News Tuesday, JULY 11th, 2000

EU council of ministers sets up Temelin commission

The EU council of ministers, which consists of the foreign ministers of the 15 member states, has set up a commission to investigate and report on the controversial Temelin nuclear plant in South Bohemia. The issue of Temelin was raised by Austria's foreign minister, Benita Ferrero-Waldner. Austria has been strongly opposed to the completion of Temelin, and according to Mrs. Ferrero-Waldner, the Czech Republic has not fulfilled its obligation to keep the Austrian government informed of progress in the plant. In particular, the Austrian government is concerned that nuclear fuel is now being loaded into the first reactor at Temelin, while they apparently received no information that this was going to happen. Although nuclear power is not an issue for the Czech Republic's EU membership preparations, the EU has specified that the maximum safety standards are to be maintained.

Parliament approves election law

The controversial new election law has been passed for a second time by the Lower House of Parliament, thus overriding President Havel's veto. The president vetoed the law two weeks ago, after it was passed by a narrow margin in the Senate. The new law will favour the larger Czech political parties, and make it more difficult for smaller parties to obtain political representation. The law was put forward by the two largest political parties, the ruling Social Democrats and the opposition Civic Democrats, who support the government via a power sharing agreement. The law was passed by 124 out of the 129 members of parliament present, as the representatives of the smaller parties boycotted the vote, and they are considering passing the matter to the Constitutional Court. President Havel is also expected to approach the Constitutional Court over the new law, although he has not confirmed this, saying that he is prepared for several courses of action, and will take steps in accordance with his conscience.

Refugees caught on Slovak border

A group of sixty two illegal refugees from Sri Lanka, India, Afghanistan and Vietnam have been caught on the Slovak border by the Czech police. A group of six Czechs and Slovaks was detained with them, and they have been charged with smuggling the refugees into the country. The group were arrested after crossing the Czech-Slovak border on foot, and are to be returned to Slovakia. None of the refugees have requested political asylum in the Czech Republic.

Man charged with murdering Jews during WWII

The state prosecutor in Stuttgart has filed charges against Julius Viel, who is suspected of murdering seven Jewish inmates in a concentration camp in Litomerice in North Bohemia during the Second World War. Mr. Viel, aged 82, who was a teacher at a Nazi school, and an SS officer, allegedly killed the seven Jewish inmates out of a desire to commit murder. He has been on remand since last October, and following two failed efforts to be released from custody, tried to commit suicide. Mr. Viel denies all charges against him. No term has yet been set for Mr. Viel's trial.

Havel returns law to Parliament

President Havel has returned a law on political parties and movements to the Lower House of Parliament. The proposed law was passed with a large majority by the Lower House in May, and if it is passed a second time, will mean that only those parties that receive a minimum of five percent of the vote will be liable to receive state contributions. The president returned the law because he said that it contravenes the Constitution, which guarantees free competition between political parties. If parties that do not attain five percent of the vote are not allowed to receive state contributions, then President Havel says that free competition is not guaranteed. The president believes that this is a further attack on the smaller political parties in the Czech Republic, and will favour the larger parties.

Czech Republic returns Slovak Roma asylum seekers to Slovakia

The Czech Republic has sent twenty five Slovak Roma asylum seekers back to Slovakia. So far this year, there have been 383 requests by Slovak Roma for political asylum registered in the Czech Republic, and there are currently 314 living in refugee camps set up by the Interior Ministry. Thirty eight other asylum seekers were returned to Slovakia last week. According to an Interior Ministry spokesperson, although no requests for political asylum have so far been granted, there is no way to predict what the result in the remaining cases will be.

Three people charged with repeated attempted murder

Three people have been sentenced for the repeated attempts to murder a businessman in the North Bohemian town of Liberec. Two of those convicted received sentences of six years in prison, and the third received five years. A further two people have been given suspended sentences. The group planned in 1994 to kill their business partner, Ladislav Jac, over disagreements in the running of their company. In total, the group made three attempts on Mr. Jac's life. The group first planted a Semtex bomb on his car in mid-June 1994, which fell off the car and failed to explode. The second, similar attempt came ten days later. This time the bomb went off, but no-one was hurt, despite causing widespread damage. The group then hired an assassin, who changed his mind at the last moment, and tried to persuade the group that their intended victim was scared, and did not need to be killed. The group maintain their innocence.

Havel and Racan emphasise importance of EU expansion

Czech President Vaclav Havel and Croat Prime Minister Ivica Racan have emphasised the importance of EU expansion. The two met as part of the Czech president's state visit to Croatia. Both men stated that they do not fear that their countries will lose their identity once they join their EU. According to President Havel, the EU laws that have been passed by the Czech Republic do not take away from its sovereignty.

On a related note, as part of his state President Havel and the presidents of Slovenia and Croatia met in the middle of former mine field in a village outside Dubrovnik. The mine field, beside the village of Bosanka, was mined in the early 1990s, and has been cleared with the help of donations from the Czech Republic.

And finally the weather forecast. The weather for Tuesday should be fairly mixed, with partially cloudy to overcast skies and rain showers and thunderstorms in places. Temperatures during the day should reach between seventeen and twenty one degrees. Temperatures during the night should be between nine and thirteen degrees. I'm Nick Carey, and that's the end of the news.