Daily news summary

Finance ministry proposes increasing consumer tax on tobacco, spirits and gambling

The Czech Finance Ministry has proposed levying a higher consumer tax on tobacco, spirits and gambling.

The tax on cigarettes and tobacco should go up by 10 percent, that on spirits by 13 percent. Certain forms of gambling should also see a tax increase from 23 to 25 or even 30 percent.

The proposed hikes would increase state revenues by approximately 10 billion crowns a year. If approved the amendment to the law would come into effect as of January 2020.

Prague City Hall abandons controversial proposal to tax unoccupied housing units

The Prague City Hall coalition has agreed to abandon a controversial proposal to collect anonymous data from electricity meters in order to identify and tax vacant properties.

The proposal to tax unoccupied apartments, put forward by the Pirate Party, was intended to make speculative property buyers rent out flats rather than leaving them empty until sold.

It sparked a major dispute within the ruling coalition with the TOP 09 party arguing that this would be an invasion of privacy and interference in ownership rights.

Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib said after Friday’s negotiations that Prague City Hall would seek other incentives to try to resolve the problem.

Prime minister meets with head of anti-trust office over corruption scandal

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš on Friday met with the head of the Czech Anti-Trust Office, Petr Rafaj, who is suspected of corruption in a police investigation involving the Austrian firm Kapsch.

Rafaj was invited to the Office of the Government to brief the prime minister and deputy-prime minister Jan Hamáček on his involvement in the affair. Rafaj reportedly assured them that the Anti-Trust Office was impartial and independent in its decision-making.

There have been calls for Rafaj’s dismissal but the prime minister has indicated he would await the outcome of the investigation before making a decision.

British far-right activist Tommy Robinson not to appear in Czech parliament

A conference in the Czech lower house due to be attended by British far-right activist Tommy Robinson on Friday has been cancelled. Mr. Robinson was invited by ANO MP Milan Pour to attend a conference on Friday on children’s rights but the event was called off following a wave criticism from the media and politicians across the board. He was due to speak about so-called grooming gangs in Britain.

The former leader of the right-wing activist group English Defence League, who currently serves as a political adviser to the leader of the UK Independence Party, has a criminal record with convictions for a number of offences. Mr Robinson has also been permanently banned from Facebook and Instagram for repeatedly violating their policies on hate speech.

Andrew and Indira Fuestel tour Czech cities

US astronaut Andrew Feustel, who has taken a number of Czech artefacts with him on his space missions, is visiting the Czech Republic, together with his wife Indira who has Czech roots. The couple are giving talks to the public in Prague, Olomouc, Ostrava and Brno.

Fuestel was on three space missions, in 2009, 2011 and in 2018, each time taking a significant Czech artefact with him. The chosen objects were the legendary Czech cartoon character, Krteček, or Little Mole, a painting by a Jewish boy drawn in the Terezín ghetto and a book of poems entitled Cosmic Songs by the 19th century Czech author Jan Neruda.

Traffic on D1 motorway resumes after storm cleanup

Strong winds caused problems in the Vysočina region,in Moravia, on Thursday, disrupting road and rail traffic, damaging power lines and leaving hundreds of people without electricity supplies.

Traffic on the D1 motorway in the direction to Brno was closed for 14 hours due to fallen trees, with emergency crews working overnight to clear the debris. Traffic was fully renewed on Friday morning.

Weather forecast

Saturday should be partly cloudy to overcast with scattered showers and day temperatures between 10 and 14 degrees Celsius.