The Czech state is selling its majority stake in Unipetrol to the Polish concern PKN Orlen. On Friday the Polish refinery company signed a 13-billion-crown contract with the National Property Fund and the Czech Consolidation Agency to buy the state's stake in the petrochemical company. The European Commission now has to approve the deal, which is the biggest privatisation carried out by the current Czech government.
Pilsen Regional Court has increased the suspended sentences of three police officers found guilty of beating up a Romany man. The three had previously been given ten-month suspended terms for abuse of power; two of the officers' sentences were increased to 14 months, and the third to 16 months. In 2001 the three drove Romany Karel Billy to a forest near Karlovy Vary, where they punched, kicked and beat him with nightsticks.
According to a law signed on Thursday by President Vaclav Klaus, the gross salary of each of the 24 Czech European Parliament members will be 65,000 crowns (around 2,000 euros). The salary of the MEPs, whom the Czech voters will elect on June 11-12, is 18,500 crowns higher than that of their counterparts in the Czech Parliament and almost four times higher than the average monthly salary in the Czech Republic. There are significant differences between the salaries of Euro-MPs from individual countries. At the moment, the best paid are the Italians with 11,780 euros, and the worst paid are Spanish MEPs with 2,540 euros.
President Vaclav Klaus has signed the law giving the Interior and Defence Ministries the right to trade directly in military materials without an intermediary, the presidential office said on Thursday. The new law on the trade in military equipment, as well as other related laws, will make it possible to conclude the contract for the proposed lease of 14 Jas-39 Gripen supersonic fighter jets between the Czech and Swedish defence ministries without needing a Czech firm to serve as intermediary. On Wednesday, the government postponed discussion of the drafts of contracts related to the Gripen lease for a week. A Defence Ministry spokesman said that if the government concludes its discussion successfully next week, the contract with Sweden could be signed within three to five days.
The Czech mobile phone operator Cesky Mobil has filed a lawsuit against its two rivals, Eurotel and T-Mobile, asking 1.6 billion crowns in compensation for damage linked to different prices they charged. Cesky Mobil said the other two operators charged lower prices for calls to their networks and higher prices for calls to the Cesky Mobil network. A Cesky Mobil spokesman said the lawsuit followed a decision made by the anti-monopoly office in 2002, when Eurotel and T-Mobile were fined a total of 63 million crowns for price differences. Czech mobile operators now have 9.9 million clients together. The Czech population is 10.2 million.
The Justice Ministry has been ordered by a Prague court to pay 200,000 crowns in compensation to a man who was wrongfully remanded in custody. Radovan Krejcir, who is being investigated for evading customs duties of half a billion crowns, was held for six months, though for half of that time no justification had been given for remanding him.
The number of passengers going through Prague's Ruzyne airport increased by 23 percent in 2003 and is expected to reach a record 9.2 million this year, the head of the Czech Airport Authority said on Wednesday. A new terminal which should be completed by 2006 will allow the airport to clear 10 million passengers a year, or up to 15 million if it is further extended.
Weather forecasters have warned that heavy rains on Thursday may cause rivers in many parts of the country to rise dangerously high. Downpours on Tuesday evening led to the flooding of cellars around Pilsen and Olomouc. Meanwhile, reports that this June will be relatively cool may lead many Czechs to holiday abroad rather than staying at home, an expert told the CTK news agency.