News Friday, MAY 26th, 2000

Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail:

Public hearing on human rights' abuse in Chechnya

A public hearing on human rights abuse in Chechnya is to be held at Prague Castle on Friday, under the auspices of President Havel. Taking part in the event will be eye-witnesses of brutality against civilians, members of Human Rights Watch, the non-governmental Moscow based organization Memorial and the Prague-based People in Need. The individual testimonies will be followed by a debate and a closing address by President Vaclav Havel.

Cabinet's powers boosted

Parliament has approved a Constitutional amendment which will allow the Cabinet to send Czech troops abroad in the event of an emergency. The draft law, which still needs to be approved by the Senate, should also enable the Cabinet to approve the transit or deployment of foreign troops on Czech territory within international peace-keeping missions or emergency operations in the event of a natural disaster. Cabinet's decision would be valid for a period of 60 days by which time it would have to gain Parliament's approval. The amendment was made in order to allow the Czech Republic to respond more flexibly to NATO requirements and fulfill its commitments as a member state. President Vaclav Havel has welcomed the approval of this legislation.

Getting a drivers' license will be harder

Getting a drivers license in the Czech Republic should be much harder in the future. Parliament has approved an amendment to the law bringing it in line with EU norms. Transport minister Jaromir Schling says the new law entails much tougher written tests for applicants and tougher inspections for driving schools. The final test ride will be extended to 40 minutes from the present 20 and applicants will be expected to perform much better. Another significant change is that the drivers' tests will no longer be conducted by members of the traffic police but schooled officials from the respective local council.

CEZ says Austrian claims are untrue

The Czech energy giant CEZ has rejected Austrian claims that it had exported energy at dumping prices in the course of last year. A CEZ spokesman said the allegations were untrue and were being spread in order to drum up public opposition against the Temelin nuclear power plant in Southern Bohemia.

The argument that the Czech Republic does not need the power generated by another nuclear power plant, since CEZ is already exporting part of its energy production to West European states, is at the centre of a Greens campaign against Temelin. The plant is to go into operation in three months' time .

Czech PM in Greece

On an official visit to Greece, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman has been discussing EU integration with his Greek counterpart Kostas Simitis. The Czech Prime Minister stressed at a press briefing in Athens on Thursday that his country was well aware of the fact that EU norms not only had to be met on legal ground but properly implemented. The Czech Republic is prepared to be a trustworthy partner he said. Greece is an EU member and strongly backs enlargement of the 15 nation block. The two heads of government also discussed bilateral ties, signing an agreement on economic cooperation and calling for joint initiatives for stability in the Balkans. The agreement involves cooperation in the industrial, agriculture and technology sectors and beefing up private investments mainly by Greek businesses in the Czech Republic.

Weather forecast

And finally a look at the weather: Friday should be a partly cloudy to overcast day in most of the country with scattered showers and afternoon thunderstorms. Day temps between 18 and 22 degs. Nighttime lows around 12 degs C.