A bill reducing the top value added tax rate from 22 to 19 percent has been passed by the Chamber of Deputies, overturning a veto by President Vaclav Klaus. All Chamber business had been suspended since Tuesday to allow the foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, more time to recover after a recent car crash. Mr Svoboda was flown to Prague by helicopter from his hospital in Brno; his vote was crucial because the government has a majority of only one in the 200-seat lower house.
Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the new VAT rate could take effect as of Friday, when it is published in the Czech Republic's Collection of Laws. Minister Sobotka had been pushing hard to have the change adopted ahead of European Union accession on May 1, saying failure to do so would have harmed Czech trade with other EU states.
Meanwhile, President Vaclav Klaus has said the Czech Republic will cease to exist as an independent state once the country joins the EU. In an article in the newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes, Mr Klaus - a long-term critic of European integration - said the Czech Republic and the other nine countries joining the Union should assert themselves or be lost within the expanded 25-member bloc.
Mr Klaus is currently on an official visit to China, where he has made history by becoming the first Czech president to meet his Chinese counterpart. During Thursday's meeting in Beijing, President Hu Jintao pointed out that ten years ago Mr Klaus had been the first Czech prime minister to visit his country.
On a visit to Prague on Thursday the Irish prime minister, Bertie Ahern, discussed preparations for a new EU constitution with his Czech counterpart, Vladimir Spidla. Mr Ahern also addressed the EU constitution in a speech to the Czech Senate; he said he would seek a spirit of compromise and flexibility from all EU states, so as to reach agreement by the end of Ireland's presidency of the Union at the end of June.
The Czech Republic's tenth case of mad cow disease has been confirmed. The disease was discovered in a six-and-a-half-year-old animal in east Bohemia, a spokesperson for the State Veterinary Administration said on Thursday. The country's first case of BSE was discovered in June, 2001.
A total of 19 customs officers from Breclav in south Moravia have been charged with taking bribes from lorry drivers from Balkan countries, a police spokesperson said on Thursday, adding that more arrests were expected. About half of the 800 or so trucks which cross the border at Breclav every day are from the Balkans.
Just days before the World Ice Hockey Championships get underway in Prague and Ostrava, a new Czech hockey Hall of Fame has been opened at Prague's Sazka Arena, the main venue for the competition. A Hall of Fame for all Czech sport is also planned for the recently opened arena.
Friday should start off sunny in many parts of the country, though a cold front is expected in the afternoon, bringing rain and an end to the glorious weather we've had here in the Czech Republic for the last day or two. The maximum temperature should be 24 degrees Celsius.
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