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Vol 3, No 2
15 January 2001
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Czech newsNews from the
Czech Republic

All the important news
since 6 January 2001

Mark Preskett


The never-ending story

The drama at Czech Television (ČT) continued this week with the resignation of ČT's much maligned chief executive, Jiří Hodač, on Thursday. Hodač's days looked numbered all week after the Lower House of Parliament passed a resolution calling on him to resign and stating that "the departure of Jiří Hodač as chief executive of ČT is an essential condition for solving the crisis."

View today's updated headlines from Slovakia and the Czech Republic
Hodač, still recovering in hospital after collapsing last week, initially refused to comply with Parliament's wishes, stating, "I hope in the next few days to return to my duties."

However, when two of the three members of the ČT Council, Miroslav Mareš (chairman of the Council) and František Mikš, both nominated by the ODS, both issued statements that Hodač's departure might help solve the crisis, his resignation seemed inevitable.

Concessions had been made by ČT administration because, for the first time since the New Year, only one version of news reports was being broadcast, that of the rebels locked in the newsroom at Kavčí hory. But, his resignation "for health reasons" came as no surprise.


Celebrating a resignation

A mass demonstration on Václavské náměstí, which was attended by an estimated 60,000 people on Thursday evening, celebrated his resignation. This followed a similar demonstration last week attended by some 90,000 people.

The rebel staff, however, refused to end their strike of the past two weeks, demanding further resignations, namely those of Jindřich Beznoska (ČT's financial director), Jana Bobošíková (head of the News and Current Affairs Department) and Věra Valterová (formerly ČT's company lawyer and currently its acting director). Spokesman for the strikers, Adam Komers, announced that "we will not end the strike until all three resign."

A parliamentary session to discuss the matter of Czech Television held on Friday continued until the early hours of the morning and was broadcast live on ČT2.

For more on the crisis see this week's article on the European angle, Jan Čulík's column and CER's extensive coverage last week.


Temelín: never-ending troubles

An allegedly "minor error" in the safety system of the Temelín power plant in southern Bohemia caused a further shutdown to take place. It was the third such breakdown since the fissile reactor was activated at the plant, though according to the plant's spokesman, Milan Nebesář, the error again occurred in the non-nuclear part of the power plant. Following the breakdown, the reactor was adjusted to run at minimum capacity.

Nebesář stated that the fault was most likely to be the same fault that occurred in December last year and posed no danger to the safety of the plant as a whole, or the people working in it. "On the contrary, the shutdown of the reactor shows that the plant's safety system works as it should," he said.

A further technical problem on Wednesday evening caused ČEZ, the power utility giant in charge of Temelín, to lower capacity again from the 28% needed to power the turbines to the minimum 4.5%.


Red card for Milan

Milan Šrejbr, the former tennis player, businessman and Civic Democratic Party sponsor, was arrested at Ruzyně airport last Sunday. He is accused of illegally transferring over CZK 13 million (approximately USD 360,000) from funds held in his investment firm, Šrejbr Tennis Investing, to his own private firm.

Five years ago, Šrejbr donated CZK 7.5 million to the Civic Democrats (ODS), which the party deposited under false names. Investigators see him as a key witness in the investigation of the affair surrounding the secret bank accounts of the ODS.

He was granted bail at CZK five million and an extra provision of a signed promise that he will attend this month's court hearing. However, there are still fears that he might jump bail. "Five million seems a very low bail and it could be that he will pay it, and we will never see him again," said the associate judge, Michal Roček. His seizure came one month after the Civil Court issued a warrant for his arrest.


Privatising KB

The first stage of the privatisation of Komerční banka (KB), the last of the banks in which the government will sell its share, began on Monday. The four interested parties—German HypoVereinsbank, Italian UniCredito, and French Crédit Agricole and Société Générale—were given the go-ahead to begin their in-depth audits this week.

According to KB's General Director Radovan Vávra, they should finish their inspection by the end of February in accordance with the plan laid out by the bank's consultants, Goldman Sachs. The whole privatisation process should be finished in the first half of 2001.

In November of last year the government agreed to guarantee risk assets up to a maximum of CZK 20 billion, via the state-held bank Konsolidační banka. According to Finance Minister Pavel Mertlík, this would add CZK 45 billion to the bank's value. Analysts put the figure at CZK 25 billion.

Mark Preskett, 12 January 2001

Moving on:


Lidové Noviny
Mlada Fronta Dnes
ČTK - Czech News Agency
BBC World Service

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