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by Euro Reporter
2011-03-12 08:20:44
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Gov't coalition approves VAT unification at 17.5%

The Czech government coalition parties yesterday backpedalled on the quick VAT unification plan and agreed on the preservation of a lower VAT of 14 percent in 2012 and on VAT unification at 17.5 percent, without any exceptions, as from January 2013, Prime Minister Petr Necas told reporters. The cabinet will link the lower house's vote on the pension reform with a vote of confidence in it, Necas said after a meeting of top leaders of his Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and the junior ruling TOP 09 and Public Affairs (VV).

From January 1, 2012, the 14-percent VAT will exist paralleled with he basic VAT of 20 percent for one year, he said. The VAT increase is to cover the costs of the planned pension reform enabling people to send part of their social insurance to private funds instead of the state pay-as-you-go pension system. The centre-right government wants the bill on the VAT changes in 2012 and 2013 to be passed by the Chamber of Deputies this June.

At present there are two VAT rates of 10 and 20 percent. Under the coalition's original agreement last week, the VAT was to be unified at 20 percent this October. The plan, however, met with criticism of not only the leftist opposition but also of experts, President Vaclav Klaus and even some coalition representatives. Necas said only the ODS and TOP 09 leaders were ready to support the original plan at the meeting yesterday, but the VV voiced reservations about it. VV chairman Radek John told reporters that the VV will not propose any further changes to the pension and VAT reform plan. The meeting yesterday also agreed not to push for a reduction of companies' contributions to employees' social insurance any more. This will reduce the costs of this phase of the pension reform, Necas said.

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Battle for Kafka legacy drags on


The story of how Franz Kafka went from an obscure Prague office clerk to one of the world's most revered literary figures is well documented. But the wishes of his best friend, and biggest champion, Max Brod, remain the focal point of a bitter legal dispute in Israel, where a wealth of Brod's and Kafka's papers has been made public in recent months. Brod's decision to ignore Kafka's request that he burn his unpublished manuscripts upon Kafka's 1924 death has created a battle that lawyers say will be winding its way through the court system for years to come, making the struggle over the author's legacy more "Kafkaesque" in nature than much of his own work.

"This is going to take a lot of time," said Meir Heller, the lawyer for the Israeli National Library, one of the parties in the dispute. "If there is an end, we are not seeing it yet." On the other side, there are the Hoffe sisters - Eva and Ruth - who are the daughters of Esther Hoffe, Brod's secretary after he moved to Palestine in 1939. When Brod died in 1968, he made Esther Hoffe the executor of his estate, and she placed much of Kafka's and Brod's writings in safe-deposit boxes in Israel and Switzerland. Upon her 2007 death at the age of 101, she bequeathed the documents to Eva and Ruth, who have sold some of Kafka's papers already to the German Literary Archive in the city of Marbach and, many feel, have designs on selling more. Esther Hoffe herself sold the original manuscript of Kafka's masterpiece, The Trial, to the German archive for close to $2 million in 1988.

The Israeli National Library - which got a boost in February in the form of a former Brod acquaintance's deposition - claims Brod specified in his will that his and Kafka's works should become property of the library as they are cultural assets of the Jewish people. "We got involved in 2008, and we're still here," said Heller. "[The Hoffes] have a team of lawyers now, and whichever side wins, there is going to be an appeal."

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Military police demand controversial report from Czech Television


Czech military police yesterday demanded a controversial report from 2007 compromising Defence Ministry senior officials from the Czech Television (CT) News Desk, CT spokesman Ladislav Sticha confirmed to CTK. The report led to the dismissal of former military intelligence Chief Miroslav Krejcik in 2007. Krejcik recently presented his case to the lower house defence committee. He was to speak of corruption related to military orders but he seemed to mostly talk about his forced departure from the intelligence.

Military police spokesman Jan Cermak said the police acted based on an order from a state attorney and they will call on CT director general Jiri Janecek on Friday to hand them the report. Sticha said three plain clothes policemen put a seal on the door of the office of reporter Karel Rozanek who prepared two news coverage on Krejcik. As the policemen were not authorised to demand the report in question, CT did not give it to them and ordered them out of its building. "We consider this action scandalous and unacceptable," Sticha said.

The military police seemed to exert pressure against the television and against the freedom of speech, he added. Cermak said the police received information from the director and editor-in-chief of the CT news coverage that led them a news editor who voluntarily gave them a copy of the report and told them that the report itself was in an office of one reporter. As the reporter was not present, the police sealed his office, Cermak added. The report is crucial for police investigation, he pointed out. Rozanek told iHNed news server that he gained the report. This report was allegedly written to discredit senior ministerial officials, probably former deputy defence ministers Jaroslav Kopriva and Radek Smerda. The plot was allegedly masterminded by Krejcik.

Krejcik indicated that the report, worked out by General Pavel Adam who was his deputy four years ago, had been a fake. It was former defence minister Vlasta Parkanova who proposed that Krejcik be sacked. Parkanova recently said Krejcik was dismissed since he got involved in power struggles between groups at the Defence Ministry and abused his power.


       
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