The Czech lower house of Parliament is voting on a change in value added tax on Friday. Under the new VAT legislation, the lower VAT rate would be raised from 10 to 14 percent, while the higher rate would remain at 20 percent for one year prior to the introduction of a universal VAT rate of 17.5 percent in 2013. The government’s approval of a proposed hike in VAT sparked protests from the opposition as well as the majority of the population and the vote is expected to test the unity of the three-party, right-of-center government coalition. It is linked to a vote on the pension reform and, if approved, will help finance it. Both Prime Minister Petr Nečas and Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek had previously attempted to push through a universal VAT of 19 percent; however, this step was blocked by junior coalition partner Public Affairs.
The Czech central bank ČNB is investigating state-owned energy giant ČEZ in connection with a leak of its second-quarter earnings, a company spokeswoman said Wednesday. In August, the Reuter Thomson news agency, after more than 200 attempts, managed to access the power giant’s net profit data a day ahead of the official release. The report was being prepared for official publication on ČEZ’s servers. The power producer blamed the leak on poor internet security, however, an anonymous source from within the company has claimed that the report was accessible by slightly changing the web address of a previous earnings report. The largest Czech energy producer posted a net profit of 6.72 billion crowns for the second quarter of this year, a drop by nearly 40 percent year-on-year.
Czech Airlines will be adding a direct connection to Tel Aviv to its offer. Israeli authorities gave the airline the green light despite complaints by its competitor, the Czech company Travel Service, which will also be operating flights to Tel Aviv starting October 30. The exact number of Czech Airlines’ connections is still being discussed with Israeli authorities. It is likely that pricing for such flights will be competitive due to the fact that two domestic and one foreign carrier are offering connections to the destination from Prague. On the Israeli side, flights to the Czech capital are currently operated by the carrier El Al, with a possibility of other Israeli airlines adding the city to their list of destinations in the future.
The sale of 60-watt light bulbs on the Czech market came to an end on Thursday, under a European Commission directive which calls for the end of their production and distribution within the EU. The step is expected to save several billion Euros across the union. Last year, member countries discontinued 75-watt light bulbs. The year prior to that, 100-watt bulbs were taken off the market. According to Czech retailers, an increase in demand for 60-watt light bulbs ahead of them being discontinued did not occur. In 2009, the discontinuations of 100-watt bulbs lead domestic consumers to stock up on them days ahead of the official end of sales. Next year, the EU will no longer be selling any traditional types of incandescent light bulbs and instead replace them with energy-saving bulbs. Halogen lamps will be taken off the market in 2016.
The Italian, Michelin-starred chef Andrea Accordi, who is leaving Prague Four Season hotel’s Allegro restaurant, will be replaced by Richard Fuchs, the first Czech to be hired as head chef at the hotel’s restaurant. Mr. Fuchs, who has over 20 years experience in the hospitality sector, will take up his new position in October. He previously worked at Allegro, from 2000 to 2007, as well as cooking in cities like Geneva, Paris and Alexandria. He says he is looking forward to returning to Allegro restaurant and has announced that together with his team, he will be presenting a new concept in February. The Italian fine-dining eatery Allegro became the first restaurant in the former Eastern bloc to be awarded the prestigious Michelin star in 2008.
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