News of Radio Prague

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Fagan gives CEZ 30 more days to hand over documents

The U.S. lawyer Ed Fagan has given the Czech power utility CEZ one more month in which to hand over documents relating to safety at the Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia. Following an inspection tour of the plant on Tuesday, Mr. Fagan told journalists that if he did not receive full documentation on Temelin's safety within 30 days, he would take the matter to court. The famous American lawyer has been recruited by Austrian anti-nuclear activists in a bid to prevent the plant going into commercial operation on the grounds that it allegedly fails to meet strict international safety norms. Meanwhile, representatives of the power utility CEZ, which built and operates Temelin, said they were not worried by the threat of a court case since they had fully adhered to both Czech and international safety standards during the plant's construction and trial operation. A CEZ spokesman told reporters that the power utility had already released as much information as possible without compromising trade secrets.

Trouble brewing at Nova Hut steelworks

Trade union leaders at the Czech Republic's biggest steel producer, Nova Hut, have declared war on the plant's management. At the centre of controversy is an agreement on planned wage growth in the year 2001. The plant's management claims that wages cannot rise beyond an average of 19,400 crowns per month, but trade unions argue that given predicted inflation growth for 2001 employees would receive lower real wages than they did last year. Trade union representatives told the CTK news agency on Tuesday that negotiations with the plant's management were deadlocked, and they were seriously considering strike action. The plant's management has not so far responded to the threat.

Czech officials opposed to 7 year moratorium on movement of labour

Czech officials remain opposed to the idea of a seven-year moratorium on the free movement of labour, which Germany and Austria have proposed to introduce when new members join the EU. During talks with the visiting Austrian foreign minister Benita Ferrero Waldner, the head of the Czech Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael Zantovsky, explained that as far as the Czech labour force was concerned, the fears expressed were unjustified. The Czechs are known to have a very low mobility in searching for work and due to the present demographic trend the country itself will soon be in need of large numbers of foreign labourers. On Monday the Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, expressed similar views, arguing that while the vast majority of Czechs would most likely not avail themselves of the opportunity to work abroad it would be psychologically damaging for them not to be given this freedom, which is viewed as one of the clearest signs of EU membership.

MPs want to question Hucin

The head of Parliament's Commission for supervising the work of country's intelligence service BIS, Jan Klas, has asked the Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures to enable members of the committee to visit former BIS employee Vladimir Hucin in prison. Hucin, who has been jailed for over a week now faces charges of refusing to obey orders and possession of illegal weapons and explosives. Police also suspect he was involved in a series of bomb explosions in the town of Prerov. Hucin's arrest has evoked considerable controversy, and there have been rumours that he was framed by certain officials of the BIS because he intended to make public information regarding the fact that 11 years after the Velvet Revolution, the country's Intelligence Service allegedly continues to employ former members of the communist secret service, the dreaded STB.

Parliament's commission for supervising the work of the BIS, is now looking into the matter. Meanwhile, an increasing number of people are expressing support for the former dissident. Close to two hundred people gathered on Wenseslas Square on Tuesday evening to demand Hucin's release.

Hotline for parents to be set up within days

The Child Protection Foundation says it's ready to launch a hotline for parents in the hope of reducing child abuse. The foundation is already successfully operating dozens of toll-free help-lines for children across the Czech Republic, but according to director Zuzana Baudysova more action is needed. She said the country was witnessing a rise in child abuse by parents, both psychological and physical. She added that her colleagues wanted to be there for anyone who wanted to talk things over in a crisis, adding that many parents were already using the lines meant for children.

Weather

And finally, a look at the weather forecast, and winter appears to be making the most of its dying days: Tuesday night should be cold and overcast with scattered sleet or snow showers. Night-time lows minus two to minus six degrees Celsius. The first day of spring is not expected to be much better. Overcast skies, sleet and snow showers are expected across most of the Czech Republic on Wednesday with day temps between two and six degs.