News Wednesday, SEPTEMBER 13th, 2000

By Daniela Lazarova

From Monday September 18th Radio Prague's broadcasts in English on the f101.1 FM frequency in Prague will change. Instead of our current times of 7.15am, 1.15pm and 5.30pm, we will broadcast a fifteen-minute programme at 9.45am, and our half-hour programme will move to the later time of 9.30 in the evening. You will also be able to hear our broadcasts not only in Prague but also on the BBC's FM frequencies in other Czech towns and cities.

Czech Republic lifts sanctions against Austria

Following the EU's lead, the Czech Republic has unconditionally lifted diplomatic sanctions against neighbouring Austria. The EU lifted their ban on high level political contacts after a panel of three EU appointed "wise men" gave Austria's human rights record a clean bill of health, despite criticism of the Freedom Party.

Kavan-Waldner talks

The Czech government had refused to link the lifting of sanctions to growing problems in bilateral ties. However the renewal of top level diplomatic relations came at an auspicious time, allowing the two countries' foreign ministers to hold one on one talks on outstanding bilateral problems in New York. Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan and Austrian foreign minister Benita Ferrero Waldner discussed the growing controversy over the Temelin nuclear power plant and the Freedom Party's renewed demands for the Czech Republic to rescind the Benes decrees, relating to the expulsion of the ethnic German minority from Czechoslovakia after the SWW. Austria has been putting pressure on the EU to link these issues to the Czech Republic's accession to the Union.

Czech ministry issues formal complaint to Austria

The Czech Foreign Ministry on Tuesday issued a formal complaint to the Austrian ambassador in Prague regarding blockades on the Czech-Austrian border, staged by Austrian environmentalists opposed to Temelin. The Foreign Ministry has expressed concern over the support local authorities have given to the protests and what the ministry describes as the indifference displayed by the Austrian government. Such actions did not represent an acceptable form of dialogue and they did not contribute to good-neighbour relations, the Czech government said in a formal note of protest.

Czech delegation in Austria

Meanwhile, Austrian anti-nuclear activists on Tuesday held a demonstration outside the Czech embassy in Vienna awaiting the arrival of a delegation of Czech members of Parliament which is to discuss environmental concerns with Austrian officials . The group of anti-nuclear protesters presented Czech embassy officials with an open letter to the Czech Government and Parliament asking that the Temelin power plant to be closed down for a six month period to allow time for a public debate while an international team of nuclear safety experts assesses its possible impact on the environment.

Tosovsky - debt

The governor of the Czech National Bank, Josef Tosovsky, says he fears the Czech Republic's growing deficit may spoil the long-awaited process of economic revitalisation. In an interview for the Financial Times, Mr Tosovsky said that according to the latest figures published by the Finance Ministry this year's debt would reach 99.8 billion crowns, which is 5,2% of the country's GDP. He said that if the state's income from privatisation was subtracted from the figure, the deficit would reach 147 billion crowns. The Czech Republic's national debt is increasingly steadily. While in 1998 it represented 1.4% of annual GDP, the following year the deficit amounted to 3.1% of GDP. This year's will probably reach 5.2% of GDP.

IMF and WB session – preparations

The Czech Interior Ministry has announced the name of the police chief responsible for maintaining law and order in Prague during the five day session of the IMF and WB. The head of the Prague police force, Radislav Charvat, will have 11, 000 policemen under his command, including specially trained units and mounted police. Charvat says that at the present time he has been informed about over two hundred planned protests. The police have been instructed to take a tolerant line with peaceful demonstrators and only to intervene in the event of physical attacks, damage to property or looting.

Court verdict on anti-globalization protests

A regional court has overruled the verdict of a Prague 4 court which had banned all street protests in connection with the upcoming IMF and WB session. The high court said the earlier verdict was undemocratic and in fact illegal, since there were no grounds on which to ban the protests. The only condition which the organisers have to meet is announcing the protests well in advance.

Finally a look at the weather:

although it will remain relatively warm with day temps between 20 and 25degs C, a belt of rain moving across the Czech Republic will bring cloudy skies and scattered showers later in the day. Nighttime temperatures around 10 degs C.