Central Europe Review Call forpolicy proposals...
Vol 3, No 20
4 June 2001
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Czech newsNews from the
Czech Republic

All the important news
since 26 May 2001

Mark Preskett


EU reaches compromise

The European Union has reached a compromise concerning the key issue of free movement of labour for future members. The EU will present the compromise to the six leading candidate countries, including
View today's updated headlines from the Czech Republic and Slovakia

the Czech Republic, at a meeting in Brussels on Friday 1 June.

Although details of the deal had not yet been released at the time of writing, the Czech national daily, Mlada fronta Dnes predicted that a transition period would be introduced whereby citizens of candidate countries would not be able to work in the EU for seven years. Germany and Austria in particular have been advocating a transition period, given their fears of a massive influx of cheap labour from the East. The Czech Republic and other candidate countries have rejected the introduction of such measures.

However, another leading national daily, Lidové noviny, claims that the compromise will mean an introduction of a seven-year transition period in only some of the EU's 15 member states. Other countries will have a transition period of between two and five years, while a third group of states will have no transition period at all.


Radioactive leak at Temelín

According to a spokesman for the power utility giant ČEZ 60,000 litres of contaminated water leaked from the reactor in the controversial Temelín nuclear power plant on Wednesday. The accident is one of a string of mishaps that have occurred at the plant since its launch late last year.

According to the chairwoman of the State Office for Nuclear Safety (SÚJB), Dana Drábová, the radiation levels were very low and the water remained within the reactor's safety shell. She added that the accident was due to human error and not system failure.

The power plant has been a source of contention between the Czech Republic and anti-nuclear Austria. Austria has questioned the plant's design and safety. Both Austrian and Czech environmentalists have repeatedly blockaded the Czech-Austrian border this year. A recent blockade was held on Sunday. Furthermore, environmentalists have enlisted the help of US human-rights lawyer Ed Fagan in an attempt to shut down the plant's activities.


Svoboda back in favour

The former chairman of the 4Coalition Party, Cyril Svoboda, was elected as new Chairman of the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) at the party's national conference on Saturday. Svoboda was elected over Jan Kasal, who now becomes Deputy Chairman. This is a reversal of the leadership contest from two years ago. The party hopes to put behind months of in-fighting, which has hindered its progress. Many see Svoboda's election as a victory for the reform-minded wing of the party.


Wages continue to rise

Another indication of the Czech Republic's economic recovery came this week with news that the average monthly salary in the first quarter of this year was CZK 13,289 (USD 332). This is 9.3 percent higher than figures for the previous year.

Figures from the Czech Statistical Office (ČSÚ) also show that workers in the information technology and banking sectors were especially well rewarded. Average monthly salary for IT specialists rose 14% to reach CZK 30,252. Workers in the banking sector saw wages increase 24% to reach CZK 28,011.

Estimates from Patria Finance show average salaries breaking the CZK 19,000 barrier by 2005. However, the Czech national daily Mlada fronta Dnes pointed out that only a third of workers in the Czech Republic actually enjoy the average salary. The remaining workers earn less than the average.


Gregr appointed Deputy PM

Minister for Trade and Industry Miroslav Gregr was finally appointed Deputy Prime Minister on Wednesday. Despite reservations, President Václav Havel had no choice but to name Gregr as Deputy Prime Minister, since he does not have the power to challenge government appointments.

President Havel has been openly critical of Mr Gregr, who is known for his socialist, interventionist policy-making. The delay in officially naming Gregr as Deputy Prime Minister was a sign of protest.


Errors thin competition

On Wednesday, five out of the six companies competing for the multi-billion crown tender "Internet for schools" did not make it past the first round.

Tomáš Sokol, a member of the selection committee, told Czech national daily Lidové noviny that the five companies were eliminated from the competition due to "trivial mistakes." These mistakes included handing in the tender without sealing the envelope, forgetting to include an offer price and placing part of the tender in the wrong language, ie English.

The only company to pass the first round of the competition was the joint tender of AutoCont and Český Telecom. Freedom Union Deputy Vladimír Mlynař immediately called for the cancellation of the selection procedure. Minister of Education Eduard Zeman, however, refused, saying that he "will only call off the competition when no firm is able to meet our requirements."

Mark Preskett, 1 June 2001

Moving on:


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

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