The Czech government has approved the sale of the petrochemical group Unipetrol to be sold to Poland's PKN Orlen; the announcement was made by Finance Ministry spokesman Marek Zeman on Wednesday. PKN, the only short-listed bidder to actually go ahead with its bid: more than 13 billion crowns for the government's 63 per cent majority in the group. Unipetrol is made up of top Czech fuels dealer Benzina, the Chemopetrol refinery, rubber manufacturer Kaucuk, oil processor Ceska rafinerska, oil producer Paramo, and the Spolana chemical company.
The aristocrat Franz Ulrich Kinsky has failed in a bid to gain ownership of the Kinsky Palace, one of the most impressive buildings on Prague's Old Town Square. On Tuesday a Prague court ruled that the palace, which houses part of the Czech National Gallery, belongs to the state. Mr Kinsky, a descendant of the Kinsky noble family, has filed over 150 lawsuits seeking the restitution of property he says belongs to him. Most of the property was confiscated after 1945 from Mr Kinsky's late father, an alleged Nazi sympathiser who died before the war.
President Vaclav Klaus has signed an amendment to the copyright law allowing fake brand clothing confiscated by the police to be given to charities. Once the law comes into effect on May 1, the state will no longer be obliged to destroy all clothing and shoes bearing fake trademarks. However, all such trademarks will have to be removed before the goods can be given to children's homes and other social services. From September to December last year almost 500 million crowns worth of counterfeit brand clothing was confiscated.
The opposition Civic Democrats have significantly more public support than the other parties in parliament, according to a poll by the STEM agency released on Tuesday. Some 35 percent of those polled said they would vote for the Civic Democrats, ahead of the Communists with 19 percent and the governing Social Democrats with almost 17 percent.
The Czech Business Inspectorate has begun taking action against touts selling tickets to the World Ice Hockey Championships in Prague and Ostrava. Selling tickets at inflated prices is in breach of the law on consumer protection. The Business Inspectorate and the police uncovered several cases of tickets being sold at more than face value outside Prague's Sazka Arena on Tuesday. Punishments range from spot fines of 5,000 crowns for minor infringements to fines of up to a million crowns in cases of large-scale organised touting.
While food prices are like to rise after the Czech Republic joins the European Union on Saturday, the increases will be slight and gradual, the minister of agriculture, Jaroslav Palas, said on Tuesday. The minister said there were large differences in food prices among existing EU states, and that prices reflected citizens' purchasing power.
Meanwhile, a draw has been held by the State Electoral Commission to determine ballot sheet numbers for the parties registered to take part in the Czech Republic's first ever elections to the European Parliament in June. The Social Democrats number on ballots will be four, while the Civic Democrats drew six. Fugitive businessman Viktor Kozeny - who recently founded the Civic Federal Democrats - said on Tuesday it was strange that the two main parties had received such low numbers, whereas those who threatened what he called the political oligarchy came at the bottom of the list.
The Interior Ministry has registered 31 political parties preparing to vie
for 24 possible seats in upcoming elections to the European Parliament in
June. The Interior Ministry made the announcement through its website
Saturday evening, noting that only one party had been denied: the
so-called "Coalition for the European Restoration of the Death
Sentence and True European Democracy". The party can appeal the
decision in court. Other parties registered include all mainstream
political parties in the Czech Parliament, as well as established
non-parliamentary parties like the European Democrats and the Greens.
Meanwhile the party founded by highly-controversial businessman Viktor Kozeny, the so-called Civic Federal Democracy, has also successfully registered for the upcoming elections. Mr Kozeny is the former Czech financier wanted on criminal charges in both the Czech Republic and the U.S..
Police on Saturday stepped in to break up a gathering of skinheads at a concert in Chrast, near Pilsen, west Bohemia, after skinheads at the concert began shouting fascistic slogans. The concert was being held at a local restaurant, and had not been authorised. Police, ran checks on eighty-five people present, taking six into custody for further questioning.
The former leader of the Social Democratic Party Milos Zeman has said the future of the party is at threat thanks to what he called the current party leadership's "betrayal" of its pre-election programme. Speaking at a public meeting in the north-west Bohemian town of Most on Sunday, Mr Zeman criticised some Social Democrat representatives for making too many concessions to junior partners in government, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union. Discussing a possible return to politics from retirement, Mr Zeman said he would only be willing to return to party politics if the Social Democrats called an extraordinary convention ahead of the regular party congress planned for 2005.