News Thursday, DECEMBER 21st, 2000
By David Vaughan
Czech TV has a new boss but the battle continues
The Czech public service TV network, Czech Television, has a new director, just a few days after its supervisory board sacked Dusan Chmelicek from the post. The new head is Jiri Hodac, who was briefly director of news at Czech TV earlier this year, but left after a dispute with his department. The board stated that of all the candidates Mr Hodac had shown the greatest understanding of Czech TV's programming needs. However, trade unions representing Czech TV employees along with members of the news department have said that they are strongly opposed to the appointment. They expressed their disagreement by inserting a two-minute written protest into Wednesday evening's main news broadcast, a move which Mr Hodac said was probably illegal. The head of Czech TV news, Jiri Vondracek, handed in his resignation, and TV journalists have announced a series of further protests. They argue that the supervisory board has acted with excessive haste in replacing the director and has lost credibility by succumbing to political pressure from the ruling Social Democrats and their opposition partners the Civic Democrats.
EU committee rejects Czech complaint
A European Union Committee, made up of the EU ambassadors of member countries, has rejected calls from the Czech Republic for a change in the number of seats the country will hold in the European Parliament when it joins the Union. The Czech Republic had complained that they would hold only twenty seats, as opposed to the twenty-two allocated to Belgium, Portugal and Greece, which have similar populations. However, the committee said that the Czech Republic would have a second chance to press for change as it continued its accession talks with the Union.
Czech and Austrian Presidents play down tensions
The Czech and Austrian Presidents, Vaclav Havel and Thomas Klestil, have agreed that the differences between the two countries over the Temelin nuclear power plant should not be linked to the Czech Republic's accession talks with the European Union. Mr Klestil said that both he and the Austrian government were working actively for EU enlargement. At a meeting in Prague the two presidents agreed that they could understand the concerns of people protesting against the Temelin plant, but that the solution was not to blockade the Czech-Austrian border, as has occurred on several occasions recently. Czech-Austrian relations have been under strain since Temelin was put into trial operation in September despite Austrian protests.
Senate approves integration into Nato's ground-to-air defence system
The upper house of the Czech Parliament, the Senate, has given the green light for the Czech Republic to integrate fully into NATO's ground-to-air defence system. The agreement will come into effect from the beginning of February, two months later than had originally been planned. At the same session the Senate also approved the continued participation of Czech troops throughout the coming year in UN peace-keeping missions in the Balkans.
Austrian compensation fund comes into operation
The Austrian Chancellor, Wolfgang Schuessel, has officially launched the so-called Reconciliation Fund, to compensate citizens from six Central and East European countries, including the Czech Republic, who were forced to work on Austrian territory during the Second World War. Around fifteen thousand Czech citizens will be entitled to compensation, amounting to a total figure of 501 million Austrian Schillings. The fund's chairman, Ludwig Steiner, said that the main priority now was to act quickly, given the age and health of those involved. Around a million foreign citizens were sent to Austria during the war as forced labour.
And some quick news from the world of ice hockey. With an impressive performance, winning their final game against Finland 6-2, despite trailing 2-0 in the early stages, the Czech national team has finished second in Moscow's Baltica Cup, just behind the hosts, Russia. This was the Czech Republic's strongest international performance this season, after beginning the European Hockey Tour with poor form.
And finally a quick look at the weather. The colder, brighter weather looks set to remain with us over the next few days, with daytime temperatures between minus five degrees Celsius and freezing point, and temperatures overnight sinking as low as minus ten.