Czech Radio has reported that one of the diplomats to represent the Czech Republic in EU bodies collaborated with the Communist-era StB secret police. According to Czech Radio, Petr Mooz was listed as an agent in StB files. Mr Mooz was screened under the so-called "lustration" process and received a "clean" certificate from the Interior Ministry in 1992 - he maintains that he never collaborated with the communist political police.
The Czech-born American film director Milos Forman has received the 2004 Film Society Award for Lifetime Achievement in Directing at the International Film Festival in San Francisco. A leading representative of the 1960s' "New Wave" of Czech film, Milos Forman moved to the United States after the Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968. He continued his filmmaking career in the U.S. and directed many films, including Oscar-winners "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Amadeus".
The new Health Minister, Jozef Kubinyi, has criticised the method through which state-run hospitals were transferred under the administration of individual regions last year. Regional governors have repeatedly criticised the government of Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla for handing over to them hospitals burdened by billions of crowns worth of debts. Minister Kubinyi has also appointed his new deputies, raising their number from four to six. He plans to put forward a reform of the health-care sector by the end of September. Mr Kubinyi's predecessor, Marie Souckova, was recalled last week for failing to produce a sound reform plan for the ailing health sector.
Meanwhile, President Vaclav Klaus has said the Czech Republic will cease to exist as an independent state once the country joins the EU. In an article in the newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes, Mr Klaus - a long-term critic of European integration - said the Czech Republic and the other nine countries joining the Union should assert themselves or be lost within the expanded 25-member bloc.
On a visit to Prague on Thursday the Irish prime minister, Bertie Ahern, discussed preparations for a new EU constitution with his Czech counterpart, Vladimir Spidla. Mr Ahern also addressed the EU constitution in a speech to the Czech Senate; he said he would seek a spirit of compromise and flexibility from all EU states, so as to reach agreement by the end of Ireland's presidency of the Union at the end of June.
A bill reducing the top value added tax rate from 22 to 19 percent has
been passed by the Chamber of Deputies, overturning a veto by President
Vaclav Klaus. All Chamber business had been suspended since Tuesday to
allow the foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, more time to recover after a
recent car crash. Mr Svoboda was flown to Prague by helicopter from his
hospital in Brno; his vote was crucial because the government has a
majority of only one in the 200-seat lower house.
Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the new VAT rate could take effect as of Friday, when it is published in the Czech Republic's Collection of Laws. Minister Sobotka had been pushing hard to have the change adopted ahead of European Union accession on May 1, saying failure to do so would have harmed Czech trade with other EU states.
A total of 19 customs officers from Breclav in south Moravia have been charged with taking bribes from lorry drivers from Balkan countries, a police spokesperson said on Thursday, adding that more arrests were expected. About half of the 800 or so trucks which cross the border at Breclav every day are from the Balkans.
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