Daily news summary News

20-04-2004

VAT vote postponed until Thursday to allow Svoboda more time to recover

A crucial Chamber of Deputies vote on a bill to reduce the top VAT rate from 22 to 19 percent has been postponed until Thursday. All Chamber business has been postponed to allow the foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, more time to recover from a recent neck operation. The government, which has a majority of just one in the 200-seat Chamber, needs Mr Svoboda's vote to overturn a veto on the bill by President Vaclav Klaus. The minister is expected to fly to Prague by helicopter from his hospital in Brno to take part in the vote.

The government say the change must be adopted to bring the VAT rate in the Czech Republic into line with that of European Union countries by accession on May 1. However, Mr Klaus's party, the Civic Democrats, say the bill is a mishmash in which the government meets EU requirements but also adds price increases of its own.

Czech Republic to reopen mission in North Korea, mediate over nuclear weapons

The Czech Republic is to reopen its diplomatic mission in North Korea in the coming months, in order to play a greater part in solving the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula, Deputy Foreign Minister Petr Kolar said on Tuesday. The Czechs closed their mission in North Korea in the early 1990s, shortly after the collapse of communism in eastern Europe. The prime ministers of South Korea and Japan last year called on the Czech Republic to help mediate in the crisis. The Czech Communist Party is said to have maintained its contacts with North Korea, which has an embassy in Prague.

Boy dies after fall from school window

A twelve-year-old boy has died after falling out of a window at his school in the Prague district of Liben on Tuesday. It appears the boy had been accidentally locked in a classroom by a teacher and was trying to walk along a ledge to the window of another classroom when he fell to his death. Police are investigating the accident.

Members of four of five parties in Chamber submit bill on same-sex partnerships

A group of nine deputies from four parties have submitted a bill to the Chamber of Deputies allowing for registered homosexual partnerships. Vlastimil Ostry of the Freedom Union said the legislation should be debated in June. Tana Fisherova, also of the Freedom Union, said the proposed bill had a greater chance of success than previous attempts, because it had been signed by representatives of almost all the parties in the Lower House. The Chamber has rejected same-sex partnerships three times in the past.

Prague airport sees significant increase in passenger numbers

Prague's Ruzyne airport saw a 40-percent increase in passengers in the first quarter of this year, a spokesperson for the airport said on Tuesday. In March alone passenger numbers increased by 45 percent to almost 700,000. The airport authority's chief executive said demand from airlines for more flights to and from the Czech capital was still growing. In order to deal with the growth in volume, the airport authority has raised the number of passport control counters from eight to 11 and is planning to increase the number of check-in counters from 56 to 62.

Elias out for Championships, Sparta close gap on Ostrava

Czech ice hockey star Patrik Elias will not be available to represent the Czech Republic at the World Championships which get underway in Prague and Ostrava this weekend. Mr Elias has to undergo a minor stomach operation. In other sports news, Sparta Prague have closed the gap on football league leaders Banik Ostrava, after beating Viktoria Zizkov 3:1 on Monday. There are four rounds left until the end of the season.

Weather

Wednesday should see sunny spells around the Czech Republic, with rain showers in places. The maximum temperature will be 20 degrees Celsius.

20-04-2004