The Czech government has approved a series of proposed tax amendments within its budget reform plan. This includes a gradual corporate tax reduction from the present 31 percent to 24 percent in 2006. The medium-term reform plan aims to cut the public finance deficit to four percent of GDP by 2006 and envisages sweeping changes in the pension and social systems, tax adjustments and a reduction of 30,000 posts in state administration. The government has stuck firmly to its outlined goals, in spite of widespread trade union protests, and the proposed reform is to be presented to Parliament later this month.
The Foreign Ministry has stressed the need to speed up the process of security screening of people who are to join the Czech team at EU headquarters in Brussels. The Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has asked the National Security Bureau to treat the matter as a top priority, pointing out that there have been delays on previous occasions. The Foreign Ministry complained in May that 530 of its employees were still waiting to undergo security screening although they had asked for it in 1999. The Czech team at EU headquarters in Brussels is expected to expand significantly when the Czech Republic joins the EU in 2004.
President Vaclav Klaus has proposed appointing a well known minorities' rights lawyer Klara Vesela Samkova a judge of the Constitutional court. A spokesman for the president's office said on Monday that President Klaus considered Mrs. Samkova an excellent choice for the post in particular with regard to her work in defending the rights of the Roma minority in the Czech Republic.
Sculptor Pavel Opocensky, who faces new charges of child sex abuse, is in custody awaiting trial. A Prague court ordered for him to be placed in custody for fear that he would try to influence witnesses. Several underage girls have testified that he paid them money for sexual favours. The practice came to light when the parents of one abused girl noticed that she had an inordinate amount of pocket money to spend. Pavel Opocensky, who is well known as a former dissident and Charter 77 signatory, is considered to be one of the country's best sculptors.
The Labour Ministry wants to increase staff at labour offices by another 450 employees. Although unemployment has been growing in recent years, there has been no increase of staff at labour offices. This has resulted in less time for individual job seekers and longer waiting periods between visits. At present one labour office employee services 220 job seekers which allows for less than 1o minutes per person, twice a month. The latest unemployment figures show a 7.6 national average unemployment rate, but in some parts of the country unemployment is at over 20%.
The 38th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, which opened last weekend, is hosting film stars, film directors and cinema-goers from around the world. Among the VIPs present are: British film director Steven Frears, American actor Morgan Freeman and Canadian actress Deborah Kary Unger. On Monday visitors to the festival could take their pick from 63 screenings, among them the Norwegian film Buddy directed by Morten Tyldum, and the American film The Cooler directed by Wyan Kramer, both serious contestants for the Crystal Globe award. The organizers report record attendance. Over 40,000 tickets have been sold in the first three days of the festival, alone.
Tuesday is expected to be dry and partly cloudy with day temperatures between 22 and 24 degrees Celsius.
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