News Wednesday, NOVEMBER 08th, 2000

By Daniela Lazarova

EU candidates await progress reports

The European Commission is to publish its annual progress reports on EU candidate states in several hours time. According to inside sources in Brussels, the European Union will seek to allay fears among aspiring members that the block's expansion could be delayed by saying that some candidates could join the EU at the end of 2002 if they do their homework. According to the Reuters news agency, an EU official will put forward a "road map" for 2001 and 2002 which, if followed, could open the Union's door to any front-runners who manage to fulfil the set criteria. The document makes clear that each country will be considered on its merits and none will be admitted until it is ready. The Czech Republic maintains a 2003 target date for admission but some analysts say 2005 is a more realistic outlook.

Cabinet to decide future of uranium mining in the Czech Republic

At its Wednesday session, the Czech Cabinet is to decide on the future of uranium mining in the Czech Republic. This concerns a single uranium mine in the Czech-Moravian highlands, which Industry and Trade Minister Miroslav Gregr wants to remain active for another two years. Environment Minister Milos Kuzvart has criticized the Industry Minister's plans, saying that uranium mining in this country is too costly to be profitable. A step ahead of his cabinet colleague, Kuzvart told the CTK news agency that Gregr's plan would damage the country economically, environmentally and even foreign policy-wise, since the Czech Republic had informed the EU it would close its uranium mine by the end of 2001.

Three Czech-Austrian border crossings remain impassable

Austrian anti-nuclear activists continue to block three border crossings with the Czech Republic in protest against the Temelin nuclear power plant. The blockades of the Wullowitz, Guglwald and Weigetschlag border crossings are to continue until 8pm on Thursday. Some of the tension, which reached breaking point over the weekend, has been diffused by the fact that 12 other border crossings with Austria are now open to traffic. However, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman insists that he will not resume talks with Vienna unless the blockades are discontinued. The Czech government has repeatedly urged the Austrian government to prevent this violation of international cross border agreements.

Justice Minister tightens prison regulations

In the wake of yet another escape from a Czech prison, acting Justice Minister Pavel Rychetsky has banned all home-visits until further notice. The latest escapee, 24-year old Martin Rys, apparently failed to report back to prison after an authorized weekend visit at home. Just days ago another prisoner from the same jailhouse was reported to have "climbed over the prison gate and left". The acting Justice Minister has ordered discipline to be tightened in all Czech prisons as he awaits the outcome of an investigation into the escape of a dangerous killer from the country's maximum security jailhouse.

IFHR complains of police brutality during anti-globalization protests

The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights has urged Czech authorities to ensure that police officers found guilty of brutality against anti- globalization activists in street riots during the IMF and WB session in Prague do not escape punishment. In an open letter to President Havel, Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, the Federation says it is deeply concerned by the complaints that it has received from activists around the world. "There is evidence that a high number of demonstrators were detained for long hours, beaten and treated in a degrading, inhumane manner " the letter says. The Czech President is likewise said to have received a joint letter from 15 members of the European Parliament, expressing concern over allegations of police brutality against anti-globalization activists. The Czech Interior Ministry has launched two parallel investigations into the matter.

More money for AIDS sufferers

The head of a Czech AIDS clinic has called for more state funding to be channeled into prevention programmes, as well as to help AIDS sufferers. At a press briefing in Prague, Libuse Hruskovicova told newsmen that state funding had dropped from 30 to 24 million crowns this year, while the number of HIV positive patients was on the increase. Since 1985 the clinic has registered 479 HIV positive patients. 88 people have died of AIDS in the Czech Republic so far.

Emil Zatopek in critical condition

Czech running legend Emil Zatopek is in critical condition after being hospitalized with what appears to be a stroke. The four-time Olympic champion was taken to the intensive care unit of Prague's Military Hospital last week. Doctors said on Tuesday that they had so far not been able to stabilize his condition. A relative has described his condition as "sad and very critical". The 78 year old Czech running legend has suffered from various health problems in recent months.

Finally, a quick look at the weather:

Wednesday should bring partly cloudy skies and scattered showers with day temps between 8 and 12 degs. C.