News of Radio Prague

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European Commission: Verheugen's comments misinterpreted

The spokesman for the European Commission, Jean-Christophe Filori, said on Wednesday that comments by the EU commissioner for enlargement Guenter Verheugen on the issue of property in the Czech Republic being returned to its pre-war owners had been misinterpreted. Mr Filori said commissioner Verheugen was referring not to the controversial Benes Decrees, which stripped Germans and Hungarians of Czechoslovak citizenship and land after World War Two, but to a 1991 law on restitution of property. News agencies have quoted Mr Verheugen as saying in the European Parliament on Wednesday that the Czech government was ready to propose changes in legislation if it was proved that the Benes decrees contradict EU legislation.

The Benes Decrees have rekindled old tensions between the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, which are all trying to complete EU membership negotiations by the end of 2002. Mr Filori said Mr Verheugen will look closely at the 1991 law on restitution of property but this would not change the European Union position on the Benes Decrees. The EU has said in the past the Decrees would not be a factor in the Czech Republic's accession talks.

Emergency drill underway at Temelin nuclear power plant

The sound of sirens started off a two-day emergency drill at the Czech Temelin nuclear power plant on Wednesday morning. The drill is a simulated nuclear disaster, and is designed to test the readiness of the plant's staff and local emergency services. The plant's spokesman, Milan Nebesar, said the drill would include tests of safety systems on the first reactor, which was launched in October 2000 despite anti-nuclear protests, and the second reactor, which was loaded with fuel last week and should be fully operational by the end of this year. Officials say the drill - the first of six emergency exercises planned for 2002 - underscores the Czech Republic's commitment to enhance Temelin's safety systems. However, Temelin's opponents in Austria and Germany continue to press for the plant's shutdown, claiming that it is dangerous because it was built using an outdated, Soviet-era design combined with western operating technology.

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra has new conductor

The Czech-born American Zdenek Macal will become the new chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Mr Macal will replace Vladimir Ashkenazy in the post, beginning in 2003. The 66-year old Zdenek Macal has worked with a number of orchestras abroad including the Berlin Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic and the current 2001-2002 season marks his final season as Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in the United States.

Weather

And finally a quick look at the weather forecast. The night will be overcast with temperatures between 0 and 4 degrees Celsius. Thursday should be mostly cloudy with rain in the north of the country. Daytime temperatures will range between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius.