Daily news summary News

24-01-2006

Pharmacists to protest against lower profit margin

Pharmacists have called a demonstration outside the health ministry on Thursday to protest a newly introduced measure which they say will threaten their livelihood. The lowering of their profit margin by three percent as of January 1st of this year has cut pharmacies profits by up to 15 percent. The pharmacists' association claims that a quarter of all pharmacies in the Czech Republic, in particular those in small towns and villages, are threatened with bankruptcy as a result. The new measure is part of a package of cost-cutting measures introduced by health minister David Rath.

Clean up at Spolana

A special decontamination unit has launched a clean-up operation at the dioxin contaminated Spolana factory on the river Elbe, some 20 kilometres north of Prague. Altogether around 35,000 tons of dangerous waste will be dug up and treated at an on-site heat plant. The remaining waste will be incinerated. Dioxin dust is one of the site's most toxic pollutants, able to cause cancer and genetic and immunity system disorders. A team of 160 people are working on the site, which is considered so dangerous that only people in full protective clothing from head to foot are allowed in the security zone.

Ecofin approves Czech Republic's convergence programme

The European council for economics and finance has approved the Czech Republic's convergence programme, which is to pave the way for the adoption of the euro in 2010. The council has advised the Czech government to speed up the planned pension reform and to use the period of economic growth to cut back on the deficit in public spending.

Czechs oppose Austrian tax proposal

The Czech Republic on Tuesday opposed Austria's compromise proposal on new VAT rates for the 25 countries of the EU. Prague together with Warsaw remain critical of the deal because they are eager to extend exemptions on VAT rules that were given to them when they joined the EU in 2004. Hungary and the Baltic states have said they are ready to accept the compromise solution. Like all issues regarding tax harmonization in the EU, the list of exemptions from normal minimum VAT rates must be unanimously approved by all member states.

Gross case shelved

A Prague district prosecutor has said he is shelving a probe into the former prime minister Stanislav Gross' private finances. Prosecutor Julius Lachnit said no new facts or evidence had come to light which would justify further investigation. Gross resigned as prime minister last year after coming under media pressure to explain where he obtained the money to buy his luxury apartment in Prague.

Army tents to provide shelter for homeless

Five heated army tents have been erected on Prague's Letna Plain to give homeless people temporary shelter in the current freezing weather. The cold has already killed 16 people in the Czech Republic. Asylum centres are overflowing and an estimated 100 to 200 people are still out in the cold. The tent-town for the homeless will provide shelter for over 100 people as well as a hot meal for anyone who turns up. It will remain in place for as long as necessary.

Weather:

Wednesday is expected to be a clear and sunny day with temperatures between minus 3 and minus 7 degrees Celsius.

24-01-2006