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Czech report
by Euro Reporter
2015-08-21 11:00:47
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Cigarettes in Czech Republic among the lowest-priced in Europe

czech_400_01A new study by KPMG, based on data from 2014, reveals cigarettes in the Czech Republic are among the cheapest in Europe. While Czechs, on average, pay 75 crowns for a pack, in Norway, smokers more than three times as much. It used to be that the Czech Republic was known for its “cheap beer” but the results of a new study by KPMG suggest the country could also be equally known for cheap cigarettes. Of all its EU neighbours, including Slovakia, the Czech Republic sells cigarettes at the lowest price - 75 crowns per pack. That compares to the equivalent of 81 crowns in Slovakia and Estonia, countries using the European currency, notes news website iDnes. In fact, only two countries in the EU sell cigarettes for less: Bulgaria, for the equivalent of 66 crowns and Lithuania, 66.

The reason is low excise tax. For every 1,000 cigarettes sold in the Czech Republic that equals 86.18 euros compared to 91 euros in Slovakia, 155 euros in Germany. The most expensive cigarettes are in Norway, where a single box of cigarettes comes to the equivalent of a whopping 349 crowns. Of course, it is necessary to take into account higher wages in countries like Norway or Germany; iDnes cites Eurostat numbers from last year: the average monthly salary in Norway is 3,850 euros, that is, more than 100,000 crowns.

The still comparatively low cost of cigarettes in the Czech Republic, however, means there is not nearly as great a demand for illegal or contraband smokes on the Czech market: in 2014, it equalled 3.1 percent of total sales (some 440 million cigarettes Compare that data to the consumption of cigarettes in the Czech Republic last year, which reached 14.29 billion. The highest sales of illegal cigarettes in Europe, meanwhile, are in Latvia (29.3 percent), Lithuania (28.3 percent) and Greece (20.6 percent).


Official accused of improperly hiring assistant

A squabble over professional qualifications in a Czech Republic regulatory agency has led to abuse-of-power charges filed against the agency’s head. Alena Vitásková, chairwoman of the Czech Energy Regulatory Office (ERU), is accused of abuse of power and breach of trust for appointing former state attorney, Renata Vesecka, as the office’s deputy head. Police spokesperson Jaroslav Ibahej said Vitaskova was charged by a police anti-corruption agency. Vasecka was appointed on Nov. 4, 2014.

Police say that by appointing Vasecka, Vitásková cost the state at least one million crowns (about US$ 41,000) in salary and benefits and violated the law, as Vesecka does not meet the legal qualifications required for the post of an ERU deputy head. The qualifications include, but are not limited to, at least seven years’ experience working in the energy field, three of which must be in a managerial position.

Vitásková disputes that, saying Vesecka meets the criteria since she dealt with energy-related cases in her former position as supreme state attorney. Jiri Chvojka, ERU spokesman, says the agency will file a counter-complaint against the police. Vitásková says she will not consider resignation. “The more they are trying to harm her, the more determined she is to resist the pressure and not let herself be intimidated,” added Chvojka.


Animal rights activists call for ban on fur farming in Czech Republic

Animal rights activists from OBRAZ are holding a week-long protest in front of the Agriculture Ministry where they have put up a large cage, "inhabited" day and night by some of its members. The aim is to draw attention to the plight of animals kept in highly questionable conditions on some 11 fur farms in the Czech Republic. For the activists, there is no middle ground: they argue that fur farming, in the 21st century, should be a thing of the past. A little earlier, I spoke to Marek Voršilka, chairman of the animal rights group.

“Conditions on Czech fur farms are similar to other such farms anywhere in the world. In the Czech Republic, the animals which are bred on farms are normally wild animals – foxes and mink. These are animals which normally run thousands of kilometres over the course of their lifetime. Yet, they are locked in tiny, bare wire cages where they haven’t even got a square metre to move. That results in immense frustration for the animals, behaviour problems leading to madness, aggression, infections and cannibalism. And this is well-documented. These are animals which deserve to be in the wild, not locked in a tiny wire cage which can’t be any good for them.”

You have made public video footage which was provided to you anonymously by some people in the farms and the images truly are very disturbing. The animals’ lives appear very miserable indeed, including for the offspring, just miserable and short. At the same time, I would guess that there has been a shift in attitudes: some countries now have bans and consumers seem to be more aware of the situation or more conscientious…

“I definitely think so. There has been a shift in the past few years. The first direct fur farming ban came in 1998, the UK followed in 2001, and we now have 10 countries which have a ban or indirect ban. In other countries there is a lot of discussion about the moral implications and the question 'Do we really need these fur accessories or decorative elements on winter coats'? There has definitely been a shift in public opinion: one poll by CVVM suggested in 2013 that 68 percent of Czechs were against the practice and favour a ban. So there has been a shift.”

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