News of Radio Prague
Komercni Banka to be sold to Societe Generale
The Czech government has decided to sell it's majority stake in Komercni Banka, one of the country's largest banks, to France's Societe Generale. The government decided in favour of Societe Generale out of the three banks competing in the public tender to buy a 60 percent stake in Komercni Banka, because it made the highest bid, of 40 billion Czech crowns, or just over one billion US dollars. The bid from Italy's UniCredito was slightly lower, and Germany's Hypovereinsbank was only half the amount offered by Societe General. The sale will take place within two months.
Zeman: we can't wait for slower candidates
According to Prime Minister Milos Zeman, the member countries of the Visegrad Four cannot wait for other members lagging behind in EU accession preparations. Mr Zeman's remarks came after talks in Prague on Wednesday with his Hungarian counterpart, Vitkor Orban. The member countries of the Visegrad Four, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, have all agreed to co-operate in their efforts to join the European Union, with the exchange of information and mutual support for each other's entry bids. But Poland has recently been experiencing problems with accession preparations, and Mr Zeman told journalists on Wednesday that although the members of the V4 will continue to co-operate, they cannot wait for any country lagging behind.
The Hungarian prime minister also held talks with Czech President Vaclav Havel on Wednesday, and at a press conference afterwards the two men both gave their support for continued V4 co-operation even after the group joins the EU.
Czech Republic gets worse corruption rating
The Czech Republic has fared badly in Transparency International's annual corruption index, coming in 47th out of 91 countries. All these countries receive a maximum of ten points based on how they deal with corruption. The Czech Republic received just 3.9 points, and ranks five places lower than last year, and ten lower than in 1999. The Czechs share 47th place with Bulgaria, and fared worse than the other EU candidate countries on the list.
Haider: annul decrees, stop Temelin, or no EU entry
The former leader of Austria's far-right Freedom Party, Jorg Haider says that if the Benes Decrees are not annulled and if the Temelin nuclear power plant is put on-line, Austria will block Czech EU membership. The Benes Decrees were issued at the end of WWII and led to the expulsion of up to 3 million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia, many of whom settled in Austria. Also, many Austrians are opposed to Temelin, which lies just 50 km from the Austrian border. The two issues have strained Czech-Austrian relations, and Mr Haider, the controversial former leader of the Freedom Party, reiterated on Wednesday that if these issues are not resolved, Austria will block Czech accession to the EU.
Police still searching for missing girl
After eight days of searching, the Czech police have still found no trace of five-year-old Tereza Cermakova, who went missing in the Central Bohemian town of Kladno last week. Tereza's mother, jumped out of a third storey window on Tuesday, who after allegations surfaced that she was drunk at the time of her daughter's disappearance. According to a police spokesman, her injuries are serious, but she is no longer in critical condition.
Divers still searching for missing Indian refugees
Police divers continue to search the River Morava, which forms a natural border with Slovakia, for the bodies of a group of Indian nationals who are believed to have drowned two weeks ago while trying to cross into the Czech Republic. Out of a group of up to twenty people, three were rescued at the time, and seven bodies have been recovered so far. Police divers are searching a 30 km stretch of the river in the hope of retrieving the remaining bodies. On a related note, police on the Czech-German border discovered twenty Indian hidden in a goods vehicle. The group had already applied for asylum in the Czech Republic, and were trying to make their way into Germany illegally.
Property declaration law passes against expectations
Against expectations, the Lower House of Parliament has passed a new law on property declarations. The law, proposed by the government, is aimed at all those whose property exceeds value of ten million Czech crowns, or more than 2.5 million US dollars. If the law makes it through the Senate, all those concerned will have to declare the value of their property every three years. After a long debate, the ruling Social Democrats succeeded in passing the law, with the support of Communist MPs.
And finally, a quick look at the weather forecast. The sunny weather the Czech Republic has been experiencing is due to come to an abrupt end on Thursday, with rain showers, thunderstorms and hailstorms expected throughout the country. Daytime highs should reach 24 degrees Celsius. Night-time lows on Wednesday could drop to 14 degrees Celsius. More rain is expected on Friday and Saturday, with slightly higher temperatures.