News Friday, DECEMBER 22nd, 2000

By Nick Carey

Czech TV has a new boss but the battle continues

Controversy over the appointment of a new director for Czech Television continues. Jiri Hodac, the former head of news at the station, was selected just days after Czech Television's supervisory board sacked Dusan Chmelicek from the post. Trade unions representing Czech TV employees, along with members of the news department, have said that they are strongly opposed to the appointment. They expressed their disagreement by inserting a two-minute written protest into Wednesday evening's main news broadcast, and have begun a petition to have Mr. Hodac removed from office. They argue that the supervisory board has acted with excessive haste in replacing the director and has lost credibility by succumbing to political pressure from the ruling Social Democrats and their opposition partners, the Civic Democrats.

Civic Democrat leader Vaclav Klaus has denied that his party had anything to do with the selection of Mr. Hodac. Mr. Klaus added that Czech Television is not functioning properly as a public service television station, and should therefore be privatised.

Czech and Austrian Presidents play down tensions

Austrian President Thomas Klestil has been the focus of criticism by Austrian politicians for statements he made in a meeting with Czech President Vaclav Havel in Prague on Wednesday. The two presidents agreed that the differences between the two countries over the Temelin nuclear power plant should not be linked to the Czech Republic's accession talks with the European Union. A spokesman for the Austrian Social Democrats said President Klestil's words were a disservice to his people. Austria, the spokesman said, must reserve the right to block Czech EU membership over the issue of Temelin.

On a related note, Temelin, now at 30 percent capacity, began producing electricity for the Czech Republic's energy network on Thursday. The spokesman for an Upper Austrian anti-nuclear organisation said that this was an unpleasant surprise for Christmas.

Stolen works of art on line

Internet pages containing works of art stolen from Czechoslovak Holocaust victims during World War Two are due to go on line in the Moravian capital of Brno. The website is part of a programme to return these works of art to their original owners or their descendants. Owners have until the end of 2002 to file a request to regain possession of their property.

EU committee rejects Czech complaint

A European Union Committee, made up of the EU ambassadors of member countries, has rejected calls from the Czech Republic for a change in the number of seats the country will hold in the European Parliament when it joins the Union. The Czech Republic had complained that they would hold only twenty seats, as opposed to the twenty-two allocated to Belgium, Portugal and Greece, which have similar populations. However, the committee said that the Czech Republic would have a second chance to press for change as it continued its accession talks with the Union.

Senate approves integration into Nato's ground-to-air defence system

The upper house of the Czech Parliament, the Senate, has given the green light for the Czech Republic to integrate fully into NATO's ground-to-air defence system. The agreement will come into effect from the beginning of February, two months later than had originally been planned. At the same session the Senate also approved the continued participation of Czech troops throughout the coming year in UN peace-keeping missions in the Balkans.

Austrian compensation fund comes into operation

The Austrian Chancellor, Wolfgang Schuessel, has officially launched the so-called Reconciliation Fund, to compensate citizens from six Central and East European countries, including the Czech Republic, who were forced to work on Austrian territory during the Second World War. Around fifteen thousand Czech citizens will be entitled to compensation, amounting to a total figure of 501 million Austrian Schillings. The fund's chairman, Ludwig Steiner, said that the main priority now was to act quickly, given the age and health of those involved. Around a million foreign citizens were sent to Austria during the war as forced labour.

And finally, a quick look at the weather.

The weather in the Czech Republic on Friday should see overcast skies throughout the day. Daytime temperatures should be between minus six and minus two degrees Celsius. Temperatures during the night could reach as low as minus twelve degrees Celsius. The weather should continue much the same over the weekend.