News Friday, NOVEMBER 24th, 2000

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By Nick Carey

Reiss-Passer: Czech government arrogant over Temelin

According to the European Union's commissioner for enlargement, Gunter Verheugen, Temelin will be the safest nuclear power plant in Europe. In an interview for the German paper Munchner Merkur, Mr. Verheugen said that Temelin, which is in South Bohemia, will not be the atomic disaster that experts originally thought it would be.

On a related note, the Austrian Deputy Chancellor, Susanne Reiss-Passer, who is also the head of the far-right Freedom Party, the Czech government's position on the Temelin nuclear power plant is arrogant. Mrs. Reiss-Passer's statement came during campaigning for Austrian regional elections. The Austrian Deputy Chancellor stated that the Czech government's attitude was unusually arrogant for bilateral relations with a neighbouring state, and said that proper safety standards in nuclear power plants must be a condition for future membership of the European Union. Mrs. Reiss-Passer also repeated a request that a referendum be held within the EU to find out whether the people of the European Union really want to expand the Union eastwards.

Staying with Temelin, the Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, announced on Thursday that Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel are due to meet on December 12th to discuss the issue of Temelin. According to Mr. Kavan, he expects that great progress will be made in bilateral negotiations between Prague and Vienna.

Fresh border protest against Temelin

Austrian environmentalists have begun a fresh protest on the Austrian-Czech border against the Temelin nuclear power plant. Unlike protests earlier this month and in October, where all border crossings between the two countries were blocked for up to a week at a time by hundreds of protestors, the current protest consists of only twenty people. The Drasenhofen-Mikulov border crossing where the protest is taking place remains open to traffic, and at present there is no sign that other protests will take place in the near future. According to the head of the Austrian Anti-nuclear Committee, opponents of Temelin are now relying on Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel to resolve the issue.

Future of Czech ambassador to Bulgaria looks uncertain

The future of the Czech Republic's ambassador to Bulgaria, Ondrej Havlin, looks increasingly uncertain. According to the Bulgarian government and diplomatic sources in Sophia, Mr. Havlin has repeatedly made statements belittling Bulgaria's efforts to join the EU. Bulgaria has complained to Prague about Mr Havlin's remarks, and relations between the two countries have become strained. Most recently, Mr. Havlin warned Czech tourists against travelling to Bulgaria where he said crime was rampant. He also reportedly mocked Bulgaria at a reception in Sofia, a claim which Mr. Havlin has denied. The Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, discussed Mr. Havlin's possible dismissal with President Vaclav Havel on Wednesday. Mr. Havlin is due at the Foreign Ministry on Friday for talks with the Foreign Minister, and there is speculation that he will be formally dismissed from his post.

59 percent of Czechs favour EU membership

According to a fresh opinion poll, carried out by IVVM, fifty nine percent of Czechs are in favour of joining the EU, while twenty four percent are against. A similar number of those asked stated that they believed that the EU is interested in including the Czech republic in the Union. The number of people in favour of EU membership has increased steadily since 1996, when the figure was forty two percent. When asked what benefits the EU would receive from Czech membership, one of the most common answers was that the EU will receive cheap and high-quality labour.

And finally, the weather forecast.

The Czech Republic will be affected by a ridge of low pressure on Friday, bringing fairly cold and unpleasant weather with it. The day should see overcast skies and fog in places, with intermittent rain showers expected throughout the day. The highest daytime temperatures should reach eleven degrees Celsius. Temperatures during the night should reach a maximum of four degrees Celsius.