News Thursday, OCTOBER 12th, 2000

By Libor Kubik

Czechs set deadline for Austria to open borders

The Czech government has asked Foreign Minister Jan Kavan to prepare for consultations with the European Commission over the problem of ongoing blockades of Czech border crossings by Austrian anti-nuclear activists.

The cabinet said after a late night meeting that Interior Minister Stanislav Gross would discuss the problem in Vienna with his Austrian counterpart Ernst Strasser.

Earlier, the government set a deadline of 11 p.m. for Austria to take action against the protesters. It said that otherwise it would demand the EU to intervene.

The ultimatum was issued after the demonstrators stepped up the blockades in protest against the controversial Temelin nuclear power station 50 km from the Austrian border.

The start-up of the Soviet-designed and Western-equipped Temelin plant on Monday has prompted a diplomatic furore. Austria has asked Prague to scrap the plant, or at least impose new safety checks. The Czech side says the plant meets all EU standards and is safe.

Czechs scrap sanctions against Yugoslavia

The Czech Republic has scrapped all sanctions against Yugoslavia, joining the European Union in a rapid change of policy toward the country after the ousting of President Slobodan Milosevic.

Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky told a news conference that the cabinet had voted to scrap all fuel, air traffic and capital-related sanctions against the Yugoslav Federation. He said this would become effective upon official publication of the ruling, expected within two days.

He said, however, that Mr. Milosevic remains persona non grata in the Czech Republic.

Czech PM backs Blair's Europe vision

The Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman has endorsed his British colleague Tony Blair's vision of a broad European Union superpower.

Unveiling his European vision in Warsaw last week, Mr. Blair said he wanted the EU to be a superpower, which should expand to the east by 2004, but not a federalist superstate.

Mr. Zeman said in London he appreciated the speech which he was in Poland to hear, as far more than a standard run through European themes.

Blair in return backed the Czech Republic's credentials to be among the first wave of new members of the 15-nation bloc.

The two leaders met two days before an informal summit of EU leaders aimed at reforming the union's institutions to pave the way for enlargement to the east.

Mr. Zeman invited Prime Minister Blair to visit Prague next year and said British business, which ranks fifth among investors in the Czech Republic, would have plenty of opportunities in his country.

Czechs back setting up EU-sponsored Euro rapid deployment force

The Czech defence ministry says it supports the setting up of a European rapid deployment force under the aegis of the European Union.

However, in its statement at a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Birmingham, the Czech party said three principles should be observed. EU candidate countries which are members of the alliance should have a say on all European security problems, NATO's and the EU's activities shouldn't overlap, and the force should have a transatlantic dimension.

The planned rapid depoyment force, designed to carry out humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, will consist of between 60 and 80 thousand troops.

Havel receives honorary doctorate in Turkey

Czech President Vaclav Havel, on a visit to Turkey, has received an honorary doctorate from Ankara's Bilkent University in recognition of his role in promoting and defending human rights.

This is Havel's first state visit to Turkey, although the trip had been planned twice before. The first attempt was frustrated by a devastating earthquake, the second by Mr. Havel's illness.

Internet execs mull future at Prague conference

The growth of electronic commerce and the collapse of so-called stocks are among the hot topics on the agenda at a major European Internet conference underway in Prague.

An estimated 800 chief executive officers from the world's top Internet and telecommunications companies have gathered for the 11th annual European Technology Roundtable Exhibition.

Czech weather report

On Thursday, we expect a foggy and wet morning with temperatures between seven and 11 degrees Celsius and daytime highs between 13 and 17 degrees.

On Friday, warmer air will start pouring into Central Europe, bringing along early morning lows between nine and 13 Celsius, and daytime highs over 20 degrees.