News Saturday, DECEMBER 16th, 2000

By Alena Skodova

Austrian anti-nuclear activists plan fresh border protests

Austrian anti-nuclear activists are planning a demonstration at the Wullowitz border-crossing on Saturday, to protest against the Temelin nuclear power station in South Bohemia. The demonstrations come in spite of Tuesday's meeting in Austria between Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and his Austrian counterpart Wolfgang Schuessel, who reached a compromise in the feud over Temelin. Austrian political representatives, who met in Linz on Friday, agreed not to blockade the Czech-Austrian border, like they did two months ago. Austrian anti-nuclear activist Josef Puhringer said, however, that it was difficult to predict what the activists might do in the future. He refused to rule out the possibility of more serious protests if the agreement between the two prime ministers was not implemented. Prague has agreed to a independent environmental impact survey on Temelin, to be completed by May 2001.

Foreign Minister has quadruple by-pass

The Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, underwent major heart surgery in Prague's General Hospital on Friday. Mr Kavan, who is 54, was given a quadruple by-pass. Doctors say the operation went smoothly and if everything goes well, Minister Kavan might be released from hospital within 7 days. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil told reporters that Mr. Kavan is due to visit South Africa on January 28th.

Credit union bankruptcy claims 13,000 victims

Another credit union in the Czech Republic has gone bankrupt. Some 13,000 clients of the Czech-Moravian Credit Union in Ostrava have lost savings totalling one and a half billion Czech crowns. The Union's members are entitled to receive 80 percent of their savings from a special state-run fund, but the maximum compensation must not exceed 100,000 crowns. Earlier this month, parliament approved the issue of state bonds to be paid to clients of bankrupt credit unions, which came after several demonstrations outside the government headquarters in Prague last month.

Transport unions meet government to discuss crisis

Representatives of four haulage unions met the Transport Minister Jaromir Schling in Prague on Friday, to discuss the present crisis in the road transport sector. The chairman of the Czech and Moravian Haulage Union, Bedrich Danda, told the CTK news agency that the transport ministry would meet almost all the demands made by the unions. However, the unions do not agree with the ministry's decision to introduce a higher road tax for all cars and lorries which do not meet European emission norms. They say the new rule should only concern vehicles produced by the year 1985.

Spidla calls for wage increase

The Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Vladimir Spidla, has expressed his support for wage increases in the Czech Republic. Speaking during a press conference of the ruling Social Democrats on Friday, Mr Spilda also described the establishment of local trade union organisations as an inalienable right of all working people. Mr Spidla made the remarks in reaction to complaints that foreign companies operating in the Czech Republic were preventing their employees from setting up local trade unions. The Minister also pointed out that companies spent less money on wages in the Czech Republic than in Western Europe.

And finally, the weather:

It will be a bit colder over the weekend, with daytime temperatures between 1 and 5 degrees Celsius and snow showers in the mountain areas.