News of Radio Prague

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Jewish community commemorates holocaust victims at Terezin

Members of the Czech Republic's Jewish community, as well as representatives of international Jewish organisations, have gathered together at the Jewish cemetery in the North Bohemian town of Terezin on Sunday to commemorate victims of the Holocaust. Each year since the end of World War Two, the Czech Jewish community organises a ceremony in memory of the first transport of Czech Jews to extermination camps in 1941. After prayers for the thousands of victims murdered by the Nazi regime, the crowd walked over to the Ohre river, into which the ashes of 22 000 Jews were thrown in November 1944. In a speech Prague's Rabbi, Mr. Karol Sidon, highlighted current events, referring to the International Conference Against Racism in South Africa, at which some Arab states called for Israel to be labelled a racist country. Mr. Sidon expressed his outrage at the proposal and said that it was a fresh attempt to segregate the Jewish community from normal society and place it back into a world of 'legalised' terror.

Main opposition party rejects state budget

The main opposition Civic Democrats say they will not support the government's draft state budget for 2002. Shadow Finance Minister Vlastimil Tlusty says his party is convinced that state budget revenues were seriously overestimated. He also criticised the government for failing to cut mandatory expenditures. The Civic Democrats and the minority ruling Social Democrats are bound by a controversial power-sharing agreement, which defines the terms under which the Civic Democrats support the government. One of the conditions was that the state budget deficit should be gradually decreased in order for the public finance deficit to meet the Maastricht Treaty's criteria in 2003.

Social Democrats prepare for primary elections

On a similar note, the leader of the minority ruling Social Democrats, Vladimir Spidla, said on Saturday that the cabinet will only rethink its draft state budget if it is proven to contain serious discrepancies. Mr. Spidla was speaking to journalists after a meeting of the party's Executive Committee at the Prague Congress Centre. The meeting was held to discuss party strategy ahead of primary elections, where candidates for next year's parliamentary elections will be selected. Mr. Spidla warned his colleagues to be wary of donations given to them during the election campaign and said the Social Democrats needed unity, as there has been a continuous campaign to publicly humiliate and discredit party members.

Killer winds strike Czech Republic

Bad weather over the weekend claimed three lives in the Czech Republic. A gale-force wind in Sokolnice, South Moravia, brought down an old ash tree which killed two elderly people who were watching a handball match in a local playground. On the Slapy river dam, in central Bohemia, high winds capsized a barge with two fishermen on board. One of them managed to swim to safety, the other drowned.

Austria's Freedom Party alone in call for referendum

Germany's former Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, dismissed Austria's Freedom Party on Friday in an interview for the Austrian radio station, ORF. Mr. Kohl rejected the party's call for a referendum on EU expansion and its numerous threats to veto the Czech Republic's EU membership if Prague failed to shut down the Temelin nuclear power plant. Mr. Kohl said that if the Freedom Party's policies were tolerated, people would soon resort to pointing guns at each other whenever they were in disagreement. Mr. Kohl was not the only political figure to oppose the idea of a referendum on EU expansion. Austria's Foreign Minister, Benita Ferrero-Waldner said that Austria had already voted on the EU in 1994 and did not need to do so again. She added that EU membership should be granted to any candidate country that meets the accession criteria. At a meeting on Friday, members of the Austrian People's Party, the Social Democrats and the Greens expressed similar views.

Freedom Party plans to fight Temelin

On a related note, despite recent criticism, Austria's far-right Freedom Party has announced that its main political activity in the autumn would be an extensive campaign against the Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia. Party representative, Hilmar Kabas, told the Austrian Press Agency that the focal point of their work would be the preparation of an Austrian referendum on Temelin, which would aspire to vetoing the Czech Republic's membership of the EU if Prague failed to shut down the plant. Mr. Kabas rejected the idea that fears over Temelin's safety would lessen upon the privatisation of CEZ, the plant's operator. Most of the shares in CEZ are expected to be purchased by EU investors.

Days of European Heritage

Saturday and Sunday are the so-called Days of European Heritage during which important places, usually closed to the public, open their doors to visitors. In the Czech Republic alone, 700 monuments have been opened for public viewing and 300 special tours have been organised over the weekend.

Weather

And finally a quick look at the weather forecast. Monday shall have scattered rain with temperatures between 9 and 14 degrees Celsius.