News Monday, OCTOBER 16th, 2000

By: Rob Cameron

Austrian protestors ease blockade, but more to come on Sunday

Austrian anti-nuclear protestors have suspended their blockades of the Czech border for one week, to allow for talks over the controversial Temelin nuclear power station in South Bohemia. The spokesman of Upper Austria's Campaign for Nuclear Safety, Josef Pühringer, said now was the chance for dialogue between Vienna and Prague to resolve the dispute. Thousands of protestors blocked all 15 border crossings with the Czech Republic on Friday, the fifth consecutive day of demonstrations against the launch of Temelin. The Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman repeated on Sunday that Prague would not negotiate under pressure.

Austria bans imports of Czech electricity

Meanwhile the Austrian Economics Minister Martin Bartenstein has announced an immediate ban on imports of Czech electricity, a move which he described as a "strong signal" to the Czech government, which has ignored Austria's calls for the plant to undergo further safety checks. The Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel called for new Europe-wide standards on nuclear power at this weekend's European Union summit in Biarritz. Vienna has threatened to block the Czech Republic's membership of the EU, but observers say the already-isolated Austria has little hope of winning support in the Union for vetoing Czech membership. Meanwhile, the speaker of the Czech lower house, Vaclav Klaus, arrived in Vienna on Monday morning for a scheduled visit to the Austrian capital. He is expected to hold talks with leading Austrian officials on the Temelin issue.

Visegrad Four see 'new mood' in EU membership

The prime ministers of four Central European countries have said there are increasing signs that EU enlargement will begin in 2003. The prime ministers of the Visegrad Four, consisting of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland, held an informal meeting on Friday in the Czech city of Karlovy Vary. They said there was a new mood of optimism following remarks by the EU's Commissioner for Enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, who said earlier this week that a new EU report would show that several countries were capable of completing entry negotiations by 2002, making accession in 2003 possible. The Czech Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, said he shared his colleagues' optimism, but added that candidate countries would probably not receive a firm date at December's EU summit in Nice. He said a final timetable should be ready, however, during the Swedish presidency of the EU in the first half of 2001.

Taiwanese ex-president arrives in Czech Republic

Taiwan's former president Lee Teng-hui arrived in Prague on Saturday to attend an international forum, a visit which is likely to produce condemnation from China. Mr Lee is attending the Forum 2000 conference in Prague, which was officially opened by the Czech President, Vaclav Havel, on Sunday. This is Mr Lee's second overseas trip since he retired in May. The first trip, to Britain, triggered strong protest from China, which accused London of violating its one-China policy. The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalaj Lama, is also attending this year's Forum 2000.

Court sentences football fans for attack on train

A court in the North Moravian city of Ostrava has sentenced nine football fans to a total of 27 years in prison for an attack on a train last year in which a woman was seriously injured. The court found that the nine youths had thrown a number of missiles at the train, which was carrying rival football fans. One of the rocks thrown at the train hit a 33-year-old woman, who is now partially blind and confined to a wheelchair. The youths have appealed against the court ruling.

Havel joins appeal for release of Kurdish activist

President Vaclav Havel has added his name to an appeal from the International Pen Club to Turkey for the release of Kurdish activist Esber Yagmurdereli. More than two hundred writers from twelve countries have called on Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit to release Mr. Yagmurdereli, a lawyer, dramatist and journalist, who has defended the rights of the Kurdish minority in Turkey for several decades.


And finally, the weather forecast. Tuesday will be a rather cloudy day, with scattered showers in places.