The Czech government is due to decide on the method of the much-delayed privatisation of the dominant land line operator Cesky Telecom on Wednesday. The sale of the state's 51 percent stake in the company is expected to raise around 2.0 billion euros in what will be the largest privatisation of Prime Minister Stanislav Gross's government. A major cabinet split on which method to choose has only further delayed an already-protracted process. A majority of ministers, including Prime Minister Gross and Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, favour a flotation on the capital markets but several ministers, including Information Technology Minister Vladimir Mlynar, say selling to a strategic investor would be a better long-term option for the company.
According to the STEM polling agency, the Prime Minister Stanislav Gross enjoys 40 percent of public support which is by some 11 percent less than in September. According to the agency's surveys Mr Gross's popular support is at its lowest since May 2002. He has fallen from second to fifth place on the popularity ladder. The Education Minister Petra Buzkova remains the most popular Czech politician, with 43 percent of public support.
Several hundred Ukrainians gathered in Prague's Wenceslas Square on Sunday to support Ukraine's opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko. As well as the demonstrators in Ukraine, the protesters in Prague wore orange scarves, hats and vests, symbolically joining the "Orange Revolution", called after the official colour of the opposition. The activists in Prague were also joined by members of the Belarusian minority and a number of Czech politicians. The activists are planning to keep on meeting outside the Ukrainian embassy in Prague. They also called on the Czech people and parliament to support them in their efforts.
The automotive pricing analysis internet server, Eurocarprice.com, has reported that used cars in the Czech Republic are cheaper than in most Western European countries. For example, the price of a three-year old car in the Czech Republic is 16 percent cheaper than the average price in the Euro-zone. The most expensive used cars are being sold in Portugal. On the average, a three-year old car costs around 40 percent of a new car in the Czech Republic.
The director and choirmaster of the world-renowned children's choir Bambini di Praga, Bohumil Kulinsky, has been arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing underage girls, the members of his choir. A court has to decide now whether Mr Kulinsky will be taken into custody. The CTK news agency says that if found guilty he faces up to 10 years in prison. Mr Kulinsky's mother is now in charge of Bambini di Praga as the choir is leaving for a Japanese tour on Sunday. Bambini di Praga was founded in 1973 by Bohumil Kulinsky Sr. and his wife Blanka.
The Czech immigration and border police carried out another nationwide operation to crack down on illegal immigrants on Friday night. Only in Prague and Central Bohemia, the police checked about 1,000 people. Around 40 people were arrested and 20 expelled from the country. Police also found two wanted persons during the overnight raid. The officers focused on dormitories, marketplaces, restaurants, bus and train stations, night clubs and roads connecting the state borders with large cities.
The 16th Meeting of the Parties of the Montreal Protocol on the ozone layer has ended in Prague with a compromise agreement on the use of the chemical methyl bromide. The substance which is used to treat fruits and vegetables is believed to damage the ozone layer sixty times faster than the banned CFCs. The participants of the conference agreed that their countries would lower their consumption of the chemical in 2005. The limits for 2006 will be agreed on next year in June. The world's annual consumption of methyl bromide has declined from 64,000 tonnes in 1991 to about 26,000 tonnes. Apart from protecting crops, methyl bromide is also used as a solvent and disinfectant.
A report by the National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addictions says that the number of people addicted to heroin and the Czech-made methamphetamine pervitin has dropped by some 7, 500 since the year 2000 when the centre registered over 37,000 users of heroin and pervitin. However, the number of young people experimenting with recreational drugs is on the rise. Forty-four percent of 16-year-olds admit they have tried marijuana and 8 percent say they have experience with club drugs.
The Constitutional Court is to judge whether the introduction of the European arrest warrant is in compliance with Czech law. Deputies of the opposition right wing Civic Democratic Party claim that extraditing citizens is in violation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, and thus in violation of the Czech Constitution. The party has urged the Constitutional Court to address the matter as soon as possible since the criticized provisions in the penal code have already taken effect. As of November 1st, Czech citizens suspected of serious crimes such as terrorism, paedophilia, or murder can be extradited to other EU states.
The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Germany and Spain have urged the French to say "yes" to the EU constitution, ahead of a key ballot by France's opposition Socialists on whether to back the treaty. In a joint article in the daily Le Monde, prime ministers Gross, Schroeder and Zapatero said the European Constitution contained "only progress and no steps back" and that it would create a stronger European Union of which France was an important part. "France needs Europe and Europe needs France for a more democratic, stronger and more effective Europe" the joint article says. The December 1st vote will decide whether the French Socialists will back the treaty in a referendum due next year.
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