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Vol 2, No 22
5 June 2000
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News from the Czech Republic News from the Czech Republic
All the important news
since 28 May 2000

Markus Bonorianto

The Chamber of Deputies passed an amendment to the Commercial Code which aims to strengthen the position of minority shareholders and creditors, increase transparency, provide better conditions for company mergers and divisions and in general bring Czech law in line with EU norms.

Negotiations between the Czech Republic and the European Union on three new chapters of legislation in the accession process began on Friday. However, there was disagreement over the customs union currently existing between the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Both countries agreed to maintain the union until both countries join the EU, forecast at 2003 for the Czech Republic and 2004 for Slovakia. The EU officially welcomed this arrangement but said that the union should be halted only to be re-started after the Czech Republic's EU entry. The chief Czech negotiator on accession issues, Pavel Telička, rejected this proposal, saying that the cancellation would harm the free flow of goods between the two countries.

The lower house approved the creation of a state support fund for agriculture which will oversee the allocation of farmers' subsidies and regulate prices.

Deputy Prime Minister and Labour and Social Affairs Minister Vladimír Špidla said on Sunday that free movement of labour among the existing and new EU member states would be beneficial to both sides and that the fears of some EU representatives of a huge labour migration from the new members was unfounded. When Greece, Portugal and Spain were about to enter the Union, he added, there had also been some concerns about a possible mass influx from these countries, but it never came. The goal, thus, was to "keep everything under control." Špidla estimated that around 150,000 to 200,000 foreigners and about the same number of illegal immigrants currently live on Czech territory.

The European Commission has launched anti-dumping proceedings against producers of steel cables from the Czech Republic and five other countries.

Visa requirements between the Czech Republic, Russia and Belarus took effect on Monday. Citizens of Russia and Belarus now require visas to enter the Czech Republic and vice versa. The Czech Republic will impose the same regulations on citizens of Ukraine next month. The new restrictions are allegedly intended to harmonise Czech immigration law with that of the EU and tackle the number of illegal immigrants and organised crime.

Deputy Foreign Minister Hynek Kmoníček began his four-day state visit to Iran on Monday. Kmoníček was to discuss the possibilities of developing trade and economic co-operation with the country. The commercial
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relations of the two countries were disturbed by the Czech decision to halt supplies from a Czech firm intended for the Iranian nuclear plant in Bushehr and to allow the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to broadcast to Iran and Iraq from Prague. However, Prague was still interested in the development of trade relations with Iran. Kmoníček was also to discuss questions of Iranian foreign policy. The last Czech-Iranian meeting took place in 1995 in Prague.

Seventy three citizens of Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and India were apprehended by border police in the early hours of Saturday morning during a routine customs check on the Czech-Slovak border while trying to cross into the Czech Republic from Slovakia in the back of a transport truck. All were to be returned to Slovakia. Earlier in the week, police on the Czech-German border detained 22 citizens of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India who were attempting to illegally enter the German province of Saxony.

President Václav Havel went into hospital on Sunday in preparation for a hernia operation that he will undergo on Monday. The surgery will be performed by a team of doctors, including the President's long-time Austrian surgeon Ernst Bodner.

The Czech Republic saw a rapid increase in the number of Internet users in the last six months. According to a recent survey by the GfK polling agency, 16 per cent of Czechs aged 15 to 79 use the Internet, an increase of 60 per cent since December last year. However, 80 per cent of the population had never used the Internet.

Sun Qiang, a resident of the south Moravian district of Úherské Hradiště, is attempting to grow rice on a formerly deserted farm he purchased and repaired during the winter months. When asked about his unusual idea, he simply argued that if rice could be successfully grown in Italy, it could also grow in the Czech Republic. Barring any extraordinary problems or unfavourable weather, he expected the first harvest in September or October. He hoped to yield 7.5 kg of rice per hectare.

The daily Lidové noviny reported on Saturday that police intended to stop the sale of a recently published unannotated Czech translation of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf and recall all unsold copies from store shelves next week. The book's publisher, Michal Zítka, was charged this week with the promotion of movements intending to suppress citizens' rights and freedoms. Police have not confirmed the report and have only said that some action has been taken in this regard.

According to a survey conducted for Czech Television and Czech Radio by the Středisko empirických výzkumů (Centre for Empirical Research), roughly two-thirds of the population support the implementation of direct presidential elections. Under the current system, the President is elected jointly by the two houses of Parliament.

Fifty years ago on Wednesday, 31 May 1950, the show trial of Milada Horáková and 12 others began. Horáková was a member of Parliament (then known as the National Assembly) for the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party. She was sentenced to death for alleged espionage and treason and eventually executed on 27 June 1950.

A four-member delegation of the lower house's foreign affairs committee left for a visit to Chile and Argentina with the intention of improving bilateral relations with the two countries.

Environment Minister Miloš Kužvart ceremoniously opened a new national park - České Švýcarsko (Czech Switzerland) - in Krásná Lípa, northern Bohemia.

Markus Bonorianto, 3 June 2000

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