The Czech government has given the nod for the Interior Ministry to prepare legislation that would legalise prostitution while bringing it under regulation of the state. Under the bill prostitutes would pay taxes for plying their trade and would be required to take monthly medical check-ups. Licences to prostitutes would be issued by offices in authorised municipalities to both Czech and foreigner sex workers over the age of eighteen. Professional facilities, meanwhile, offering sex would also have to pay a set annual fee, early estimates say, of 200, 000 crowns. The sex trade is widespread in the Czech Republic: some reports have as many as 25, 000 individuals currently working as prostitutes throughout the country, roughly half of those foreign nationals.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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