News Tuesday, DECEMBER 12th, 2000

By Nick Carey

Czech politicians give cautious welcome to historic Nice Summit

Czech politicians have given a cautious welcome to this weekend's Nice Summit, at which the European Union approved crucial reforms that must precede expansion eastwards. Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman said he was satisfied with the outcome, as the Czech Republic will enjoy the same voting rights as Belgium, Greece and Portugal when it joins the EU. The Czech Republic's chief negotiator for EU accession, Pavel Telicka, said the path towards enlargement was clear. These sentiments were echoed by most Czech political parties, although Civic Democrat leader Vaclav Klaus, traditionally seen as a euro-sceptic, said national interests would continue to dominate the Union. Critics say the summit was a disappointment for smaller countries, both member and candidate states, such as the Czech Republic. Four countries - Britain, France, Germany and Italy - emerged from the Nice Summit with considerable power over the decision-making process in the Union. There was also no mention of a concrete date for enlargement.

Slovak secret service accused of sabotage attempt on Czech NATO, EU hopes

Slovakia's chief investigator, Jaroslav Ivor, told reporters on Monday that the Slovak intelligence service launched a concerted campaign under the government of former prime minister Vladimir Meciar to sabotage the Czech Republic's bid to join the EU and NATO. Mr Ivor said three senior members of the former SIS had been arrested and charged with plotting to sabotage relations between Slovakia's neighbours and incite hatred towards the West. If convicted, they could face long prison sentences. Mr. Ivor added that the campaign was co-ordinated by the former head of the SIS, Ivan Lexa, one of Mr Meciar's closest advisers. Mr Lexa is believed to have fled Slovakia to avoid prosecution for other offences. Slovakia was accused of back-sliding on democracy under Mr Meciar's rule, and was eventually demoted as a front-runner candidate for EU and NATO membership.

Publisher of Mein Kampf reprint given 3-year suspended sentence

The published of a new Czech edition of Hitler's autobiography, Mein Kampf, has been given a 3-year suspended sentence and fined two million crowns by a court in Prague. Michal Zitko, head of the Votavia publishing house, was found guilty of breaking a Czech law banning the support of movements which suppress human rights and freedoms. Mr Zitko maintains his innocence and has lodged an appeal against the verdict. The publication of the new edition of Mein Kampf earlier this year caused a fierce debate, with some claiming the reprint was morally indefensible. Mr Zitko denied claims of supporting fascism, and said the book was of clear historical value.

Environmentalists threaten further border blockades

Austrian environmentalists have threatened further blockades of the Czech-Austrian border if no satisfactory agreement is reached over the Temelin nuclear power plant between the Czech and Austrian governments on Tuesday. Environmentalists blocked several border crossings in September, which led to a meeting between Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel at the end of October to discuss the issue of Temelin. At that meeting, Austrian demands that Temelin be shut down for tests for six months were turned down by the Czech government, but the two sides agreed to meet for further talks. Austrian environmentalists were angered by what they called a lack of success, and blocked all Czech-Austrian crossings for a week. If the next meeting between the government leaders, scheduled for Tuesday in the Austrian monastery of Melk does not meet their demands, Upper Austrian officials say further blockades are inevitable.

Police confirm Havel police bodyguard charged with extortion

Police have confirmed that a policeman serving as a bodyguard to President Vaclav Havel has been arrested and charged with extortion. The senior officer, who has not been named, has reportedly served with the President since the early 1990s. Mr Havel's spokesman told reporters the charges did not concern any of the President's other bodyguards, and that the matter was in the hands of the police. In 1996, one of the Prague Castle police force was arrested and charged with stealing from the presidential villa, while police recently began investigations into widespread bullying by senior officers at the Castle.

And finally, a quick look at the weather forecast.

The weather in the Czech Republic on Wednesday will be gloomy but surprisingly mild for this time of year. The day should see overcast skies with scattered showers in places. The highest daytime temperatures should reach ten degrees Celsius. The highest temperature during the night should be around five degrees Celsius.