News of Radio Prague

Nomura Europe and Saluka Investments file fresh charges

Nomura Europe and the Dutch company Saluka Investments are filing a complaint against the Czech Republic at the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg. The companies claim that the Czech government violated the European Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms in connection with the enforced administration of the ailing IPB bank, in which they had shares, and its subsequent sale to a rival Czech banking institution, CSOB. Nomura Europe and Saluka Investments have already contested the Czech government's action on the grounds of an agreement on "mutual protection of investments" between the Czech Republic and the Netherlands and are demanding 30 billion Czech crowns in compensation. In addition to this, the companies now claim that the Czech authorities had threatened them with "police harassment" if they dared to take the case to court.

A Czech finance ministry spokesman has dismissed the allegations as "totally absurd".

Environmental Impact Study on Temelin

The Austrian and Czech foreign ministers have made public a procedural framework for the environmental impact study that is to decide the fate of the Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia. The study is to be compiled by a four member team of experts from the Czech Environment and Industry ministries. It should be completed by April 15th , and is to be followed by a number of public hearings in the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany. The public will have 30 days in which to voice reservations with regard to the findings. Any reservations tabled will be incorporated into the final document, to be discussed by the Czech and Austrian heads of government in the second half of May .

The entire process will be supervised by representatives of the European Commission and Austrian and German nuclear experts have been invited to attend as observers.The Czech government has pledged to "fully respect" the outcome of the study .

Austrian anti-nuclear activists dissatisfied

The statement has failed to allay the fears of Austrian anti-nuclear protesters. The spokeswoman for the Austrian Green Party, Eva Glawischnig, said the procedural framework for the environmental impact study was "vague and inadequate" as regards several crucial points. "The very idea that such a study could be concluded in so short a time is totally unrealistic" Glawishnik told reporters. The Austrian anti-Temelin lobby insists that a proper environmental impact study cannot be undertaken while the plant is operational and that it would take at least a year to produce a satisfactory and trustworthy report. Moreover, the Austrian Greens say that Austrian experts should be directly involved in the work rather than having mere "observer status".

Controversy over possible abuse of national census

The newly established Institute for Protection of Private Data and the Czech Statistical Office are still at odds over the possibility of data-abuse in the upcoming national census. The head of the Institute for Protection of Private Data Karel Neuwirt maintains that while names and addresses are a necessary part of the census, the insistence upon a citizens' ID number will make it a great deal easier for someone to link up the given information and abuse it. Although the law stipulates that what citizens reveal in the census should not be used against them by police or financial institutions – there is still a risk that the information could fall into the wrong hands, Neuwirt said at a press briefing in Prague on Tuesday. The outcome of this particular census is expected to reveal the radical change in peoples' lifestyle since the fall of communism eleven years ago.

President Havel stable

President Havel, who is fighting pneumonia in a Prague hospital, is reported to be in a stable condition. Ilja Kotik, the President's personal physician said Mr. Havel was breathing without a respirator, his fever had dropped and that he was feeling "slightly better". The President was rushed to hospital on Monday after early signs of pneumonia forced him to cut short a six day tour of Saudi-Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. He is now being treated with broad- spectrum antibiotics and doctors say that, barring complications, he could be released from hospital by the end of the week.

Drug barons behind bars

Jiri Komorous, head of a special police drugs squad, has revealed that earlier this month the squad cracked down on five ring-leaders of the drugs mafia operating the so called "Balkans route". The five are said to have organized the smuggling of hundreds of kilograms of heroin into Western Europe. Under Czech law they may face prison sentences of up to 15 years. The operation, code-named "Rob", is said to be the most successful crack down on drug barons in the history of the Czech police force.

Zelezny to buy out CME shares in Nova Consulting

The international court in Amsterdam has ruled for a 1997 agreement between Central Media Enterprises and Vladimir Zelezny, the director of private TV NOVA to be dissolved. The Court has ordered Zelezny to pay CME 23 million US dollars for its share in Nova Consulting, a company established by Zelezny, in which CME has a 5,8% stake.

Zelezny and CME parted ways after a violent power struggle back in 1999 as a result of which TV Nova stopped using the CME-owned service organization CNTS . CME is to receive no compensation, although it had originally demanded a 470 million US dollar fine from Zelezny. Although the director of TV Nova has come out of the dispute unexpectedly well, he says he will appeal the verdict on account of the fact that the value of the Nova Consulting shares had dropped dramatically over the past two years.

Stricter norms on bone meal production

The recently established crisis committee for BSE related issues at the Czech Agriculture Ministry has ordered stricter norms to be implemented in the production of bone meal as of March 1st of this year. In practice, this means that certain parts of the animals considered high-risk, such as the head, backbone and intestines, will no longer be used in the making of bone meal. Although no case of BSE has been found among Czech cattle to date, the scare over Mad Cow Disease has resulted in plummeting beef sales.

Divided We Fall – gets Oscar nomination

The US Academy Award nominations made public on Tuesday had Czech film director Jan Hrebejk and the cast of his film "Divided We Fall" popping champagne bottles. Nominated in the best foreign language category, the film reflects the emotions and everyday concerns of people living in a small Czech village during the Second World War.

And finally, a look at the weather:

Wednesday should bring partly cloudy skies and day temperatures between 2 and 5 degs C . The early morning hours will be foggy and frosty as a result of nighttime temps dropping to four degs below zero.