Vol 1, No 4, 19 July 1999

C E N T R A L   E U R O P E A N   N E W S:
Last Week in the Czech Republic

Kazi Stastna

UN General Secretary Kofi Annan arrived in Prague for his first official visit. He met with President Vaclav Havel, whose recent visit to Kosovo he complemented, and the two discussed - among other more general issues - reform of the UN Security Council in light of the recent Kosovo conflict. Annan also met with UN Special Envoy to Yugoslavia and the first post-1989 Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier and Minister of Defence Vladimir Vetchy.

Over 1000 artists signed a declaration demanding that the names of those who co-operated with the secret police (StB) under Communism be made public. The declaration will be presented to Culture Minister Pavel Dostal this Tuesday.

Clean-up crews had not yet determined the amount of oil that entered the Elbe river near the city of Decin when it leaked out from the loading area of the Czechoslovak Elbe Shipping company.

According to figures published this month by the polling agency STEM, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) is the second most popular party after the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), with 17.8% of eligible voters expressing their preference for this party. The figures set off the usual bout of accusations and counter accusations of who exactly was to blame for this disturbing development. Nary a politician was left who did not bravely step into the media spotlight to proclaim how aghast and appalled he or she was at the high preference rating.

In the ever steady career flow from media to Czech politics and vice versa, former head of State Security Services (BIS) Karel Vulterin is negotiating with the director of Czech Independent Television Organisation (CNTS) - the organisation responsible for servicing the country's (and post-Communist Central Euorpe's) most successful private television station TV Nova - about possible future co-operation. Vulterin has been on the hunt for a new job ever since he was dismissed from his post as head of BIS six weeks ago.

10 Czech women were awarded up to DM 10,000 in damages from the German company Siemens as compensation for the labour they were forced to carry out for this company during the Second World War at Ravensbrueck concentration camp.

Approximately 200 miners from several uranium mines in the country are expected to demonstrate in from of government offices this Monday. Miners are demanding that the government finally come to a decision regarding the future of the mines. Workers from the Diamo mine are asking that the government allow at least the rest of the easily accessible uranium to be mined. Along with their counterparts in the Hamr mine, Diamo workers have been in a state of strike alert since the end of June and have been receiving only 60% of their wages since March - when the definitive decision about the closing of the mines was to be made.

Minister of Finance Ivo Svoboda is threatened with an eight-year jail sentence for his role in the bankruptcy and partial sale of the firm Liberta. Soon before the company declared bankruptcy in December 1997, its profitable parts were sold to Svoboda and his colleague at the Ministry Barbara Snopkova. Snopkova and Svoboda allegedly used creditors' funds to operate Liberta allegedly after the company's bank account was officially frozen.

Elected politician refuse to take responsibility for the 300 billion crowns which have accumulated in the National Property Fund. Since the Fund has remained without a controlling commission for the past 9 months due to Parliament's inability to agree on who should be represented in such a commission, a power vacuum has formed and management is making all its own decisions and personnel changes.

The Bureau for Economic Control of the Interior Ministry has found 11 cases of fraud and mismanagement in this ministry amounting to a loss of 1 million crowns. According to the bureau's findings, employees at the Ministry engaged in private business ventures with Ministry property, sponsored private enterprises, failed to collect penalties for unfulfilled contracts, carried out faulty accounting, sold Ministry property for artificially low prices and engaged in various other questionable practices. According to Minister of Interior Vaclav Grulich, only those employees who are still working at the ministry will be able to be prosecuted.

Kazi Stastna, 18 July 1999





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