The finance ministers of Germany and the Czech Republic announced on Friday they would join forces to block the European Commission's plans to raise minimum duties on beer. Last month the European Union's executive arm proposed a 31 percent increase in the minimum EU duty on beer and spirits to reflect inflation since the tax was last set 14 years ago. The rise, which needs the unanimous approval of the EU's 25 member states, would add a euro cent (about 1.3 U.S. cents) to the price of a half litre of beer. Czech Finance Minister Vlastimil Tlusty said Prague was prepared to veto the alcohol duty rise. He also rejected the argument that the Commission's move was necessary to combat alcoholism across the EU.
Following a meeting with the leaders of five parliamentary parties on
Friday President Klaus indicated that a solution to the country's
political crisis was "in the making". The president said that
the party leaders had reached "a fragile agreement on a possible
solution" which still needed to be approved by their respective party
leaderships and that there were many questions left open. Mr. Klaus did not
disclose any details of what such an agreement would entail. He said
another meeting had been scheduled for Tuesday when he hoped party leaders
would be able to seal the deal.
Citing an unnamed, well-informed source at Prague Castle, the internet server Novinky.cz claims that the agreement in question is a government of all parliamentary parties except the Communists which would lead the country to early elections in 2008. Such a government would be made up of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats, the Greens and the Social Democrats.
The Czech trade surplus rose to 7.5 billion CZK (341.5 million USD) in September, a rise of 2.2 billion crowns on a 12-month comparison, according to data released by the Czech Statistical Office on Friday. The positive trade balance largely stems from a 3 billion crown increase in the trade surplus in machinery and transport equipment. Exports reached the highest level since March 2006 and the second highest level ever, the office added.
The government has selected Zdenek Hruby, currently head of the CEZ energy utility's supervisory board, as the man who should prepare the Czech Republic for its EU presidency in 2009. Foreign Minister Aleaxander Vondra introduced Mr. Hruby to the lower house's Foreign Affairs Committee on Friday. Lubomir Zaoralek, lower house deputy chairman, said the Social Democrats would not challenge the appointment. The Czech Republic is to preside over the EU in the first half of 2009.
President Klaus has amnestied thirteen people among them the head of a nursery and two teachers who were sentenced in connection with an accident which happened to one of their charges. During a children's party a little girl's wig caught fire and the child suffered serious burns. All three women received suspended sentences.
The controversial Christian Democrat mayor of Vsetin Jiri Cunek has defended his policy to evict several hundred Romany rent-defaulters from the town centre. Mr. Cunek's statement to the media that he was "cleaning an ulcer" has provoked controversy and raised the ire of his own party, whose leadership has distanced itself from the statement and is considering expelling him from party ranks. Mr. Cunek defended his words and actions in Friday's edition of Lidove Noviny saying that he had strong backing among the local community and that his critics were talking "a load of drivel" about a problem they knew nothing about.
The arrival of first snow in the Czech Republic as well as freezing temperatures overnight have caused traffic accidents mainly on the D1 motorway between Prague and Brno as many drivers were caught off-guard. A 60-year-old man froze to death outside his house near Brno after drinking alcohol - the second victim of the season, according to the police. In previous days, snow appeared only on the mountaintops in the Czech Republic while on Thursday, larger areas across the country were covered by a thin layer.
The Czech Republic has decided to open its labour market to Romanians and Bulgarians when the two states join the European Union in January 2007. The announcement was made by outgoing Labour Minister Petr Necas who said that the Czech labour market must remain open to the newest EU members if Czechs, Poles, and other central Europeans are to gain the right to work in the western European countries where restrictions remain in effect. When the Czech Republic joined the EU in 2004, only the UK, Ireland and Sweden opened their labour markets immediately.
The leader of the Social Democrats, Jiri Paroubek, has told President
Vaclav Klaus that his party is waiting for a chance to form a new cabinet,
an option they see as viable. Speaking after meeting President Klaus at
Prague Castle on Thursday, he said the Social Democrats were seeking a
coalition partner, not early elections. Mr Paroubek said the President did
not comment on the statement, nor did he indicate what his further steps
would be. Under the Czech Constitution, President Klaus is now to appoint
a new prime minister after a first attempt at forming a government failed
President Klaus has said earlier that he wants to see a government that will lead the Czech Republic to early elections, while enjoying the confidence of the lower house. On Friday, all five parliamentary party leaders are scheduled to meet jointly with Mr. Klaus at Prague Castle.