News Friday, JULY 28th, 2000

German Foreign Minister cool on EU target date proposal

Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has given a cool response to calls from his British counterpart for a concrete date for European Union enlargement. Mr Fischer, speaking on a visit to Warsaw, said he supported "a realistic approach" to enlargement, refusing to give his backing to a call from the British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook for Brussels to give EU candidates a 'target date' for accession. Mr Cook made the comments during a visit to Prague on Wednesday, arguing that a deadline for membership would add fresh energy to the enlargement process. He refused to say, however, whether the EU would name a date at the Nice summit in December. Britain is the first major EU member to publicly support a fixed target for expanding the 15-nation Union to the east.

IMF commissioner accused Interior Ministry of 'scaremongering'

The government's Commissioner for September's IMF/World Bank meeting in Prague has said some of the information on the meeting published on the Interior Ministry website amounts to scaremongering. Commissioner Zdenek Hruby criticised information on the site, which advises the public to stock up with food and medical supplies well before the meeting and to obey police orders without question. Czech officials insist that the September's meeting will not become "another Seattle" but anti-capitalist groups say the violence in Prague may be worse.

International Roma Union elects new President in Prague

Delegates at the fifth International Roma Union congress in Prague have elected the Czech Roma rights activist Emil Scuka as the organisation's new President. Mr Scuka, currently General Secretary, said one of his first tasks as President would be to open a new office in Brussels. More than 250 Roma delegates gathered in the Czech capital this week to discuss issues ranging from the plight of the Roma minority in Kosovo to the future of the Romani language. The congress will also nominate a candidate for the Nobel Prize.

Court postpones trial of 20 far-right skinheads

And a court in South Bohemia has postponed indefinitely the trial of 20 far-right skinheads accused of attacking a group of Romanies. A restaurant in the South Bohemian city of Ceske Budejovice was besieged in November 1999 by a large gang of skinheads, who hurled rocks and bottles through the windows, injuring a pregnant woman. Witnesses say the skinheads gave the Nazi salute and shouted racist slogans. Large numbers of Roma have left the Czech Republic in recent years, citing widespread racial discrimination. The Social Democrat government has pledged to fight racism and xenophobia in Czech society.

Man charged for propagating Communist 'class hatred'

Police say a man has been charged under legislation making the propagation of Communist ideology a criminal offence. The editor-in-chief of an Internet newspaper was charged with propagating movements which supported the suppression of human rights and freedoms, an offence which now includes communism. A police spokeswoman said an article in the newspaper promoted class hatred. The new legislation, proposed by the right-wing opposition, has been heavily criticised by parties on the left. The ruling Social Democrats themselves are members of the Socialist International, along with Germany's Social Democrats and Britain's Labour Party.

Tigrid receives highest German state decoration

The former Czech Culture Minister Pavel Tigrid has been decorated with Germany's highest honour, the Great Cross with a Star, for his contribution to Czech-German reconciliation. Mr Tigrid, a former dissident who fled to Germany after the Communist takeover in 1948, was awarded the decoration by the German ambassador Hagen Lambsdorff at a ceremony in Prague. Mr Tigrid was commended for his work in the Czech-German discussion forum, set up under the 1997 Czech-German reconciliation agreement.

Environment Ministry gives go-ahead for bear hunt

The environment ministry has given permission for the capture of a wild bear currently causing havoc in the Beskydy mountains. A local forest ranger told reporters that the forestry commission was now assembling a team of zoologists and forestry rangers to track down and capture the bear, which has been menacing farms in the area since May. The forest ranger said the latest incident came on Tuesday, when the bear killed a number of turkeys and destroyed a beehive.


And finally a quick look at the weekend's weather forecast. It will be a cool and cloudy weekend, with scattered showers and storms in places. Daytime temperatures on both days will reach a maximum of 21 degrees Celsius.