News Thursday, DECEMBER 07th, 2000

By Rob Cameron

Zeman arrives Nice for start of crucial EU summit

The Czech Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, has arrived in the French town of Nice for the first day of a crucial European Union summit. The Nice meeting has been billed as the most important EU summit since Maastricht in December 1991, when the European Union decided to expand the 15-member block to the east. 10 years on, however, candidate countries in central and eastern Europe are still waiting for a concrete date for admission. Observers say this date is unlikely to be offered at Nice, as the Union must agree on crucial institutional reform including the controversial issue of voting rights.

Interior Ministry rejects IMF police brutality claims

The Czech Interior Ministry has rejected the first two of thirty complaints of police brutality during September's International Monetary Fund/World Bank meeting in Prague. A spokesman for the Ministry's inspection body said in both cases investigators had decided officers had not broken the law, rejecting complaints filed by civic groups which monitored police handling of anti-globalisation protests during September's meeting. Demonstrators, many of them foreign, claimed that they were systematically beaten with truncheons and denied food, sleep and legal assistance after being arrested during anti-IMF demonstrations in the Czech capital. More than 900 people were arrested during the street protests, which attracted some 12,000 mostly peaceful demonstrators. Meanwhile, a court ordered the release on Wednesday of an 18-year-old Danish student who has been in prison since being arrested during the protests. The judge said the man was free to return to Denmark, but might be called to give evidence when his trial for assaulting a police officer begins in February.

Drivers, police brace for chaos: revolutionary new road rules come into effect Jan 1

The lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, has rejected a government proposal to delay the implementation of a revolutionary new law on road traffic, despite warnings that the Czech authorities won't be ready to implement it. The new law, which comes into effect on January 1st, introduce a number of revolutionary changes to Czech driving regulations. They include absolute priority for pedestrians on crossings, the compulsory use of headlights throughout winter, compulsory child seats for children under 12, a ban on the use of mobile phones when driving, and compulsory helmets for cyclists. The changes were designed to bring the Czech Republic in line with the EU.

Sportsmen, politicians pay last respects to Emil Zatopek

Politicians, diplomats and sporting personalities from around the world paid their last respects on Wednesday to Emil Zatopek, the only long-distance athlete to win three gold medals at a single Olympic Games. In a simple ceremony at Prague's National Theatre, guests paid tribute to the Czech running legend who died on November 21 at the age of 78. With the Olympic flag hanging overhead and Zatopek's coffin draped with the Czech flag, International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch posthumously awarded Zatopek the Pierre de Coubertin medal, the IOC's highest honour. Mr Samaranch told mourners of his feelings as he stood in the Olympic stadium in Helsinki in 1952 and watched Zatopek win the marathon, after already winning gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres. The pall bearers at Wednesday's funeral included the three times gold medallist javelin thrower Jan Zelezny.

Korda retires from ATP after comeback fails The Czech tennis player Petr Korda, who was banned from tennis for a year in 1998 following a positive drug test, officially retired on Tuesday after losing to Slovakia's Martin Hromec 6-4 3-6 6-7 in his comeback ATP Challenger event in Prague. Korda, the 1998 Australian Open champion, was found to have used the banned substance nandrolone at the 1998 Wimbledon championships.

CEZ gets green light to build nuclear waste dump at Dukovany

The Czech Republic's state-run energy utility CEZ has been permission to build a new repository for radioactive waste at the Dukovany nuclear power plant. The repository, scheduled to open in 2006, will be designed to hold spent fuel rods and other waste from the plant located near the south Moravia city of Trebic. The new repository will be built near the current waste storage facility close to Dukovany's four reactors. The current facility can hold 600 tons and will be full in late 2005. A CEZ spokesman told the Czech News Agency that the Ministry for Local Development had given permission for the waste facility, and that the decision could not be reversed. The Czech Republic recently opened a second nuclear plant at Temelin, near the Austrian border, leading to a fierce diplomatic dispute with Vienna.


And finally, a look at the weather. On Thursday and Friday, warmer air will continue to pour into the Czech Republic from Southern Europe, bringing early morning fog, low skies, and scattered showers. Temperatures will range from minus one at night to eight degrees in the daytime.