Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail
There have been international protests over the merger of the Czech Republic's two largest beer breweries, Plzensky Prazdroj and Radegast. Foreign minister Jan Kavan told the ctk newsagency the foreign ministry had been contacted about the matter, among others, by the British ambassador to Prague David Broucher and representatives of the European Parliament. Kavan said he thought the matter was grave enough to warrant a special government session. The merger of the two largest breweries has created a giant which will control 44% of the market. The Czech Republic has signed international agreements to the effect that no firm will be allowed a bigger than 30% share of the market. Britain for one has pointed out that the merger is in violation of the Czech-British agreement on mutual investments.
EU and Czech parliamentarians working on a joint committee for the Czech Republic's accession to the European Union, on Friday again expressed concern over foot dragging on projected legislative changes. A joint statement released Friday says that the pace of legislative change may well decide whether the Czech Republic will be admitted in the first wave of EU expansion. Karl Olsson, Sweden's deputy to the European Parliament, told journalists there was still time to catch up. "Please regard this as a form of encouragement rather than browbeating " he added.
President Havel who is currently touring Moravia, has also issued another appeal to government officials and legislators about speeding up the required legislative changes . The president noted that the adoption of a single constitutional change would help the situation enormously -ie. passing a law which would allow EU laws to be superimposed over Czech legislation. The government is reported to be working on precisely such a bill, but the outlooks are Parliament will not get to scrutinize the proposed legislative change before May.
The Czech branch of Greenpeace has launched a series of protest actions against the completion of Temelin, the nuclear power plant in southern Bohemia. The aim is to raise public awareness of the facts presented in a study compiled, at the Czech government's request, by an independent team of experts, in which they conclude that, apart from environmental considerations, it would be economically more prudent not to complete the plant. Among the reasons given are that the Czech Republic will not need much of the electricity Temelin would produce and it would be very difficult to sell it abroad. The Czech Cabinet is to meet on Monday to debate Temelin's fate and Greenpeace and other environmental groups plan to demonstrate outside the government building while the session is underway.
Speaking with newsmen in Brno earlier today, President Havel was unusually blunt and highly critical in his comments on how the Temelin problem was being handled by this and former governments. One would expect, the President said, for a decision on the plant's future to be made on the ground on a long term energy policy. As far as I know the Czech Republic still lacks a long-term energy policy, which I for one feel is a major omission, Havel said. If the Czech Republic was planning on Temelin, it would have been logical to start the process of closing down coal mining in Northern Bohemia, he continued. Not only was this not done, but millions were spent on desulphurization technology in the region. The President also revealed his own preference on the matter of Temelin, telling newsmen " I am beginning to get a little impatient with the advocates of Temelin's completion. I for one no longer trust them. They lied about the completion date and they lied about the cost."
German pilots are preparing to conduct a series of monitoring flights over Czech territory in line with the international agreement Open Skies. The aim is to provide updated film documentation on various sites. American, French and Turkish experts will also take part in the mission which is due to be launched on March 22nd and is expected to last a week. In May Czech pilots will be undertaking a reciprocal mission over German territory.
Czech diplomats and their families remain in the Yugoslav capital Belgrade for the time being, according to foreign minister Jan Kavan. A plane is reportedly on stand-by, awaiting orders should a speedy evacuation prove necessary. Kavan told journalists Friday that the Czech diplomats were not in any serious danger since airstrikes would be preceded by a last minute warning from Britain and France. The foreign minister said that to his knowledge there were no Czech tourists in Kosovo, but he said that any stray tourists or businessmen who contacted the embassy would naturally be put on the plane out.
The Czech Lower House is expected to meet Tuesday to put its seal of approval on Czech participation in an international peace-keeping effort in Kosovo. The government proposal envisages sending out a field hospital and a transport plane. The operation would involve over 100 Czech servicemen who would be sent out over a period of eighteen months. The cost of the field hospital has been estimated at 575 million crowns, that of dispatching a transport plane 1,5 million. The proposal is not expected to meet with serious opposition in the Lower House.
Civic Democratic Party deputies in the Lower House will reportedly vote against the European Social Charter when the document is presented for ratification next week. A leading Civic Democratic Party representative, Vlastimil Tlusty, said that much of what was stipulated in the European Social Charter ran counter the party's convictions and general outlook. "We consider it a sorry victory of leftists in Europe" Tlusty said, adding that it would be hypocritical to declare something which "we all know to be unrealistic". As an example he cited the paragraph about the right to work, adding that it was clear even now that this could not be fully implemented either in the Czech Republic, where unemployment is on the rise, or anywhere else in the civilized world. In a related development the Social Democratic Party on Friday expressed serious concern that the European Social Charter might be rejected by the Lower House.
Finally a look at the weather: a cold front is expected to bring overcast skies and lower day temps over the next two days. So if you are spending time outdoors bundle up especially on Saturday when day temps will range from 2 to 6 degs C. Sunday's will be slightly higher - between 4 and 8 degs. Nighttime temps will drop below zero.
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