The Czech Republic has blocked the EU's plans to raise the minimum level of taxes on beer, finance minister Vlastimil Tlusty told reporters on Tuesday. With the minimum duty on most wines zero percent, a tax hike on beer would raise competition levels between brewers and winemakers, he said, adding that the changes are unacceptable in a country where beer is a national product. Last month the European Commission proposed a 31 percent increase in the minimum duty on beer and spirits.
The leaders of the two strongest parties, Civic Democrat Mirek Topolanek
and Social Democrat Jiri Paroubek, have agreed to start talks on a joint
government policy programme. The politicians met for over an hour on
Tuesday after the Social Democrats rejected the idea of a four party
coalition including the Greens and the Christian Democrats but excluding
the Communists that would serve until early elections in 2008.
In almost six months since the elections in June, the five parties in parliament have not been able to agree on the make-up of a new government. Under what they call Agenda 2010, the Social Democrats see a three-party coalition government with the Civic Democrats and the Christian Democrats - with a mandate until 2010 - as the best way out of political deadlock.
The Czech Republic is considering filing a complaint with the European Commission against the Austrian authorities. Czech Ambassador to Vienna, Jan Koukal, says the Austrians had violated a bilateral agreement when they approved a blockade of a Czech-Austrian border crossing in protest at the Temelin nuclear power plant in southern Bohemia. Based on the Melk agreement of December 2000, Austria should not object to the Temelin plant going into full operation as it has passed an environmental assessment study.
The Czech economy will enjoy more growth but could suffer if the country's political stalemate continues, a new OECD report warns. While GDP rose by 6.1 percent last year, it is expected to rise by 6.2 percent this year and 4.8 percent in 2007. But the OECD warns that the country's lack of a stable government is slowing down reform, which could in turn slow down growth.
Czechs could be able to travel to the United States without a visa within the next two years, says foreign minister Alexander Vondra. Mr Vondra was reacting to Tuesday's pledge by US President George Bush to work with Congress to make it easier for some countries to be included in the visa-waiver programme. Mr Vondra says it is probable that the Czech Republic will be among the countries that will benefit as President Bush is warming up to the European Union's requests to include all EU states in the visa-waiver programme.
President Vaclav Klaus has held an unexpected meeting with the leader
of the Social Democrats Jiri Paroubek. Mr Paroubek officially informed
the president about his party's stance on the current political
situation and presented him with the Social Democrats' Agenda 2010
While the Christian Democrats are prepared to give Agenda 2010 a chance, the Civic Democrats have been sceptical, saying it is too "social democratic".
Extensive renovation and reconstruction work at Prague's main train station is to be launched on December 14. With the aim of attracting more travellers but also Prague residents, the station is to be transformed into a modern centre with shops, restaurants, and banks, within the next five years. With some 100,000 passengers a day, it is the country's biggest station. It was last renovated in 1979.
The prime minister and Civic Democrat chairman, Mirek Topolanek, has said the remarks by his aide caught on hidden camera are in line with his party's official stance and therefore there is no reason to apologise. On Sunday Social Demcorat chairman Jiri Paroubek said he expected an explanation and apology from the prime minister regarding alleged comments by his aide Marek Dalik, who supposedly attempted to win over several Social Democrat MPs to switch allegiance in an attempt to break the political deadlock.
The head of the Christian Democratic parliamentary party, Vlasta Parkanova, has confirmed she will run for the post of party chairperson at the Christian Democrat national convention in December. Other candidates are Senators Jiri Cunek and Adolf Jilek and former MP Jiri Karas known for his strictly anti-abortion stance.
Meanwhile, the Social Democrats have announced they will not join the four-party ruling coalition being proposed by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, that would rule only until early elections in 2008. Party leader Jiri Paroubek made the announcement on Sunday evening after a meeting with other Social Democrat negotiators. The Social Democrat leader said his party has its own proposal for a cabinet including the Social Democrats, the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, and the Christian Democrats, that would rule for a regular four year term.
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Czechs drinking less beer
Picturesque South Bohemian border town lands national award
Former US ambassador to Prague, William Luers, on what it was like to serve in Communist Czechoslovakia