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Vol 3, No 11
19 March 2001
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Czech newsNews from the
Czech Republic

All the important news
since 10 March 2001

Mark Preskett


Opposition agreement will continue

View today's updated headlines from the Czech Republic and Slovakia

On Saturday 10 March, ten leading delegates of the ruling Social Democrats (ČSSD) and the Civic Democrats (ODS) announced that the oft-criticized opposition agreement will remain in place until next year's general election. Although support for the agreement appeared weak prior to the meeting, promises made by ČSSD ensured the continuation of the power-sharing deal.

The prime minister and chairman of ČSSD, Miloš Zeman, pledged that the Cabinet will make up for last year's CZK 11 billion (USD 300 million) budget deficit shortfall from this year's revenue rather than by raising new debt. The chairman of ODS, Václav Klaus, stated that the government must also present its fiscal and pension reform strategy for debate in parliament in three months.

The opposition agreement, signed on 9 July 1998, enabled Mr Zeman to form a ČSSD minority cabinet with ODS following unsuccessful talks with the opposition Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union (US).


Foot-and-mouth measures introduced

The foot-and-mouth crisis that has sparked a fresh wave of panic throughout Europe has forced the Czech Republic to tighten its border controls. Passengers traveling by train are being asked to dispose of all food products and disinfect their shoes upon entering the country.

Those traveling by car have reported three-hour-long queues at border crossings with Germany, Austria and Poland. Travel by foot has also been complicated by the closing of 70 pedestrian border crossings between the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany.

Although no cases of the livestock disease have been reported in the Czech Republic, the armed forces have offered to help isolate farms and dispose of livestock, should it reach the country.


Temelín under (and on) fire

Questions were again being raised about the safety of the nuclear power plant at Temelín in South Bohemia this week when a fire broke out at the construction site for a second reactor. According to plant spokesman Milan Nebesař, the fire was caused by a "technical fault" and firemen were immediately able to extinguish the flames.

Temelín has been plagued with difficulties since it began operating last October and technical faults have forced shutdowns with alarming regularity. The reactor has been inactive for a week due to ongoing work in a non-nuclear section of the plant.

Austrian opponents of the plant have again questioned the Czech government's willingness to provide information on nuclear safety to non-governmental organisations. Josef Puehringer, spokesman for the Platform Against Nuclear Danger, told Czech press agency ČTK that "representatives of the Czech State Nuclear Safety Authority (SUJB) and the Czech government are talking about transparency, but the reality is the opposite."

The anti-Temelín organisations, together with US lawyer Ed Fagan, who is returning to the Czech Republic next week, called on the power utility giant ČEZ and US company Westinghouse, to submit documents confirming the station's safety. The deadline is 20 March, but both ČEZ and the SUJB have stated that they cannot disclose details on Temelín's technology. This information is confidential and belongs to Westinghouse.


Clear goals for foreign policy

In an address to the Chamber of Deputies' foreign committee, Foreign Affairs Minister Jan Kavan laid out the Czech government's foreign policy priorities. The three areas highlighted were the ongoing talks on the Czech Republic's entry into the European Union, Czech membership in NATO and the improvement of already positive relations with neighbouring countries.

Kavan stated that this year's EU accession talks would be decisive for the Czech Republic as it prepares for EU entry on 1 January 2003. In regards to NATO, he stated that the Defence Ministry was assessing several scenarios for Czech army reform. The goal is to have a more professional and mobile army by 2010.

Kavan also praised the standard of Czech relations with Slovakia, Germany, Poland and Hungary, and voiced optimism over the development of Czech-Austrian relations, despite the countries' ongoing disagreement over the issue of Temelín.


Zeman looks to the East

Czech newspapers have been following Prime Minister Miloš Zeman's week-long mission to India and South Korea with interest. The aim of the trip is to boost bilateral economic and cultural ties.

Speaking at a reception at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi, Mr Zeman said that he was interested in strengthening ties between India and the Czech Republic. Zeman stressed that both countries share a similar ideology. He told reporters, "Both countries respect the basic principle of the non-violence of Mahatma Gandhi. In practice, we believe that non-violence plays an important role and discussions will be based on that."

After five days in India, Mr Zeman flew to South Korea on Friday to meet President Kim Te-dzungem and Chairman of the Government I Han-tongem. In addition, Zeman plans to meet with the heads of Daewoo Motors and Samsung Electronics in order to discuss investment conditions in the Czech Republic.

Mark Preskett, 16 March 2001

Moving on:


Hospodářské noviny
Lidové noviny
Mladá fronta Dnes
ČTK—Czech News Agency

Today's updated headlines from the Czech Republic and Slovakia

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Read CER's review of
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