News Thursday, NOVEMBER 09th, 2000

By Libor Kubik

EU charts road to expansion

Czech officials have said that the country remains committed to be ready to join the European Union by the end of 2002 despite a European Commission report that has cast doubt on the speed of eastward expansion.

The European Union has said the first candidate states could join the bloc from the end of 2002, but officials signalled privately that enlargement was unlikely to happen before the year 2005.

In assessing the economic performance of the candidate countries, the EC has ranked the Czech Republic and Slovenia just behind Hungary, Poland and Estonia. Here in Prague, the chief Czech negotiator Pavel Telicka said his country aspired to finish entry negotiations in the course of 2003.

The report says the Czech Republic can be considered a functioning market economy and should be able to cope with competitive pressure and market forces inside the EU.

Czechs cancel meeting with Austrian chancellor

The Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman has postponed a planned meeting with Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel to discuss the Temelin nuclear reactor.

A foreign ministry spokesman said in Prague that the meeting, planned for the end of November in Vienna, had been called off because of continuing Czech border blockades by Austrian anti-nuclear demonstrators. Earlier reports said the meeting had been scrapped. But Mr Zeman said after a cabinet meeting he hoped the talks could take place at a later date.

The Czech nuclear power station at Temelin, 50 km from the northern Austrian border, is on a trial run. Last week, Zeman and Schuessel met near the Moravian city of Brno to discuss the Temelin reactor.

Czech athletic legend Zatopek in serious condition

The Czech running legend Emil Zatopek is in a critical condition and on artificial respiration in the Prague Military Hospital.

His wife Dana Zatopkova said that the four-time Olympic champion was taken to the intensive care unit last week after suffering a stroke.

Seventy-eight-year-old Emil Zatopek won Olympic 10,000 metre gold in London in 1948 and a unique, 5,000 metre, 10.000 metre and marathon treble in Helsinki four years later. His wife also has a gold from 1952, in the javelin.

Contract killer still at large

The contract killer Jiri Kajinek is still at large 10 days after his daring jailbreak from the maximum security prison where he was serving a life sentence for the murders of a businessman and his bodyguard seven years ago.

Kajinek, who also attempted a third murder, escaped from Fort Mirov late last month and police say they are convinced he is still moving in the vicinity of the prison in the Moravian town of Sumperk.

Scores of police officers have been combing the area. The prison's manager has been sacked and the head of the Czech Prison Authority has narrowly escaped her unseating.

Czech unemployment drops to 8.5 percent

The Czech Statistical office reports that unemployment in the country dropped to 8.5 percent last month, with just under 450,000 people out of work at the end of October.

The labour ministry says the figure was 13,000 fewer than in September, when the rate was 8.8 percent.

Czech weather report

Thursday's morning will be cloudy and partly also wet, with temperatures just above freezing point. During the day, we expect snow showers in the mountains and scattered showers in the lowlands, with daytime highs between seven and 11 degrees Celsius.

On Friday, the skies will be cloudy, early morning lows will be between zero and four Celsius, afternoon highs between six and ten degrees Celsius.