Central Europe Review Call forpolicy proposals...
Vol 3, No 21
11 June 2001
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Czech newsNews from the
Czech Republic

All the important news
since 2 June 2001

Mark Preskett


First BSE case discovered

The Czech Agriculture Ministry announced its first
View today's updated headlines from the Czech Republic and Slovakia

suspected case of "mad cow disease" or BSE on Wednesday. Minister of Agriculture Jan Fencl told the press that the positive test came from a five-year old cow from a herd in the district of Jihlava. The samples are undergoing additional testing with results expected on Friday.

If the tests show the presence of BSE, it will be the first such case in Central and Eastern Europe. According to Josef Holejšovský, the director of the veterinary commission, a positive case will mean the implementation of measures similar to those used in the EU. "We will act in the same manner as Europe. This means liquidation of the herd, minimally of the animals which were with the cow at the time when it could have been infected." Veterinarians will also begin to test all cows in the Czech Republic over the age of 30 months.

Environmentalists have already begun to speculate the cost of this discovery. Veterinarians estimate that the cost of increased testing alone could reach CZK (Czech koruna) 280 million (USD 6.1 million). Thus far, 10,000 cows have undergone testing. At the same time, the Ministry of Agriculture has been trying to assure the public that Czech beef is safe for consumption. According to an ongoing online survey by the Czech national daily, Lidové noviny, only 82 Czech respondents said that they would stop eating beef, while 1234 said they would continue to eat beef as usual.


EU talks continue

It was a busy week for government representatives in charge of EU accession negotiations. The most important and contentious issue up for discussion was that of free movement of labour. An original proposal by Brussels to implement a transition period for the current candidate countries was rejected by the Czech Republic.

According to the proposed "compromise solution," citizens of the candidate countries would be unable to work freely within the EU for a period of two to seven years after joining the organisation. Germany and Austria are particularly supportive of the proposed transition period, given their concerns about the influx of cheap labour into their markets.

Later in the week, Czech Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetský told journalists that Prague would accept a transition period on the condition that its length would be negotiated individually with the governments of EU member states and would undergo revision after two years.

During the EU negotiations this week, the Czech Republic also managed to provisionally close the chapter on the free movement of capital, which was seen by many as being linked to the chapter on free movement of labour. It was agreed that EU citizens would be unable to buy agricultural land in the Czech Republic for up to seven years. Flats and houses could be purchased after a five-year transition period.

Also this week, the chapter on the environment was provisionally closed. As part of the agreement, the Czech Republic promised to recycle a minimum of 30 per cent of its waste by 2005 and to construct water treatment facilities in towns with populations over 2000 by 2010.


Gripen fighters on sale

Talks continued this week with representatives of the British-Swedish consortium, Saab/BAE. The company is now alone in negotiations to supply the Czech Armed Forces with new jet fighters. Four other firms, which were also expected to place a tender, have pulled out of negotiations. Initial estimates for the 36 Saab Gripen jet fighters—including training and spare parts for a three-year period—were CZK 100 billion (USD 2.5 billion). This figure has now been put at closer to CZK 75 billion (USD 1.9 billion).

In return for purchasing the fighters, Saab/BAE has promised to invest over CZK 100 billion (ie 150 percent of the price of the planes) into Czech industry. However, Director of BAE Europe Julian Scopes announced that, "If the contract is not signed, we are able to transfer the projects for industrial co-operation very quickly to other parts of the world."

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfled, in a meeting with Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdík, advised the Czech Republic not to jeopardise the future of its armed forces by buying planes that the country could not afford.


Annul Benes Decrees

Speaking in front of tens-of-thousands of Sudeten Germans at their annual conference in Augsburg, Germany, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber both called for the annulment of the Benes Decrees by the time the Czech Republic joins the EU. The Benes Decrees were issued just after the Second World War and led to the expulsion of up to three million Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia.

Chairman of the Sudeten German Association Bernd Posselt told the assembly that the German government and the EU should put pressure on the Czech Republic to address the issue.

However, the Czech national daily, Mladá fronta Dnes, stressed the attitude of co-operation not confrontation over the issue of future relations. Mr Posselt agreed, saying "We want to see a new beginning in our relationship with our Czech neighbours."

Mark Preskett, 8 June 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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