Last weekend saw the third annual For Toys fair held at Prague’s Letňany featuring children’s products. One of the focuses was highlighting creative and safe toys, from simple building block systems for toddlers to more complex games for kids. Teens also were included with the very latest in electronic consoles and interactive games.
The prime minister has promised to introduce stricter control over methanol imports to the Czech Republic and has said the government would consider levying a higher tax on it. Methanol is not produced in the country and is only imported for industrial use. Prime Minister Necas said that moreover there was a suitable locally-made substitute for it. Investigators confirmed on Tuesday that the methanol which was mixed into bootleg liquor was imported.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek announced on Monday that the ministry is prepared to change or delay tax advances for alcohol producers who have been negatively affected by the ban on hard liquor. A ban on the sale of alcohol with 20 or more percent alcohol content was instituted on 14 September, and a ban on exports six days later. The government is currently preparing necessary measures to allow newly produced alcohol to enter onto the market again.
Russia on Friday became the third country – after Poland and Slovakia – which banned imports of Czech spirits. The move came a day after the Czech government halted all exports of Czech-made and Czech-bottled beverages with higher than 20 percent volume of alcohol. The Interfax news agency quoted Russia’s chief hygiene officer, Gennady Onischenko, as saying that in their experience, whenever goods are banned in Europe, they inevitably find their way to Russia.
The Czech government bowed to pressure from the European Union on Thursday evening, imposing an immediate ban on exports of hard alcohol. The ban came amidst warnings the European Union was planning to impose its own ban on imports of Czech spirits in the wake of a spate of methanol poisoning that’s so far claimed the lives of 23 people.
The government has asked the Health Ministry to halt the export of alcohol products from the Czech Republic due to the on-going outbreak of methanol poisonings. The move, which affects spirits produced and bottled in the Czech Republic, has come in response to threats from the EU on Wednesday to either prohibit exports or face a ban on alcohol imports from the union. Health Minister Leoš Heger and Finance Minister Miroslav Kaloušek said they understood the EU’s cause for concern, as the poisonings could not be seen as a local affair on a collective market. Methanol poisoning has so far claimed the lives of 23 people in various parts of the Czech Republic. Another three people were hospitalised with signs of poisoning in recent days.
Czech Agriculture Minister Petr Bendl will brief ministers from EU member states on the outbreak of bootleg related deaths in the Czech Republic next week. Sources from the ministry said that the Czech Republic would ask for the issue to be officially tabled on the agenda of a meeting of agriculture ministers due to begin on Monday. The aim is for the country to provide all the relevant information and explain what measures are being taken. Mr. Bendl is also expected to discuss the matter with the European Commissioner for Health John Dalli.
The council for radio and TV broadcasting has issued a ban on advertisements for spirits while sales of hard liquor are prohibited. The regulation banning the sale of all beverages containing more than 20 percent alcohol – came into effect on Friday after bootleg liquor took its 20th victim and when it emerged that many of the victims had bought the deadly alcohol from regular stores. The bottles contained fake or stolen labels and tax stamps. It is not clear how long the ban may last for. The health minister has indicated that the government may in time moderate the ban and enable the sale of imported quality alcohol that is considered safe.
Several liquor producers have issued statements criticizing the government for having neglected the problems with bootleg alcohol for years and say that the broad ban on spirits will severely damage their finances and reputation. The Jan Becher company that makes the country’s famous Becherovka liquor has turned to the European Commission for help. Some hard drink producers have quickly changed their production plans in view of the ban on imports from Poland and Slovakia and are focussing on other buyers.
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