Central Europe Review Call forpolicy proposals...
Vol 3, No 22
18 June 2001
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Czech newsNews from the
Czech Republic

All the important news
since 9 June 2001

Mark Preskett


BSE confirmed

The BSE crisis in the Czech Republic has dominated news headlines this week. Not only has the Czech Republic
View today's updated headlines from the Czech Republic and Slovakia

confirmed its first case of mad cow disease, but this case is the first of its kind reported outside of Western Europe. On Thursday morning, Agriculture Minister Jan Fencl announced that the results of three tests done on a six-year-old cow from a herd in South Moravia had proven positive. The third test had been sent to a special laboratory in Tubingen, Germany, for verification.

As a result of the positive confirmation, Poland, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Russia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and Germany all imposed total or partial bans on the import of Czech beef.

The Czech Republic has begun testing all cattle over the age of 30 months for the disease. This process began once the disease was suspected, but before the final test results from Germany were released. The Czech State Veterinary Authority has also issued an order for blanket testing of all cattle imported from countries where BSE has been confirmed. On Friday, the first 139 heads of cattle were slaughtered. All of the cattle came from the Dušejov farm, where the first infected cow was identified.

The State Veterinary Authority, which is sponsoring the testing, has asked the state for help in meeting the costs incurred. According to the Czech national daily, Mladá Fronta Dnes, testing will cost an estimated CZK (Czech koruna) 300 million (USD 7.6 million) per year.

Prime Minister Miloš Zeman said that the positive test result was an unpleasant development, but added that there was no reason to panic. Results of a survey conducted by the SC&C agency on behalf of the national daily, Lidové noviny, showed that most Czech citizens agree with Prime Minister Zeman. 44.1 per cent of Czechs stated that they would continue to eat beef. Only 9.4 per cent reported that they would put a stop to their beef consumption.


StB collaborators in ministry

On 1 June, Minister of Interior Stanislav Gross discovered that 117 civil servants, many of whom hold senior positions, were "unscreened" agents of the Communist secret police or StB. On Monday, three additional former StB agents were named, one of whom holds a senior position. The majority of the people identified are believed to be working for the Czech military secret service.

All civil servants were to be screened between 1991 and 1993 in order to detect whether they had collaborated with the StB or had held senior positions in the Communist Party. However, on Monday the former Interior Minister, Václav Grulich, told the Czech news agency, ČTK, that he knew of several cases where former collaborators were given positions in the Interior Ministry. He said that he had kept quiet, because he did not want to "kick up a fuss around this matter" with his predecessor, Jan Ruml, who was then serving as Deputy Interior Minister.


Transition period still hot issue

This week, negotiations for accession to the EU again focused on the sensitive issue of free movement of labour. Sweden, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, told candidate countries that it will not request a transition period for the free movement of labour following the Union's eastward expansion.

Germany and Austria, in particular, have supported a transition period whereby citizens from the candidate countries would not be allowed to work freely within the EU following accession. Support for a transition period hinges on current EU member fears that their labour markets will be flooded with cheap labour following the EU's eastward expansion. As a result of these fears, it was decided last week that individual EU member states will be allowed to negotiate transition periods with each of the candidate countries.

On Tuesday, Hungary became the first post-Communist country to complete negotiations with the EU and close this chapter. It accepted the transition period, subject to assurances from member states that they would show flexibility in applying them to Hungary. It also sought and won the right to impose reciprocal restrictions on EU member states.

The Czech Republic, one of the strongest opponents of a transition period, said it will now focus on negotiating the best possible deal with each of the EU member states. The country's chief EU negotiator, Pavel Telička, is planning to hold talks with representatives of all 15 EU members in order to get a better idea of their opinions on the issue.


Czech-Austrian relations strained

Tension between the Czech Republic and Austria intensified this week when Austria's Minister of Finance, Karl-Heinz Grasser, stated that unless the Beneš Decrees are annulled the Czech Republic will not be able to join the EU. The Beneš Decrees were issued after the Second World War and led to the expulsion of approximately three million Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia's borderlands.

This statement has created further tension between the Czech Republic and Austria which have already seen relations deteriorate in recent months. The Czech Republic and Austria remain at odds over the issue of Temelín, the Czech Republic's nuclear power plant. This week, Ursula Haubner, Upper-Austrian Minister for the Environment and sister of Jörg Haider, publicly joined the battle to close the controversial power station in South Bohemia. "We must use every law possible to stop Temelín's activation," she said on Tuesday.

Finally, relations between the two countries have been strained as a result of Austria's support for a universal seven-year transition period for candidate countries upon joining the European Union.

Mark Preskett, 15 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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the Czech Republic and Slovakia

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