Central Europe Review Call forpolicy proposals...
Vol 3, No 16
7 May 2001
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Czech newsNews from the
Czech Republic

All the important news
since 28 April 2001

Mark Preskett


Extremists celebrate first of May

This year's May Day celebrations, which have been marred by violence in previous years, passed with relatively few problems. 300 anarchists marched through Prague chanting anti-capitalist slogans. At the same time, 150 skinheads gathered at Prague's Náměstí Míru square. Both groups were closely monitored by the police.

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

The largest gathering took place at Letenská pláň in Prague, where more than 7000 people attended a May Day rally sponsored by the Communist Party (KSČM). KSČM Chairman Miroslav Grabníček addressed the crowd, calling the rally a protest against the "dismal social situation."

Further rallies were held in Plzeň, Ústí nad Labem, Brno and Most. A minor altercation between Young Conservatives and Communists in Brno was the only such incident reported in the press.


Vetchý sacked

The minister of defense, Vladimír Vetchý, was dismissed from his post on Thursday for failing to manage the ministry properly. According to the Czech national daily, Lidové noviny, Prime Minister Miloš Zeman decided to relieve Vetchý of his post as early as last November. According to an agreement between Zeman, Vetchý and President Havel, Vetchý was to resign immediately upon his return from a mission to China last week. The trip was considered particularly ill-timed considering the tense relations between Washington and Beijing over the US spy-plane dispute.

Critics of the former defense minister have accused Vetchý of both failing to reform the Czech armed forces and losing control of his subordinates. In his final press conference last month, Vetchý for the first time admitted his role in the problems facing the country's armed forces. "I must take some of the blame in not pushing harder for reform," he said.

Mr Vetchý was replaced on Friday by his deputy, Jaroslav Tvrdík, an economist and former soldier. Tvrdík will take over the radical reform programme being prepared by the economic section of the defense ministry.


Temelín to shut for two months

Temelín, the controversial nuclear power station in South Bohemia, is to be closed for two months while workers carry out major repairs. The power utility giant, ČEZ, Temelín's operator, stated that the closure was caused by a bent rotor shaft in the turbine. According to ČEZ's spokesperson, Daniela Častvaje, the company will also shut down power in the secondary non-nuclear section of the plant in order to save on fuel while repair work is being carried out.

The power plant has been beset by problems since it was activated last year. Anti-nuclear organizations have continued to fuel arguments that Temelín is unsafe. ČEZ has countered that Temelín is still undergoing testing and minor problems are part of this process.


Letter bomb attacks

This week, a total of seven parcels containing explosives were sent to the address of Jaroslav Eliaš, the former director of H-system, a housing development company that went bankrupt. Four of the letter bombs were sent on Wednesday, one of which seriously injured Eliaš's son after he opened one of the parcels. The remaining three bombs were diffused by disposal experts. Three additional parcels were found by police on Thursday, all of which were successfully diffused.

Dozens of people lost hundreds of thousands of crowns each in deposits on apartments H-system was planning to build before it went bankrupt in 1997. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks and the 650 creditors of H-system sharply condemned the violence. Spokesman for the general director of Czech Post Services, Ladislav Vančura, told the press on Thursday that all of the parcels came from Prague 025-Malešice.


Roma to be represented

The Czech foreign ministry announced that it would set up a special department next month aimed at dealing with Roma minority issues. The deputy foreign minister, Martin Palouš, said that the ministry would also employ an advisor for Romany affairs from the Czech Republic's Romany minority. The move is a further step in the ministry's stated policy of respecting the Czech Roma as part of a European Romany nation. Last month, the foreign minister signed a memorandum promising official co-operation with the International Romany Union.

Mark Preskett, 4 May 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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