News Wednesday, NOVEMBER 29th, 2000

By Rob Cameron

Czechs to launch new tests for BSE as crisis spreads across Europe

The head of the Czech Veterinary Committee has announced the Czech Republic will launch new tests for BSE, or mad cow disease, starting January 1st. He said the new tests would be similar to test carried out in Switzerland, testing younger cattle in high risk groups and not older stock. The move comes in response to the continuing spread of mad cow disease across Europe, although there have been no reports of BSE in Czech cattle. Earlier this week the Czech Republic banned all imports of meat and bone meal products from the European Union. Meanwhile the Czech News Agency said on Tuesday that at least six Czechs had died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or CJD, in the past five years. But medical experts said the deaths were almost certainly caused by the ‘standard’ or hereditary form of CJD, and not ‘new variant CJD’ (nvCJD), which is the human form of mad cow disease.

Havel in satisfactory condition, pneumonia ‘receding’

The condition of President Vaclav Havel, who fell ill with a viral infection at the weekend, is reported to have improved slightly. President Havel's personal doctor said he was in a satisfactory condition without a temperature and was resting at the presidential chateau near Prague. The signs of pneumonia diagnosed on Monday were apparently receding, said Doctor Ilja Kotik. The decision to cancel President Havel's programme to the end of the week still applied, he said, adding that Havel would be well enough to appoint the new governor of the Central Bank, Zdenek Tuma, on Wednesday. Mr Havel, who is 64, has chronic bronchitis. Half of his right lung was removed in 1996 along with a malignant tumour, and he almost died of subsequent complications. He was also in a serious condition after two operations on a ruptured intestine in 1998. He underwent hernia surgery in June, and suffered breathing difficulties during his recovery.

Parliament overrules Havel veto on anti-Communist law

The lower house of the Czech Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, has overruled President Havel’s veto of a new bill extending the controversial ‘lustration’ or screening law. Under the law, senior public servants are vetted to exclude former members of the Communist Party and Communist secret police, the StB. The law was due to expire at the end of this year, but in October the right-wing opposition managed to extend it, in spite of protests from the ruling Social Democrats and the Communist Party. The decision to extend the law was supported by 115 of the 195 MPs present in the 200-seat lower house.

Sofia ambassador packing his bags

The Czech Ambassador to Bulgaria, Ondrej Havlin, has been recalled after a series of incidents that angered the Bulgarian government. The deputy Foreign Minister, Hynek Kmonicek, was quoted as saying on Tuesday that it would be difficult for Mr Havlin to stay on in the post. The ambassador upset officials in both countries last week when he advised Czechs not to travel alone to Bulgaria because it was dangerous. The Czech Foreign Ministry said the remarks were ill-considered and not in line with official policy. Earlier the Bulgarian government Sofia complained that Mr Havlin had made statements insulting Bulgaria at a reception in late October. He denies the allegations. In 1998 the ambassador was accused of removing a border barricade and driving over the foot of a Bulgarian border guard.

Austria drops objections against Czech environmental chapter

Austria has confirmed that it has withdrawn its reservations to the environment chapter in the Czech Republic's accession talks with the European Union. Austria's EU ambassador, Michael Schwarzinger, said his government was in a positive mood and wished the talks to continue. The Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, said after talks in Vienna with his Austrian counterpart Benita Ferrero-Waldner that the environment chapter could be closed by the end of the year. Austria had previously threatened to block the closing of the chapter because of its dispute with Prague over the Temelin nuclear power station near the Austrian border. Earlier on Tuesday, the Czech and Austrian prime ministers agreed to meet for new talks on December 12, to be attended by EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen.

Korda to launch comeback? And the Czech tennis player Petr Korda, who was banned from tennis for a year in 1998 following a positive drug test, will make his comeback on December 5 at an ATP Challenger event. Korda, the 1998 Australian Open champion, was found to have used the banned substance nandrolone at the 1998 Wimbledon championships. After protracted appeals, he was banned for one year.


And finally a look at the weather. Thursday will be a cloudy day, with early morning lows between one and five degrees, and daytime highs from six to 10 degrees Celsius.