News Thursday, DECEMBER 14th, 2000

By David Vaughan

Havel relief over US elections

President Vaclav Havel has said that the resolution of the battle for the United States presidency is a sign of the country's ability to resolve difficult situations in a democratic and constitutional way. At the same time Mr Havel summed up the Czech Republic's cooperation with the outgoing regime as excellent, adding that without Mr Clinton the country would not have joined NATO. However, some Czech politicians and observers have expressed concern over the US Supreme Court's decision. Former Czechoslovak Foreign Minister, Jiri Dienstbier, said that Mr Bush's authority will be seriously undermined, if it emerges later that Mr Gore won the most votes in Florida.

Reactions to Czech-Austrian compromise on Temelin

There have been mixed reactions in both countries to an agreement reached between the Czech Republic and Austria on the future of the controversial Temelin nuclear power station. Under the agreement the Czech Republic acknowledges Austrian fears over the plant's safety, and has agreed to produce a new, detailed environmental impact study under the supervision of the European Commission. The plant's press spokesman said he had no objections to the study, and a spokesman for the European Commission said the deal was good news for the Czech Republic in its progress towards EU membership. In a gesture of support for the deal the EU enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen made it clear that the Union would no longer stand by if there were further blockades by environmentalists of the Czech-Austrian border. Austria's opposition Social Democrats condemned the agreement, saying that the study made no sense as long as the plant remained in trial operation, a view shared by the environmental pressure group Greenpeace. By contrast a senior member of the opposition Civic Democrats in the Czech Republic said that the deal was too great a compromise by the Czech side. Mirek Topolanek said that Prime Minister Zeman had not even wrested a promise from the Austrians that there would be no further road blocks on the two countries' border.

Econonomic Predictions

In reaction to economic figures for the third quarter of this year, the Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik has said he predicts GDP growth to reach over two-and-a-half percent for the year as a whole. He added that he was confident that growth would continue to accelerate next year, but that a sharp rise in consumer imports did pose a potential threat.

Havel meets Belarus opposition

The Czech President Vaclav Havel has said that he greatly respects the democratic opposition forces in Belarus for their strength of vision in agreeing to put forward a common candidate for the country's forthcoming Presidential elections. During a meeting with members of the Belarussian opposition in Prague Mr Havel said that he hoped for a Europe free of authoritarian regimes. The President's spokesman said Mr Havel had held the meeting to remind the public of the extent to which human rights are under threat in Belarus. The head of the Belarussian Social Democrats, Stansilav Suskievic, said that Mr Havel was a man he greatly respected, whose opinions came close to those of the Belarussian opposition.

EU funds to come to Prague

The Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik has signed a agreement with the head of the EU delegation in Prague, Ramiro Cibrian, under which the Czech Republic will receive up to 70 million Euros annually, to help develop the transport and ecological infrastructure. Five projects are to be launched next year, which involve the modernisation of some local railway lines, the building of a bypass in the north-eastern town of Frydek Mistek and the renewal of crumbling sewers in the cities of Brno and Ostrava.

Czech Politicians express reserved enthusiasm for EU rapid reaction force

The head of the Czech Parliament's Defence Committee, Petr Necas, has said that he welcomes the establishment of a European Union rapid reaction force, but he added that the force should not act at the expense of NATO. Talking after a meeting with the Belgian Defence Minister, Andre Flahaut, he added that the Czech Republic would only consider taking part in a European military force if it could be involved in the decision-making process from the very start. The head of the Czech Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael Zantovsky, reinforced this message, saying that he hoped the EU would bring the Czech Republic on board even before the country joins the Union.

Gulf remains between Klaus and new National Bank chief

The new Governor of the Czech National Bank, Zdenek Tuma, has failed to reach an agreement with the Chairman of Parliament, Vaclav Klaus, over how in future the bank will communicate with other state organs, including Parliament. After a meeting on Wednesday Mr Klaus said that the new Governor seemed more willing to communicate than his predecessor, Josef Tosovsky, but that a communications gulf remained between them. Mr Klaus is currently engaged in an angry row with President Havel, who appointed Governor Tuma without consulting either Mr Klaus or the Prime Minister, Milos Zeman.

Sweden optimistic over EU expansion

With Sweden to take up the European Union presidency at the beginning of January, the country's Ambassador in Brussels, Gunnar Lund, has said that the Nice Treaty will speed up negotiations with applicant countries significantly. In an interview for the CTK news agency he hinted that accession talks with some of the most advanced candidates could be complete in time for the EU summit in June next year, marking the end of the Swedish presidency.

Weather forecast

And finally, a brief look at the weather. It will be cloudy with showers, falling as snow in the mountains. Temperatures here in Prague will rise to around 8 degrees Celsius. And we can expect colder weather by the weekend with temperatures between 1 and 5 degrees.