News Thursday, NOVEMBER 23rd, 2000

By Libor Kubik

EU still has nothing to offer for Czech membership talks

The European Union has no chapter to offer to the Czech Republic for negotiation even after Wednesday's meeting of the EU Council's enlargement working group, but diplomats in Brussels say Austria might soon stop blocking the Environment Chapter.

A source who requested anonymity told the Czech news agency CTK that 14 EU members had agreed on the text of an EU position, but that Austria again raised an objection, though of a procedural rather than material character.

The source said Austria could focus its demands relative to the Temelin nuclear power station strictly on the energy chapter and give the green light to environment negotiations.

A substitute round of talks could be held soon then, possibly at the end of next week. Another diplomatic source said Austria was under pressure from the other member countries who were rather concerned about the cancellation of a regular round of EU- Czech negotiations last week.

Future EU nations on track to double economic growth

The European Commission said in Brussels that 10 central and east European nations lined up to join the European Union were on track to almost double their economic growth rate to over four percent next year, outstripping the EU's 3.5 percent rise.

Six nations including the Czech Republic have been negotiating to join the EU for over two years.

Czech envoy to Bulgaria faces dismissal over gaffe

The Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has indicated he will propose the withdrawal of his country's ambassador to Bulgaria over a series of gaffes which have strained relations between the two states.

The diplomat, Ondrej Havlin, is said to have repeatedly made statements belittling Bulgaria's efforts to become an EU country. Bulgaria has complained to Prague about Mr Havlin's remarks. Most recently, he warned Czech tourists against travelling to Bulgaria where he said crime was rampant.

Havlin also mocked Bulgaria at a reception in Sofia, marking the Czech Republic's state anniversary day on October 28.

Minister Kavan has discussed the case with President Vaclav Havel.

Athletic world mourns Czech running legend's death

The athletic world is mourning the Czech running legend Emil Zatopek, who died in a Prague hospital at the age of 78.

Mr Zatopek, who will be buried on December 6, leaves behind his wife Dana. Both were born on the same day in 1922, and both won Olympic gold on the same day at the 1952 Helsinki games.

Zatopek won a total of four Olympic gold medals -- the 10,000 metres in London in 1948 and a unique 5,000 metre, 10,000 metre and marathon treble four years later.

Lamine Diack, president of the world governing athletics body, said Zatopek embodied all of the virtues of a champion and was an honest and intransigent defender of the fundamental principles of dignity and freedom of the individual.

Zatopek's former French rival Alain Mimoun said he hadn't lost an opponent but a brother.

President Vaclav Havel said in his letter of condolences to Zatopek's wife that her late husband was a man of extraordinary stature.

Proceedings launched against two guards in jailbreak scandal

Criminal proceedings have begun against two prison guards said to be implicated in the daring jailbreak of a dangerous contract killer from a maximum security jail, where he had been serving a life term.

Both man stand accused of seriously neglecting their duties. The prisoner, Jiri Kajinek, escaped from Mirov Prison in Moraia at the end of October and is still at large. Police have abandoned attempts to track him down.

Czech weather report

On Thursday, warmer southern air will pour into Central Europe, bringing along some scattered showers and morning fogs. Early morning temperatures will be between one and five degrees Celsius, daytime highs between seven and 11 degrees.

A low pressure area advancing eastwards will make Friday a wet and cloudy day with early morning lows between two and six degrees above freezing and afternoon highs between seven and 11 Celsius.

On Saturday, we expect snow showers at higher elevations, rain in the lowlands, nighttime lows between two and six Celsius, and daytime highs between six and 10 degrees above zero.