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Czechs begin first day of voting in elections to the European Parliament

Czechs began voting in elections to the European Parliament on Friday to fill the 21 seats allotted to the Czech Republic in the 751-strong assembly. A record 38 parties and movements have fielded 849 candidates, which translates into 40 contenders for one mandate. Voter turnout in European elections is traditionally lower than the EU average, with only around a third of eligible voters expected to come to the polls. The results will be announced late on Sunday after the last EU voting country, Italy, closes its polling stations. The European Parliament represents the interests of 500 million people.

Diag Human’s compensation claim rejected by British court

A court in London has dismissed a compensation claim by the blood plasma company Diag Human against the Czech state for allegedly failing to protect its investment in the Czech Republic. The firm claimed eight billion crowns plus interest for a marred deal in the 1990s. Diag Human which has heard negative verdicts on the case from courts in Austria, Switzerland and France, is yet to decide on whether to appeal.

City rejects eMoneyServices offer

The City of Prague has turned down an offer by eMoneyServices to pay 500 million crowns to continue licensing the multi-purpose Opencard. The mayor said earlier the amount demanded was unacceptable; two studies found the price inflated by one-quarter. City Hall will call a tender to select a new card system; meanwhile, the city will start negotiations on the continuation of the current system for an interim period. The selection of a new card system will evidently spell the end of the controversial Opencard, which cost close to 1.2 billion crowns.

Outgoing Slovak president due in Prague next week

Outgoing Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič will meet next week with his Czech counterpart and the Czech prime minister in his final state visit to Prague. Gašparovič steps down in June and will be succeeded by Andrej Kiska. On Tuesday, he will meet with President Zeman at Prague Castle, and he and his spouse will be given a tour of Saint Vitus’ Cathedral, attending a state dinner in the evening held in their honour. Mr Gašparovič last visited Prague in April.

Plant sees leak of low-level radioactive waste water

Some 150 litres of low-level radioactive waste water was accidently leaked at the Temelín nuclear power plant during a maintenance operation, the spokesman for the plant confirmed on Thursday. He stressed that the accident took place within a secure zone and that at no time were employees or the environment in any danger. Anti-nuclear energy activists, including the head of an NGO called Jihočeské matky, have charged that Temelín should be well past growing or teething pains by now. Temelín’s spokesman, by contrast, said the level of radiation which had been measured in the direct vicinity of the accident was was “eight times lower than radiation to which passengers were exposed on long commercial flights”.

Three charged with attempted fraud against Lesy ČR

The country’s anti-corruption unit has charged three men with attempted fraud, the unit’s spokesman Jaroslav Ibehej revealed on Friday. The men were suing the state forestry company Lesy ČR for 12 billion crowns in damages based on two IT and communications contracts dating back to 2007. Investigators found no such deals had ever been signed. If found guilty, the members of the group could face up to 10 years behind bars.

Dlouhý becomes new head of Czech Chamber of Commerce

Vladimír Dlouhý was elected the new head of the Czech Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, replacing Petr Kužel, who did not defend the post for family reasons. Four candidates vied for the post. Besides Dlouhý they were current Chamber vice-president and former head Zdeněk Somr, South Moravia's Regional Economic Chamber head Michal Štefl and Vladimír Opatrný from the Jablonec nad Nisou District Economic Chamber. Dlouhý is a former industry and trade minister and a former candidate for the head of state. He currently serves as an adviser to the investment bank Goldman. In the 1990s public opinion polls, Dlouhý ranked among the most popular policymakers in the country.

Lobkowicz brewery sells 2.3 million newly-issued shares

Pivovary Lobkowicz, the fifth biggest beer maker in the Czech Republic, has sold off 2.3 million newly-issued shares through an IPO with the option for another 230,000 shares, the company stated Friday in a press release. The offered price per share for traders and institutional investors was 160 crowns. An additional 3.4 million shares were to be part of the offer but the original shareholders opted to hang onto their shares. The company’s trading on the Prague Stock Exchange will start on May 28. The total volume of traded shares, including the option, is worth around 405 million which corresponds to market capitalisation at 1.87 billion, the company said. Apart from domestic investors, investors from Austria, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia were drawn by the offer.

Thunderstorms expected across Bohemia

Strong thunderstorms are expected to hit the capital Prague, as well as other regions in Bohemia and the Czech-Moravian highlands later on Friday and to spread to Moravia a day later. Heavy showers could also be seen in places as well as hail and winds up to 70 kilometres per hour. Storm warnings remain in place from 12 PM to 11 PM.

Hockey: Plekanec gets assist on OT winner against Rangers

In the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Montreal Canadiens edged the New York Rangers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday, scoring in overtime. In OT, Czech forward Tomáš Plekanec picked up an assist on the winning play: Rangers goalie Henrik Lundquist couldn’t control the rebound off Plekanec's shot and the puck was struck into the net by Galchenyuk. The final score was 3-2 in Montreal’s favour. The Habs needed the win to get back in the series: they still trail the Rangers 2-1 in the best-of-seven.