Austrian opponents of Temelin end last three border blockades
Austrian opponents of the nuclear power plant Temelin have ended their last three blockades of Czech-Austrian border crossings. According to the protestors' spokesman, Josef Puhringer, blockades have been aborted until the end of November, at which time the situation and possible future protests will be reassessed. The Czech government has said that if blockades are not renewed, the Czech Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, is prepared to meet with his Austrian counterpart, Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel in December. According to the government spokesman, Libor Roucek, the blockades have harmed Czech-Austrian relations, and the Czech side will now attempt to renew the dialogue that had been broken off as a result of the blocks.
The EU enlargement commissioner, Gunter Verheugen, has expressed regret over the Czech Republic's reaction to the European Commission's Progress Report on the country's accession to the European Union, released on Wednesday of this week. The Commissioner said he was confused by the prevailing interpretation of the report as negative by several top pol. Mr Veheugen named the many positive aspects of the EU's assessment and criticised the undue attention placed on the Czech Republic's ranking with respect to its economic progress, which placed it in a third group of candidates, behind Poland, Hungary and Estonia. According to Mr Veheugen, this ranking was a consequence of the delayed restructuralisation of industry and the banking sector. He placed the blame for this delay onto the former Czech prime minister, Vaclav Klaus, but stressed that he did not doubt restructuralisation would be completed and saw no reason for concern. Mr Klaus reacted by accusing the Commissioner of interfering in the campaign for the upcoming senate and regional elections.
Throughout Thursday, several top Czech politicians, including The chairman of the lower house, Vaclav Klaus, Trade and Industry Minister Miroslav Gregr and the Czech foreign minister, Jan Kavan, criticised the Commission's report as unduly negative and rejected the country's third-place economic ranking. Meanwhile, President Vaclav Havel warned that the Czech Republic should not undervalue the Commission's concerns.
According the annual report of the Western Nuclear Regulators Association, the controversial nuclear power plant in south Bohemia, Temelin, conforms to European norms. The Association, which unites the nuclear safety offices of eight West European countries, identified identified two problem areas, related to the recent failure of the plant's ventilation and cooling systems, which need clarification but said that these do not necessitate a halting of operations at the plant. The report, which assessed safety at nuclear plants in the countries currently vying for membership in the European Union, was strongly criticized by the Austrian environmental organization Global 2000. The organization's spokeswoman, Andrea Paukovits, described the report as scandalous and said it can by no means replace a safety check of Temelin, which should be carried out by a team of independent experts. Austria's opposition Social Democrats also criticised the assessment.
The Czech Republic has signed new conventions at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on corruption and the protection of regional and minority languages. The convention against corruption is the first attempt to jointly define international rules of the fight against corruption and will be geared mainly at compensation of the victims of state corruption and protection of employees who turn in corrupt employers. The treaties were signed in Strasbourg by the Czech ambassador to the Council of Europe, Jiri Mucha, and the Czech deputy foreign minister, Martin Palous, who also took part in a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Council's member countries.
Parents of an eighteen-year-old Danish man, who took part in the September demonstrations against the International Monetary fund in Prague and has been held in a Czech jail for six weeks, hope to see him handed over to Danish authorities. The young man, Mads Traerup, is charged with assault against police officers and could face a sentence of up to 10 years. Traerup has denied the charges and has alleged abuse on the part of police officers during his detention. The parents have requested a presidential pardon and the Danish ambassador in Prague has also spoken in favour of a speedy release, but state prosecutor Zdenka Glakova said last week that she is not considering Mr Traerup's release.
Unions representing Czech railway workers have threatened a possible strike if a collective work contract for 2001 is not reached. The rail workers allege that there is a danger that such an agreement will not be reached, because as yet no legislation governing working hours and number of railway employees exists which is in line with the amendment to the labour code that comes into force on January 1, 2001. The union members laid out their concerns in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Milos Zeman, Deputy Minister Vladimir Spidla and Transport Minister Jaromir Schling.
The Czech chapter of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) has designated Czech radio stations as the most conservative in Europe. According to the organisation's Czech spokesman, Tomas Filip, Czech stations are slow in broadcasting new songs and thereby block music labels' attempts to promote new local and international talent. There are over 70 private radio stations in the Czech Republic, which focus primarily on music from the 1960s to the 1980s, which according to Filip is not the norm.
And finally a quick look at this weekend's weather. Partly cloudy skies are expected on Saturday with snow in some mountain regions. Temperatures will range from 4 to 8 degrees Celsius during the day, dropping to lows of minus 2 at night. Skies will clear slightly on Sunday with daytime highs of 10 degrees and lows of minus three at night.
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