News Friday, OCTOBER 27th, 2000

By: Daniela Lazarova

Government to freeze consumer tax on fuel

Under pressure from the transport sector to reduce consumer tax on fuel in order to bring down prices, the government has said that while it could not afford to reduce consumer tax it would effect a freeze until the Czech Republic joins the EU. Finance ministry spokesman Libor Vacek told reporters on Thursday that a freeze was realistic since at its present level the consumer tax on fuel had reached the EU minimum. In addition to that the Prime Minister intends to approach the anti-monopoly institute about the matter of a possible cartel agreement between individual fuel companies. Meanwhile in Parliament, a number of opposition mps are still trying to achieve a reduction of the consumer tax on fuel, arguing that the Czech Republic need not adhere to EU norms long before it is actually admitted to the Union.

Czech National Bank changes inflation prognosis

The Czech National Bank has slightly increased the inflation prognosis for the year 2,000. In view of the present exchange rate it has forecast a 3,3 to 3,8 percent inflation , up from a 3,2 to 3,7 percent forecast made in August. The Bank's inflation target for the year 2,000 is 3,5 to 5,5 percent. Consumer prices are expected to rise by 4,1 to 4,5 percent at the close of the year. That's up from the July forecast of 3,3 to 3,9 percent.

Austrian nuclear activists demonstrate against Temelin

Some 200 Austrian anti-nuclear activists gathered at the Neunagelberg-Halamky border crossing on Thursday afternoon to demonstrate against the activation of the Temelin nuclear power plant, located just 50 kms from the border. According to the CTK news agency the demonstrators made no attempt to disrupt traffic or block the border-crossing. " This is an appeal not a confrontation" one of the activists told reporters. He added that the character of future protest actions would depend on the outcome of talks between the two countries' heads of government, scheduled to take place on October 31st.

Temelin director asks for objective reporting

Meanwhile, the general director of the Temelin nuclear power plant Frantisek Hezoucky has appealed to Austrian officials for greater objectivity in reporting on the Czech nuclear power station. Hezoucky sent an open letter to Wolfgang Kromp , the head of the Risk Assessment Institute in Vienna who recently inspected Temelin with a group of nuclear experts, asking him to give the Austrian public an objective report of his findings. The head of the Temelin power plant has told the CTK news agency that at the end of the inspection tour Mr. Kromp had admitted that many of his earlier concerns had been totally unjustified.

Temelin reactor to go into a higher activation phase soon

At Temelin, the activation of the power plant is reported to be progressing as planned. The Czech Nuclear Energy Agency is to make a decision in the next few days on whether Temelin's first reactor can be put into a higher activation phase.

Allegations of police brutality being investigated

The Czech authorities have so far registered 320 complaints alleging police brutality against demonstrators during the street riots that accompanied the IMF and WB meeting in Prague. Two parallel investigations are underway to ascertain the facts. Meanwhile, according to police chief Jiri Kolar, three foreign nationals remain in detention in Prague , awaiting trial. A British anti- globalization activist was released on Thursday after paying McDonalds close to 40 thousand crowns in damages.

The Belgian royals tour Ostrava

The Belgian royal couple spent the last day of their three day visit to the Czech Republic in the Moravian city of Ostrava. Some 500 people lined the streets of the Czech Republic's third biggest city as King Albert II and Queen Paola went on a walk-about. "It is a great honour for Ostrava " one of the locals told reporters, "most visiting royals remain in the Czech capital". The Ostrava visit was allegedly arranged at the Belgian King's request for he wanted to see for himself what life was like outside the Czech capital. During his three days in the Czech Republic the Belgian King met with President Havel and numerous Czech top officials, discussing predominantly the country's preparations to join the EU.

Visegrad talks on minority rights

The member states of the Visegrad Group are meeting in Prague on Friday to discuss minority rights in their respective countries. According to the CTK news agency the meeting of Czech, Slovak, Polish and Hungarian representatives is to focus primarily on the human rights situation with respect to the Roma minorities in these states. The meeting is to be held at the Lichtenstein palace.

Anarchists and ultra-right groups plan to hold gatherings on October 28th

The Czechoslovak Anarchists' Association has called a demonstration against fascism to be held on Jiraskovo Square in Prague on Saturday, October 28th. The day is a national holiday in the Czech Republic, marking the birth of independent Czechoslovakia in 1918. According to the CTK news agency the ultra-right group Narodni Strana is planning to hold a demonstration on Palacky Square in Prague. Emotions may run high due to the fact that the Czech government on Wednesday rejected Narodni Strana's application to register as a bona fide political party. Police are expected to be out in force on Saturday to prevent the two groups from clashing.

Finally, a quick look at the weather: Friday should be a partly cloudy to overcast day with scattered showers and day temps between 8 and 12 degs C. However we can hope for clearer skies and sunnier weather over the weekend with temps between 10 to 14 degs.