On a visit to Bratislava, the Austrian Foreign Minister, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, has compared the different attitudes of the Czechs and Slovaks to the new Austrian government, which includes the far-right Freedom Party. She praised the direct approach of the Slovaks, but said that Austria is not too impressed with the reaction of Prague. The other fourteen EU member states, plus the Czech Republic, cut off all top-level relations with Austria, after the Freedom Party was included in the Austrian government in February. Mrs. Ferrero-Waldner said that the Austrians greatly respect the fact that the Slovaks have chosen a different approach, that of dialogue. The Austrian government, according to the Austrian Foreign Minister, has been disappointed by the attitude of the Czech government, but said that she believes that this will change soon.
The Czech and Slovak agriculture ministries have completed a proposal to maintain the customs union that exists between the two countries, even in the event that one of them joins the EU before the other. The final decision will depend on the EU, but so far the union has not been in favour of maintaining the customs union between the two countries.
A group of Austrian ecologists from the organisation Global 2000 has called on the Austrian government to prevent the sale of electricity produced at the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia to Austria. There has been strong opposition to the nuclear power plant, which is due to go on line in a few months, in Austria over the past few years. The spokeswoman for Global 2000, Andrea Paukovits referred to the plans of CEZ, the company in charge or constructing the plant, to export the electricity produced in Temelin, and said that neither the Czech nor the European energy markets need this electricity. Global 2000 has therefore called for an immediate halt to construction work on Temelin.
The proposal of opposition leader Vaclav Klaus that a referendum be held on EU accession as soon as possible, preferably by the beginning of next year, has received much criticism from members of the other parties in the Lower House of Parliament. Various members of the Lower House say that as the Czech Republic will not know all of the conditions necessary for accession, the general public would not be able to make an informed decision. According to the Deputy Chairwoman of the ruling Social Democrat Party, Petra Buzkova, who believes that this is further proof that Mr. Klaus' relationship towards the EU is not a positive one.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled against the Czech Republic in the case of Libor Cesky, whom the court says was held too long with a trial. The court has awarded Mr. Cesky ten thousand Czech Crowns, or two hundred and fifty dollars, in compensation, and has ordered the Czech Republic to pay his legal fees. Libor Cesky was sentenced in 1994 to fifteen years for burglary and as an accessory to murder. His sentence was overruled in 1995, but he was not released until 1997. As he had been on remand since 1993, Mr. Cesky had been on remand for more than four years, which breached an international agreement on the maximum period anyone can be kept on remand.
The Deputy Chairman of the right-of-centre Civic Democratic Alliance, Senator Michal Zantovsky, has criticised a proposak by the main opposition party, the Civic Democrats, to hold two referendums on entering the EU. The proposal, made by Civic Democrat Deputy Chairman Petr Necas, would involve holding a referendum in 2001, which would give Czech politicians a mandate to approve a number of EU norms. The second would be held after the completion of accession negotiations, to confirm the signing of the accession agreement between the Czech Republic and the EU, which Mr. Necas believes could realistically happen in 2004. Senator Tosovsky has criticised Mr. Necas' proposal, saying that the government has the right to negotiate with international organisations with without a referendum, and that only one referendum should be held, immediately prior to accession.
President Vaclav Havel has pardoned a man convicted of using a fake phone card in Prague. The man, an Angolan national, used the phone card for a period of four months during 1997, which cost the country's monopoly fixed-line operator, Cesky Telecom, three hundred and thirty thousand Czech Crowns, or more than eight thousand dollars. The man had been handed a three years' suspended sentence. The calls were made to Angola, where the man's wife was expecting a child at the time, and the child died shortly after birth. The man, known only by the initials J. M. F. C. N., has also been paying off the bill for some time, which was one of the reasons the presidential pardon was given.
All parties interested into buying into the bankrupt tram manufacturer CKD Dopravni Systemy have until Friday June 9th to register their bids. There are already several companies interested in buying a stake in CKD, which has outstanding debts of up to seven billion Czech Crowns, or one hundred and seventy five million dollars. So far, Siemens and a consortium led by Daimler are the frontrunners to obtain a stake of almost fifty percent in CKD, which was declared bankrupt at the end of January.
And finally the weather forecast. The weather for Tuesday should be slightly colder, with overcast skies and rain showers and thunderstorms in places. Temperatures during the day should reach between seventeen and twenty one degrees centigrade. Temperatures during the night should be between eight and twelve degrees centigrade. I'm Nick Carey, and that's the end of the news.
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