News Wednesday, DECEMBER 13th, 2000

By Vladimir Tax

Czechs and Austrians compromise on Temelin

The Czech Republic and Austria have reached agreement concerning the controversial nuclear power station in Temelin, South Bohemia. The Czech Republic will produce a new, detailed environmental impact study under supervision from the European Commission, and will not put Temelin into full operation unless the probe shows that Temelin meets European safety standards. The agreement also includes other points, such as the establishment of a new telephone hotline between Prague and Vienna. Czech Premier Milos Zeman and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel reached the agreement with the assistance of EU commissionaire Guenter Verheugen after all-night negotiations at the Austrian castle of Melk. Nuclear-free Austria has fiercely opposed the construction of the nuclear power plant near its border and described the agreement as a major step forward.

Motejl becomes first Czech ombudsman

The former Justice Minister, Otakar Motejl, has been elected as the Czech Republic's first ever ombudsman. The Lower House elected him in a repeat vote after lengthy disputes between the main political parties. Motejl received 125 votes in the 200-seat chamber, far more than his rival candidates. The ombudsman's main task is to protect citizens in disputes with the authorities.

Czech TV director removed

The supervisory board of the Czech Republic's public television network, Czech Television, has removed the station's general manager. The board repeatedly criticised Dusan Chmelicek's performance, amongst other things over his failure to present long-term concepts and to reform the internal structure of the station. Earlier this year, the board also raised objections to the insufficient coverage of the IMF/World Bank meeting in Prague. Chmelicek has rejected the criticism, claiming that some of the board members were incompetent and that the board as a whole was trying to intervene in the running of Czech Television. Chmelicek had been in office since last December when his predecessor, Jakub Puchalsky, resigned following sharp criticism by the board.

Czech Senators express support to Belarussian opposition

Czech Senators have expressed their support for the Belarussian opposition before presidential elections to be held in 2001. A delegation of Belarussian opposition politicians, including former president Stanislav Shushkevich, is visiting Prague this week. Earlier this year, the Czech Senate passed a resolution criticising president Lukashenko's regime for human rights violations, describing it as undemocratic and illegitimate. The head of the Senate foreign affairs committee, Michael Zantovsky, said that the situation in Belarus would probably be discussed by the committee again in spring next year. Today, the Belarussian delegation is to meet Czech president Vaclav Havel, the government human rights commissionaire Petr Uhl and members of the Lower House of Parliament.

Customs capture record drugs haul

Czech customs officers have seized over 70 kg of heroin being smuggled into the Czech Republic. This is the biggest case of drug smuggling this year. A spokesperson said customs officers discovered the haul in a truck with a Czech licence plate carrying textiles from Turkey. For the time being, there is an information embargo on further details of the case. According to experts, the drugs had a street value of some 20 million Czech crowns, the equivalent of half a million USD.

IPB shareholders sue finance minister because of IPB

Minority shareholders of the IPB bank have filed a lawsuit against the finance minister Pavel Mertlik in connection with the imposition of forced administration on the bank and its subsequent sale to the CSOB bank in June this year. The association of IPB shareholders, which defends the interests of some 50,000 minority shareholders, claims that Mr Mertlik misused his official powers. They base their accusation on the outcome of an investigation conducted by a special committee set up by parliament. They have also accused Mr Mertlik of breaking the law on state budget rules by providing CSOB with unlimited guarantees for IPB's assets. The finance minister repeatedly defended all the steps, arguing that the forced administration of IPB and its quick sale to CSOB was the most efficient solution.

Weather forecast

And finally, a brief look at the weather. We are expecting a cloudy day with rain showers. The highest daytime temperatures should range from 6 to 10 degrees Celsius. Gardeners say the wave of unusually warm weather has caused fruit trees and other plants to produce flowers.