Consumer tax on cigarettes will be raised significantly in April next year, the Czech cabinet decided on Monday. A pack of cigarettes is to cost six crowns more in 2005 and an additional seven crowns in 2006. Economists have estimated that a family in which each parent smokes a pack a day, would find itself spending some 9,500 crowns - or over 350 US dollars - more a year on cigarettes.
The joint Czech-Slovak Modra Hranice or Blue Border Air Force began its first day of training on Monday. The force of 34 pilots, military operators and control officers will be training on both Czech and Slovak soil until Thursday. The exercises are part of the Joint Sky project, aimed at preparing both NATO member states for crisis situations.
Czechoslovak war veterans gathered in Prague on Monday to remember their participation in WWII operations. On the occasion of two anniversaries, the veterans shared their memories of Dunkirk and the battle at Tobruk in North Africa. Following the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, thousands of Czechoslovak soldiers joined foreign military operations during the Second World War and fought mainly under British and Soviet leadership.
The Afghan armed forces are to receive six thousand tonnes of ammunition that is no longer used by the Czech Army. The proposal to save costs on storage by shipping redundant ammunition to Afghanistan was approved by the government on Monday after several weeks of discussion. Since the United States have agreed to cover transport costs, the Czech Republic will be disposing of the ammunition at no cost. It would have cost the state 50 million Czech crowns to put it in storage, and 350 million crowns (over 11 million US dollars) to dispose of it. The one million pieces of ammunition will include bullets and cartridges, hand grenades, and various types of shells.
Bilateral relations between the Czech Republic and New Zealand should
primarily focus on education and business, according to New Zealand's
Governor General Silvia Cartwright. Mrs Cartwright is currently on an
official visit to the Czech Republic. At Prague Castle on Monday, she
and Czech President Vaclav Klaus signed an agreement on work stays,
under which Czechs between the ages of 18 and 30 would be granted
short-term work permits in New Zealand.
Mrs Cartwright, who is accompanied by her husband Peter, also had lunch with Senate Chairman Petr Pithart and visited Prague's most prominent landmarks.
The Iraqi Culture Minister Mufid al-Jazairi has said that the prolongation of the stay in Iraq of Czech military police officers would have political significance for his country. Speaking on Czech Television on Sunday, Mr Jazairi said that technically, the withdrawal of a hundred Czech soldiers is of no great importance but, as he said, the enemies of democracy are trying to threaten countries involved in Iraq and make them leave the country. Even the withdrawal of such a small group as the Czech unit would be seen as a political signal of support for the terrorists, the Iraqi official said. A Czech military police unit are helping to train local security forces in southern Iraq. The Czech Parliament is going to discuss whether their stay will be extended until the end of February 2005.
The Reuters news agency has reported that a Europe-wide study of anti-smoking policies due out on Tuesday will criticise Czech anti-smoking measures. The report ranks 28 European countries for their progress on a range of anti-smoking measures, including raising tax on cigarettes, smoke-free policies in offices, bars and restaurants, anti-tobacco advertising and clear warnings on cigarette packets. Among other things, the Czech Republic will be criticised for low prices of cigarettes in relation to wages. While a packet of 20 Marlboro cigarettes costs almost 7 euros in Britain, it is around 2 euros in the Czech Republic. Fifty people are believed to die of smoking-related diseases every day in the Czech Republic.
A referendum held this weekend in the country's second city of Brno on the relocation of the city's main railway station has ended in failure because of a low turnout. Only around 25 percent of all eligible voters took part in the poll. For the results to be legally binding for the city authorities the turnout would have had to exceed 50 percent. The authorities in Brno, which is an important railway hub, want to build a new station outside the city centre. Eighty-five percent of those who turned up for the referendum voted against the relocation.
The fresh Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, is expected to visit the Czech Republic in November. Ms Maathai is supposed to take part in an international conference on greenhouse gases in Prague. The organisers had invited Ms Maathai as a regular delegate but now after she has been awarded the Nobel Prize, she'll be asked to deliver a special speech on the eve of the conference.
The first round of the Senate by-election in the Prague 4 and Znojmo constituencies has not produced clear winners. In the second round next week, Civic Democrat Frantisek Prihoda will face Erazim Kohak, who is running for the Social Democrats, at Prague 4. In the Znojmo constituency the two contenders will be Jaroslav Parik, running for the Civic Democrats, and Milan Spacek, a candidate for the Christian Democrats. The two seats in the Senate were recently vacated after Senators Josef Zieleniec and Vladimir Zelezny became Euro-MPs in the Czech Republic's first ever European elections.
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