Just a week before the Czech Republic remains set to join the European Union in a wave of historic expansion, Czech President Vaclav Klaus has spoken at the Asian economic forum on the island of Po-ao, China, discussing the future of the EU. On Saturday the Czech president assured delegates that - despite the Czech Republic's joining - the country would remain open to the rest of the world. Mr Klaus compared EU accession to making an investment, which he added, need not always be a success. Meanwhile, during his appearance at the economic forum Mr Klaus had the opportunity to speak with former U.S. president George H.W. Bush, a former U.S. ambassador to China in the 1970s. One of the top issues discussed was the current situation in Iraq.
Delegates from the UNIOS group of unions representing the gas industry and communal services have released a statement saying the government should scrap the system of civil servants' so-called 13th and 14th month bonus salaries in favour of raising workers' basic monthly wages. UNIOS chairman Karel Sladkovsky made the announcement on Saturday shortly after union representatives completed a meeting in Prague. Earlier in the week more than 200, 000 civil servants went on strike in the Czech Republic in protest of the government's decision to pay them only 10 percent, instead of the usual 50 percent of the 13th month bonus. Mr Sladkovsky criticised the government's plan to implement a new 16 point wage scale without, in his words, "knowing what to do next". Some 750, 000 work in the public sector, with roughly 450, 000 receiving salaries from the state budget.
The National Property Fund has reported that just one company, the Polish firm PKN Orlen, has put forward a bid to buy up the state-owned stake in the Unipetrol petrochemical group. PKN Orlen has offered more than 13 billion crowns for the stake plus claims, deputy chairman of the National Property Fund Pavel Kuta told Czech news agency CTK on Friday. Mr Kuta said in all likeliness the privatisation commission would recommend PKN Orlen for ownership. Earlier British-Dutch concern Royal Dutch/Shell pulled out of the tender for the petrochemical giant, while the Hungarian company MOL failed to submit its bid. The new owner of Unipetrol could be confirmed by the end of April or in early May.
The 68th Ice Hockey World Championship officially kicked-off on Saturday in the Czech capital Prague, as well as the Czech Republic's third largest city Ostrava. International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel officially welcomed fans on Saturday afternoon to Prague's new Sazka arena, in advance of the Czech national team's opening game versus Latvia. The official opening followed two games earlier in the day in which Slovakia easily defeated Ukraine 2-0, and France fell to Austria 6-0.
The Czechs meanwhile won their opening game 3-1 against a spirited Latvia. Czech team captain Martin Straka opened scoring early on a breakaway in the first period while defenceman Jaroslav Spacek also scored. Straka managed a second goal to put the Czechs in the driver's seat in the fast-skating combination game. However, Latvia was not without its chances and the Czechs' number one starter, goaltender Tomas Vokoun (of the Nashville Predators), had to be sharp throughout. In the third period Vokoun erased an open-goal opportunity by Latvia and only surrendered the shut-out in the final two minutes of the game.
Moving on from their opening victory the Czechs face Kazakhstan on Monday.
Sunday is expected to see cloudy weather with daytime temperatures lower than in recent days: just 10 degrees Celsius.
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