The Czech Republic received seven billion crowns (over 300 million US dollars) from the European Union more than it paid in during its first year as a member, the Czech Finance Ministry said on Tuesday. The country contributed 18 billion crowns to the EU budget, but received almost 25 billion in compensation payments and from various funds. The difference was greater than Czech officials predicted at accession talks in Copenhagen in 2002.
The Slovak government has decided not to appeal a court verdict ordering it to pay 24.8 billion Slovak crowns (some 775 million US dollars) to the Czech bank CSOB (Ceskoslovenska obchodni banka). In December last year, the Washington-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) ruled that Slovakia still had an outstanding debt to the Czech bank after it failed to pay back a loan from 1993. The Slovak Finance Ministry has promised to pay CSOB 16 billion Slovak crowns by Friday. The remaining sum owed would be paid by the beginning of next year with one percent interest.
The Czech Republic's unemployment rate climbed to a 10-month high in January as farming and construction companies laid off seasonal workers. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs said on Tuesday that the unemployment rate had grown to 9.8 percent from 9.5 percent in December 2004, and a record 10.2 percent one year ago.
The Czech government's privatization agency has received five preliminary bids for a majority stake in Cesky Telecom, the dominant telecommunications company. The government plans to sell its 51.1 percent stake in Cesky Telecom, whose value is estimated at about 60 billion koruna ($2.6 billion). Three telecommunication companies - Belgian telecommunications provider Belgacom, SwissCom of Switzerland and Spain's Telefonica - as well as two financial consortia are among the bidders.
The world's largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch of the United States, has won the right to challenge a Czech rival at the European Court of Human Rights over the Budweiser name. Anheuser-Busch is appealing a 2001 decision by Portugal's Supreme Court, which ruled Budejovicky Budvar has the right to the Budweiser name in that country under a 1986 treaty between the Czech Republic and Portugal. Anheuser-Busch claims it has used the Budweiser trademark since 1876, almost 20 years before Budvar was established.
The Lower House of the Czech Parliament approved a bill that would have all cash register activities of small businesses recorded and monitored. The use of the monitored cash registers is to help the government fight against the grey economy. If approved by the Senate and signed into law by the President, small retailers and restaurants will be obliged to use the registers as of January 2007. Those who would fail to comply could be fined up to half a million Czech crowns.
The North Bohemian company Jablotron has been bombarded with orders ever since CNN broadcast a report on the biggest mobile telephone in the world. The Jablotron phone looks like an ordinary fixed-line telephone with large buttons and a normal-size receiver. It also has a key-pad with the complete alphabet and a large display, features designed to make it easier to use for elderly people. The company has had to outsource some work to meet increased demand: 140,000 units are to be delivered by March.
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