The pre-election campaign in the Czech Republic has hit the Internet. Most political parties started launching their own websites several years ago but with the election date approaching, parties are increasingly using the Internet to promote their policies. The most popular forms of advertisement are banners, interactive games, discussion chats, video or audio recordings and also e-mails. According to a recent survey, only 30 percent of adults have regular access to the Internet but experts expect the global computer network to gradually gain more importance in election campaigns in the Czech Republic.
The dispute between Prague and Vienna over the Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear power plant has been discussed in an Austrian court for the first time. The province of Upper Austria has filed a lawsuit against Temelin's operators CEZ, in a bid to prevent the plant from going into full operation. Lawyers for Upper Austria said the province owned a strip of land close to the Czech border, and as such had the right to file suit against the possible "effects" of a nuclear accident at Temelin. If Upper Austria wins the suit, CEZ must either refrain from putting Temelin into full operation, or face a massive fine. An Austrian lawyer acting for CEZ said the case was incompatible with international law.
Speaker of Parliament Vaclav Klaus has given the green light for an up-coming amendment to the election law which would make it easier to tabulate results soon after polls in the Czech Republic close on June 15th. The amendment, which has gained wide support in parliament, would allow Czech nationals abroad to begin casting their votes a day early, to make-up for time-zone differences. That would make it possible to release early exit polls on election day soon after voting in the Czech Republic had ended.
A Czech delegation to the European Parliament has handed over a legal analysis of the controversial Benes decrees, which should help to clarify the Czech government's refusal to have them revoked. The decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion of some 2.5 million ethnic Germans and the confiscation of property of thousands of ethnic Hungarians at the end of the SWW, have evoked fresh controversy in central Europe after Austrian and Hungarian politicians called for them to be revoked since they were not in line with present day human rights legislation. The Czech government has refused to comply with this request saying that the Benes decrees were part of a broader post-war settlement framework in Europe and any move to rescind them could have serious legal consequences.
Public support for the Czech Republic's accession to the EU has reached an all time high. According to a survey conducted by the Centre for Public Opinion Research 59% of respondents endorsed the country's efforts to join the EU, while 25% were against. When asked how they would vote in a referendum 48% of respondents said they would cast their vote in favour of entry, a record high- up from 44% in November. Both the Czech government and the EU's Information Centre in Prague have recently stepped up their efforts to dispel fears of poverty and "second-class" membership which have plagued many Czechs, especially the elderly and socially weaker groups of the population.
The District Court in the east Bohemian city of Hradec Kralove has criticised the approach taken by police during an incident which took place outside the court on Friday. Following the sentencing of a 22-year-old neo-nazi skinhead for the racially motivated murder of a Romany man, a group of skinheads shouted racial abuse at Romanies leaving the court. The police made no arrests, despite the fact that racial abuse is illegal in the Czech Republic. A spokesperson for the court said the police should have intervened.
A court in Hradec Kralove, east Bohemia has sentenced a neo-nazi skinhead to 13 years in prison for the murder of a Romany man. Last July twenty-two-year-old Vlastimil Pechanec racially abused Romany Ota Absolon at a disco in the town of Svitavy before stabbing him fatally in the stomach. Police intervened outside the court on Friday as a group of skinheads supporting Pechanec tried to attack human rights activists. On Thursday a court in Prague gave a skinhead seven years in prison for attacking three people.
Czech MPs are to discuss amending the election law to overcome problems with Czechs voting abroad. The law was recently changed to give Czech citizens living abroad the right to vote, but only recently did officials realise that the difference in time zones could complicate June's general elections. The polls in the Czech Republic will close at 2 p.m. local time, but polling booths in the west coast of the United States, for example, would not close for another nine hours. Election results cannot be published until all polling booths have closed. MPs are to discuss plans to change the law, allowing Czechs living abroad to vote a day earlier.
The EC negotiator for the Czech Republic, Rutger Wissels said on Monday that the closing of the economic competition chapter during EU accession talks may be hampered by the Czech Republic's failure to speed up the restructuring of the steel sector. According to Mr Wissels, Prague is reluctant to realise that restructuring is necessary in order for the Czech steel industry to survive. He added that talks with the Trade and Industry Ministry were not going forward and that his colleagues were upset that the Czech side viewed the EC's proposed methods of solution as harmful.
NATO Secretary General George Robertson has said the NATO summit in Prague this November will be a "defining moment" which will begin a transformation of the alliance. Mr Robertson made the comments at a press conference after meeting with students at Prague's Charles University; saying the changes would make NATO better suited for the security challenges of the 21st century. The secretary general also emphasised that the transformation would include the participation of Russia, though it is not yet clear just how that country will fit into the overall picture. Mr Robertson is currently in the Czech Republic to examine preparations for the upcoming summit, which will see the leaders of 19 member states meet to discuss alliance expansion, the modernisation of national defence, and the development of new strategies in the fight against terrorism.