News of Radio Prague

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Austria's far-right Freedom Party prepares anti-Temelin petition for Monday

The junior partner in Austria's coalition government, the far-right Freedom Party, is set to launch a nation-wide petition on Monday in protest at the neighbouring Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear power plant. The controversial Freedom Party is trying to prevent the Czech Republic from joining the EU unless the Czech government makes a pledge to permanently shut down the Temelin plant. But, the Freedom Party's efforts have not been shared by Austria's chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, who has slammed the anti-Temelin petition as "a populist threat" which could damage Austrian interests. Wednesday night Schuessel went on television to urge members of his conservative People's Party not to sign the document. The People's Party is the senior partner in the coalition. The government is not legally compelled to act on the petition, but if more than a hundred thousand people sign it, the Austrian parliament will be forced to hold a debate on the issue. Some analysts say tensions over Temelin could destroy Austria's governing coalition.

Czech Telecom to raise prices in February

The dominant fixed-line telephone company in the Czech Republic, Czech Telecom, has been given the go-ahead by the country's Telecommunications Bureau to raise service charges by an average of 3.7 percent in February. The bureau allowed Czech Telecom to raise its standard monthly service charge to 299 crowns, from the current 175. The standard service rate applies to 90 percent of Czech households with regular fixed lines. The rise in prices has not been without criticism: hundreds of customers have already had their fixed lines disconnected, and thousands more have exchanged Telecom's regular service for less expensive options offered by the company.

More Telecom news

The J.P. Morgan consulting firm has received eight letters from investors expressing interest in buying shares in Czech Telecom. The Czech Republic is aiming to sell its 51.1 percent share of the fixed -line telephone company, which is worth some 45 billion crowns, not including majority holder premiums. On the whole the Czech Republic would like to sell its share for a total of 80 billion crowns. A further 27 percent in Telecom shares belonging to strategic partner Telsource, is also up for sale. While the names of the investors have not been revealed, it is being speculated that interested parties include Deutsche Telecom, France Telecom Orange, the American financial house Warburg Pincus together with British partners, and an alliance involving CVC Partners with Spectrum Equity Partners.

U.S. Helsinki Commission: infringements on freedom of speech in CR continue

Although it says the Czech Republic has made great advances in the 11 years since the fall of Communism, the U.S. Helsinki Commission for safety and co-operation in Europe has released a memorandum criticising what it sees as continuing infringements on the freedom of speech. The memorandum lists ongoing cases from last year, including the Czech government's decision to sue the weekly Respekt for libel, after the newspaper criticised the government for doing little about corruption. The Helsinki Commission's memorandum also criticises some Czech politicians for the hostility it says they openly display towards the Czech media. Finally, the memorandum charges that certain political figures in the Czech Republic resort all too often to the judicial system in response to their critics.

Salmonella feared

The Czech Agriculture and Food Commission has reason to believe that a strain of salmonella may have contaminated a German chocolate import. The Food commission is currently running tests on chocolate bars labelled "Merci Finest Selection" with "Best Before" dates marked between April 1st and May 1st 2002. Although conclusive evidence of salmonella has yet to be confirmed, the distributor Storck group has already begun removing the product from store shelves. A total of 46, 000 of the chocolate bars are currently on the Czech market.

Four charged in connection with Chvalovsky case

Four more former bank officials at the Czech Republic's Komercni Banka have been charged with fraud in connection with the Frantisek Chvalovsky case. Mr Chvalovsky is the former head of the Czech Football Association, who was recently freed on bail, after being charged last February with embezzlement. Police believe that by falsifying documents and breaking regular procedures, the bank officials gave the green light for Mr Chvalovsky to draw almost unlimited funds. In total he is believed to have embezzled almost 1.5 billion crowns from the commercial bank.

Czech girl seriously injured in Tatra mountains

A fifteen-year-old Czech girl has been seriously injured in neighbouring Slovakia's High Tatra mountains, after slipping on an ice patch. The girl suffered serious head wounds when she fell near a mountain cottage. Mountain rescue teams operated quickly to have a helicopter remove the girl to a hospital in the northern town of Poprad. Doctors say the girl remains in serious condition and will undergo operation Thursday evening.

Weather

Finally a look at the weather in Prague. Friday will be cloudy with temperatures reaching highs between 0 and -5 degrees Celsius.