News Wednesday, JULY 28th, 1999

More positioning documents handed in

The Czech Republic has handed over to the European Union positioning documents on another six chapters, including transport, social affairs, the EU currency, the free movement of services, the environment and energy. According to the Czech ambassador to the European Union, Josef Kreuter, the negotiations are getting increasingly difficult because in some of these areas, Prague has asked for dozens of temporary exemptions.

Czech Rep. Y2K compliant

Computers in Czech state institutions and administration bodies are Year 2000 compliant, according to a report submitted by finance minister Pavel Mertlik, who is responsible for dealing with the problem. According to his spokesman Libor Vacek, all state and regional administrative bodies have adopted measures to eliminate possible risks connected with the turn of the millenium. Provisions have also been taken for the event of unexpected complications.

Austrians speak against Temelin in Brussels

A delegation of Upper Austria have voiced their objections to the construction of the nuclear power station in Temelin, South Bohemia, to the European Commission. They propose that the Czech Republic not be admitted to the EU as long as the nuclear power plant at Temelin stays in operation. However, the head of the EC negotiating team, Nikolaus van der Pas, said in reaction that the use of nuclear energy is not prohibited in the EU if a member state assures a high level reactor safety. The Austrians also submitted four studies on Temelin to van der Pas, as well as a list of demands which included a ban of the activation and operation of any Soviet-made reactors in countries which apply for EU membership.

Poldi Kladno sinking

The owner of the formerly giant Kladno steelworks is planning to lay-off 1/3 of employees. The rest of them - less than 500 - have been sent home with 80 percent of their wage. The owner of the steelworks conglomerate Zdenek Zemek has also indicated that he wants to sell the company. According to some reports, one of the possible buyers is its former owner, Vladimir Stehlik, who had brought the company to the verge of bankruptcy, when production stopped and the number of employees decreased from several thousand to the current 650.

IPB director arrested

One of directors of IPB bank, Karel Haushalter, has been taken into custody. In the past, when he worked as a top manager of one branch offices of IPB, he is said to have intentionally provided risky loans. According to unofficial information, the allegations have nothing to do with Haushalter's current position at IPB.

Environmentalists defend trees in Sumava

Several dozen Czech environmental activists continue with a blockade of trees in the Sumava National Park to protect them against woodcutters. The environmentalists are ready to go on with the peaceful blockade for several months. Widespread felling of trees in the most strictly protected areas of the Sumava National Park started several days ago after approval from the environment ministry earlier this year. The main argument was that the trees needed protection against the spread of bark-beetle. However, a group of leading Czech experts have issued an appeal calling for a halt to the felling, claiming that such harsh intervention in the best preserved areas of forest is unnecessary.

Zantovsky criticizes govt for stance towards Lukashenko

The head of the foreign affairs and defence committee of the Czech Senate, Michael Zantovky, has criticized the Czech foreing ministry for its passive attitude towards president Lukashenko of Belarus. Lukashenko's stay in office is seen as illegitimate by the United States and some West European countries. "A dictator rules a not very distant country and Czech diplomacy remains idle," Zantovsky said. Lukashenko's term was due to end on July 20, but he prolonged it until 2001 by calling a nation-wide referendum. Western countries ceased recognising Lukashenko as the legitimate president of Belarus at the end of his proper term. However, the Czech foreign ministry has failed to even comment on the issue, senator Zantovsky stressed.

Czechs do not like coupon privatisation any longer

According to another opinion poll conducted by the Center for Empirical research, 3/4 of Czech do not consider coupon privatisation as the right method of division of state assets. Back in 1994, the privatisation scheme put forward by the then premier Vaclav Klaus was viewed positively by 2/3 of Czechs. Since then, the number of supporters has decreased to the current 24 percent. The trend is almost the same as the development of Vaclav Klaus' popularity which has also declined significantly.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. On Wednesday, weather in the Czech Republic will still be influenced by a high pressure area from the North. We are expecting a mostly clear day, afternoon highs should range from 23 to 27 degrees Celsius. The next two days should be much the same -- partially cloudy with highest daytime temperatures up to 28 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.