News Thursday, NOVEMBER 02th, 2000

By Daniela Lazarova

Austrian anti-nuclear activists plan to resume border-blockades

Disappointed by the outcome of Tuesday's top-level talks between the Czech and Austrian heads of government, Austrian anti-nuclear activists have renewed blockades of key border crossings in protest against the Temelin nuclear power plant. The Wullowitz-Dolni Dvoriste, Weigetschlag-Studanky and Guglevald- Predni Vyton border crossings were blocked by tractors and vans early on Thurday morning . The protest action, which is to last until Monday evening, has reportedly been approved by the Upper Austrian authorities . The Czech Foreign Ministry has criticized the blockades, calling them "unfortunate" and " counterproductive".

Temelin going into higher gear

Meanwhile, the Czech power company CEZ said on Wednesday it had started the process of putting the Temelin power plant into a higher activation phase, less than twenty four hours after receiving approval from the Czech Nuclear Energy Agency. CEZ said that the plant's active reactor was now working at level two, with output at 1.5 percent capacity. The process of raising electrical output at the block to 100 percent will take about four months. Temelin is expected to go into commercial operation sometime in May 2001.

Eight prison guards sacked in wake of convict's escape

Eight prison guards at the Mirov maximum-security jailhouse have been sacked for neglecting their duties in connection with the dramatic escape of a dangerous killer who was serving a life sentence in the prison. An investigation has revealed that prison regulations had been slackened to a shocking extent, allowing the escaped convict the use of a mobile phone in his cell and enabling contact with other prisoners. Acting Justice Minister Pavel Rychetsky told reporters on Wednesday he would take another few days to decide whether the prison's director Kamila Meclova is to be dismissed from her post. Meclova is refusing to resign of her own accord, considering the matter closed after she dismissed her deputy earlier this week. Meanwhile, the nationwide hunt for the dangerous killer continues. Hundreds of police officers are still combing the countryside in the vicinity of the Mirov prison in Northern Moravia, checking out unused buildings and barns to make sure that the convict is not in hiding close to the prison. Several locals reportedly said they had glimpsed someone who closely resembled the wanted killer, but none of the leads proved useful. ESP's are now reported to be offering their assistance.

Bures is hot candidate for Justice Minister

Jaroslav Bures, Chairman of the High Court in Prague is a hot candidate for the post of Justice Minister, as a permanent replacement for Otakar Motejl. Bures is the Prime Minister's top choice and his nomination has now been grudgingly approved by the Social Democrat's opposition allies of the Civic Democratic Party, who have a right of veto stemming from the opposition agreement the two parties have signed. Due to his present engagements Bures would not be available to take office until February.

Czech government approves key bills

The Czech government has approved a bill on the rights of minorities . It deals with minority rights to assembly, bilingual education, cultural activities, community rights and voting rights. Another long awaited bill that also received the Cabinet's approval on Wednesday is a law on the civil service. The lack of this particular legislation has been severely criticized by the EU.

US ambassador prepares to leave Prague

The United States' ambassador to the Czech Republic Mr. John Shattuck is to end his two year ambassadorial term in this country sometime in December. According to the CTK news agency Mr. Shattuck is bound for Boston where he will be running the John F. Kennedy Library and Foundation. The US embassy's press department has confirmed that a new ambassador will not be appointed before the Presidential elections. Charge d'affaires Steven Coffey is to act as a temporary replacement.

Finally a quick look at the weather:

Thursday should be another partly cloudy to overcast day across the Czech republic with day temps between 10 and 14 degs C. Nighttime temps between 1 and 5 degs C.