News Tuesday, FEBRUARY 06th, 2001

By: Vladimir Tax

Pilip and Bubenik fly free

Two Czechs, Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenik, were released from jail in Havana late on Monday and were allowed to return home after they admitted breaking Cuban laws. At an extraordinary meeting inside Cuba's Foreign Ministry, the pair admitted unwittingly breaking Cuban laws by meeting dissidents, opposed to President Fidel Castro's one-party communist system, at the request of an American organisation. Accompanying them were leaders of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, an umbrella organisation grouping 140 parliaments, which has mediated in the case. The Union's Secretary-General, Anders Johnsson, said that they were not expelled, but left the country as tourists. He added that they were very well, very happy, very cheerful on their way to the Havana airport. Former Czech finance minister and now parliamentary deputy Ivan Pilip and former student dissident leader Jan Bubenik were arrested by Cuban police more than three weeks ago and charged with subversion. Their arrest was sharply condemned by the international community as Cuba threatened to make an example of them and send them to prison for many years.

PM Zeman visits Sweden

Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman is on a visit to Sweden. He is accompanied by Industry and Trade Minister Miroslav Gregr, as well as a group of Czech businessmen. Mr. Zeman has encouraged Swedish businessmen to invest in the Czech Republic. He described the country as a stable environment for Scandinavian investment, especially in connection with a tender for new fighter jets for the Czech army, where Swedish-made JAS-39 Gripen stands a good chance of winning. Mr. Zeman's agenda also includes talks on EU enlargement. Sweden currently holds the presidency of the European Union, and is the Czech Republic's 15th biggest trade partner.

Austrians to renew border blockades

Austrian anti-nuclear activists are ready to renew blockades of Czech-Austrian border crossings unless the Czech Republic presents a description of progress of an overall environmental impact study of the Temelin nuclear power station in South Bohemia. The Upper-Austrian Initiative Against Nuclear Danger has accused the Czech Republic of breaching an agreement with Austria, under which the plant would be halted and undergo an internationally-granted environmental impact assessment. Temelin was shutdown in January because of excessive vibrations of the main steam pipeline leading to the turbine. Later, engineers discovered a large crack in the pipeline.

EU agriculture support programme launched in CR

Czech Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik and the EU's agriculture commissionaire, Franz Fischler, have signed an agreement to finance the SAPARD programme, a joint programme for investments in agriculture and rural development. The signing of the 6-year agreement was the first step towards launching the SAPARD programme in the Czech Republic, which will receive 22 million euros annually to support its agriculture and countryside.

Influenza epidemic on the go

The influenza epidemic in the Czech Republic has reached its climax and has begun receding in some regions. The Supreme Hygiene Authority said that in many areas, the number of cases exceeded 3,000 per 100,000 inhabitants, but the situation was getting better in regions where the nation-wide epidemic started. The epidemic was caused by a virus that was widespread in the Czech Republic 10 years ago and which causes lighter forms of the illness.

Another bomb attack in Prerov

A strong bomb blast shook the town of Prerov in Northern Moravia on Monday night. An explosive device was planted outside a tobacconist's. It cause serious damage to the shop and shattered windows in the neighbourhood. No casualties were reported. The town of Prerov suffered a series of bomb attacks in 1998 and 1999. However, the police are convinced that there is no link between them and the latest case, as the previous ones were most likely politically motivated.

Weather forecast

And finally, the weather forecast. Tuesday should be partially cloudy or cloudy with scattered showers, and quite warm - the highest daytime temperatures should range from 6 to 10 degrees Celsius. Wednesday and Thursday should be much the same, partially cloudy with occasional showers, with afternoon highs up to 10 degrees Celsius.