josef Cervenak, to ten years in prison for smuggling up to kilogram of the drug pervetine to Germany in the years 1999 to 2002. The accused has denied the charges and plans to appeal the decision. The prosecutor had maintained the man sold pervetine on dozens of occasions. A single gram of the drug costs between 1, 000 and 1, 600 Czech crowns.
Weather T hursday is expected to be mostly cloudy with daytime temperatures hovering at 0 degrees Celsius.
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