News Thursday, APRIL 06th, 2000

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Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail:

Courts to have last word on local government decision-making

The Czech Constitutional Court has decreed that in future Parliament will not be able to overrule local government decisions. In line with its powers, the Constitutional Court has abolished certain articles of the law which enabled Parliament to overrule controversial decisions made by local authorities on the grounds that this kind of centralist power was carried over from the totalitarian era. The articles in question were actually in violation of other Constitutional laws, a spokesman said. It was on the grounds of these very articles that Parliament recently overruled a local government decision to build the controversial Maticni Street Wall intended to separate a mainly Roma inhabited housing estate from the rest of the neighbourhood. In future similarly controversial decisions are to be settled in court. The move has been welcomed by the government's human rights' commissioner Petr Uhl who said that Parliament was a political body and could not always guarantee an objective verdict.

Occupation strike continues

The occupation strike at the Kohinoor brown coal mine in North Bohemia continues, despite news of a pending sale. The Mostecka Uhelna Company announced on Wednesday evening that it had reached a firm decision to sell its majority stake in the mine , rather than close it down as originally planned. It revealed that it had three offers on the table and the mine would go to the highest bidder. The striking miners, who have been underground for over 140 hours now, have welcomed the news of a pending sale but say they'll wait to see the contract signed. "Having been duped before we are not that gullible" is the message they sent to the mine's management. Close to 1,000 people stand to loose their jobs if the mine does not remain operational.

Nova Hut struggles with financial problems

Tension is also high in the Czech steelworks giant Nova Hut, where seven thousand employees turned out to demonstrate for greater government support in securing production until the plant can be privatized. Financial problems have dogged Nova Hut as they have other Czech steelworks and it is not clear whether there will be available finances to pay all employees their full wages. Trade unions fear massive lay-offs and are demanding guarantees of social support and new job opportunities in the region.

Amnesty International says Roma citizens discriminated

In its 1999 human rights report Amnesty International has criticized the Czech Republic for not providing minorities with adequate protection against various forms of discrimination. The report says that Roma citizens in particular feel discriminated and even fear for their lives as local police frequently turn a blind eye on racist attacks . In cases when the culprits are actually charged it often happens that the racist character of the attack is not acknowledged and they get off with much lighter punishment than the incident merits, Amnesty reports.

Interior minister makes personnel changes

On his first day in office interior minister Stanislav Gross sacked his deputy Jaroslav Kopriva, who is in charge of the public law and order department as well as immigration policy. The new interior minister who said he had a few other personnel changes in mind, explained that he wanted certain posts filled by close associates who understood the conceptual changes he planned to effect. Kopriva is to be replaced by Petr Ibl.

Communists accuse Parliament of damaging our economic interests

Angered by Parliament's approval of a law which will effectively block exports of air cooling equipment for an Iranian nuclear power plant , the Communist Party has announced it is ready to take the matter to the Constitutional Court. The communists are particularly outraged by the fact that in Tuesday's vote the Lower House overrode the decision of the Senate which was in favour of giving the respective nuclear component manufacturer ZVVZ Milevsko financial compensation for the lost contract. Communist Party chairman Vojtech Filip has accused Parliament of damaging the country's economic interests .

And finally a quick look at the weather:

Thursday is expected to be clear to partly cloudy with temps between 6 and 10 degs C. Nighttime lows between O and 4 degs C.