Foreign ministry considering sale of Štiřín Chateau

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With saving the order of the day, individual ministries are busy reviewing expendables in every sphere of activity. In addition to freezing projects and cutting jobs, some of them are considering selling off property that they can spare. In the wake of getting government approval for closing down five Czech embassies, the foreign ministry said it was considering selling the stately Štiřín chateau which it occasionally uses for international gatherings.

The Baroque chateau with its English style-park, located some 25 kms southeast of Prague, has been in state ownership since 1945, when it was confiscated from the Ringhoffer family. During the communist years it was largely neglected, serving as a holiday resort for party bosses and it was not until a major restoration in the late 1980s that the chateau regained its former stately appearance. In 1991 it came under the administration of the Czech foreign ministry as a highly representative site for international gatherings, conveniently close to Prague. In the last 15 years the state has poured millions of crowns into its maintenance. Now Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg says the chateau is a luxury the ministry can ill-afford to maintain.

“If the opportunity presents itself and the price is right the ministry would be prepared to sell the chateau. In view of the need to save money this has become an option.”

The idea is not new – the ministry considered selling the chateau a few years ago –but it decided not to push ahead with the sale because the global crisis was impacting prices of real estate the world over. A real estate company then put its market value at 650 million crowns. Today real estate dealers put it at around 2 billion crowns. Michal Krejčiřík who specializes in the sale of stately homes and smaller chateaux, says it may take years to find a buyer.

“I can tell you that we have a big problem finding Czech buyers for properties of this kind. We are now in the process of selling a much smaller chateau and the interested parties are either Russians or Americans. In the case of Štiřín the price tag is extremely high meaning that the ministry will have to wait for the right buyer to come along. And it may wait for as long as ten years. On the other hand someone may turn up – as they say there is always a buyer for everything.”

The foreign ministry has indicated it is aware of the problem and is in no hurry. Minister Schwarzenberg said he did not think the property could be sold through an auction and the matter is to be entrusted to a real estate company.