News Wednesday, DECEMBER 06th, 2000

By Libor Kubik

2001 budget passed

The leaders of the country's two principal parties were jubilant on Tuesday evening as the Lower House of the Czech parliament passed the country's budget for next year.

The budget was passed smoothly as members of parliament for the ruling Social Democrats and the main opposition Civic Democrats endorsed the government draft. The two parties have a comfortable majority in the House and are mutually bound by a tolerance pact.

The budget deficit is estimated at just under 49 billion crowns.

EU frontrunners accept EU stance on admission

Leading candidates for European Union membership have broadly accepted an EU game-plan for admitting them into the bloc.

The plan, aimed at getting the EU ready to admit its first new members from 2003, was agreed by EU foreign ministers on Monday and will be presented to the candidates on Thursday, the first day of the EU summit in Nice.

The Czech Republic's chief negotiator in the membership talks, Pavel Telicka, described the plan in Brussels as a solid bases for the EU's first expansion.

He said, however, that that the EU countries should follow up the plan with concrete steps in membership negotiations.

Czech utility gets green light to build radioactive depository

The state-run Czech utility CEZ has received a green light to build a new repository for radioactive waste at the Dukovany nuclear power station.

The repository, scheduled to open in 2006, will be designed to hold spent fuel rods and other waste from the plant located near the South Moravian town of Trebic.

Earlier this year, the environment ministry rejected CEZ's plan to build a large central waste storage facility for spent fuel from Dukovany, which has been in operation for 15 years, and the Temelin plant, which sparked a diplomatic row between the Czech Republic and Austria after its launch in October.

Czechs gather to pay last respects to running legend Emil Zatopek

The athletic world is paying its last respects today to the Czech running legend Emil Zatopek, who died in Prague late last month at the age of 78.

Tributes to the four-time Olympic medallist is being paid in Prague's National Theatre by a number of athletes, public figures and friends, including IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, the International Amateur Athletics Federation's chief Lamine Diack, the Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman, and the First Lady, Dagmar Havlova.

Emil Zatopek has been posthumously awarded the Pierre de Coubertin Medal, the highest distinction of the International Olympic Movement.

Czech engineering giant strikes billion-dollar deal with Russia

The Czech engineering giant Skoda Holding has signed a letter of intent on more than one billion U.S. dollars' worth of supplies to the Russian Ministry of Transport and Communications.

Skoda Holding's General Manager Martin Roman told the CTK news agency that the planned deal was the biggest-ever export contract in the history of the Czech Republic.

Both sides have agreed to set up a joint venture in the Russian city of Yaroslavl, including a repair and maintenance plant for Czech railway locomotives supplied to Russia in the past years.

Tennis: Korda retires after comeback

Tennis -- and Czech Petr Korda, who was banned for a year in 1998 following a positive drug test, officially retired from the ATP tour on Tuesday after losing to Slovakia's Martin Hromec 6-4 3-6 6-7 in his comeback ATP Challenger event in Prague.

Mr Korda, the 1998 Australian Open champion who briefly ranked as high as number two in the world, was found to have used the banned substance nandrolone at the Wimbledon championships two years ago.

Czech weather report

And finally, a look at the weather in the Czech Republic. On Tuesday, we expect an intrusion of warmer southern air into Central Europe. Early morning lows will be between minus one and plus three degrees, and daytime highs between four and eight degrees Celsius. We also expect scattered showers later in the day. The smog alert called in Prague on Monday has been called off.

On Thursday and Friday, the warmer air will continue to pour into the Czech Republic from Southern Europe, brining along morning fogs, low skies, and scattered showers with some drizzle in the morning. The lowest morning temperatures will be between minus one and plus three degrees Celsius, daytime highs between four and eight degrees above freezing.