Czech citizens living abroad who wish to cast their votes in this year's parliamentary elections have to register at Czech embassies and consulates by Sunday, May 5th. Embassy officials say that only a few hundred people have registered so far and no major changes are expected by Sunday. The largest number of Czechs has registered in neighbouring Slovakia where just 200 people wish to vote. Czech diplomats agree that people are less interested in this year's general election than Czech authorities expected. According to unofficial estimates there are about 70,000 Czech citizens living abroad and many have criticised the fact that they have to travel to distant embassies rather than cast their votes by post.
The European Centre for Roma Rights has again criticised the situation of the Czech Republic's large Roma minority. The Budapest-based organisation said Czech Roma faced "racial discrimination in almost all areas of economic and social rights." The organisation said there was no political will in the Czech Republic to address the problem.
Meanwhile supporters of the Communist Party have gathered on Prague's Letna plain, for the party's annual rally. The head of the Communist Party, Miroslav Grebenicek, stressed the party's opposition to membership of NATO and the European Union, and warned of class struggle in the Czech Republic. The rally was attended by around ten thousand mostly elderly people.
The first reactor at the Temelin nuclear power station, which was connected to the national grid for the first time in two months on Sunday morning, was disconnected again later on Sunday. The plant's spokesman said the reason had been a minor defect on a steam pipe. Until Sunday Temelin had been shut down for repairs to the non-nuclear part of the station. The safety of the plant, which combines Soviet design and western operating technology, continues to cause controversy.
The first reactor at the Temelin nuclear power station was connected to the national grid for the first time in two months on Sunday morning. Temelin had been shut down for repairs to the non-nuclear part of the station. It is now running at around 40 percent of capacity. There has been a great deal of controversy over the south Bohemia plant, which critics say is unsafe.
The first contingent of a Czech Army field hospital crew has arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan, complete with terrain vehicles, technical equipment, and supplies, to take part in a six month mission. The first contingent, which includes 30 members, will prepare the site for the field hospital, which will staff some 150 Czech doctors and medical personnel expected to depart for Afghanistan at the beginning of May. The mission is expected to cost some 600 million crowns, although there is still uncertainty over how the mission will be funded.
Technicians at the Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear power station restarted the plant's first reactor on Tuesday, amid fresh protests from Austrian anti-nuclear opponents. A spokesman said the reactor, shut down since late February for repairs to the plant's turbine, would operate at low levels during a brief testing period. The second of Temelin's two reactors will be started up for the first time next week, and both units are scheduled to be fully operational by the end of the year. The Austrian-based Anti-Atom Community said on Wednesday the Czech Environment Ministry "completely ignored" safety standards when it approved 78 building modifications at the plant. The claim was the latest in a series of protests from Austria.
The first 30 members of a Czech army field hospital were due to leave for Afghanistan on Wednesday evening, despite lingering doubts over how the mission will be financed. The 30 soldiers will prepare the ground for the establishment of a 150-man field hospital in Kabul. Right-wing deputies recently rejected the government's proposals for financing foreign missions, a move that the Czech Defence Ministry says puts the Czech Republic's international reputation in jeopardy.
Meanwhile, at a meeting of the joint Czech-EU accession committee in Prague, some deputies of the European Parliament expressed the view that although controversy over the Benes decrees should not disrupt the accession process the Czech Republic should not be allowed to join the EU until it had revoked the decrees. The co-chairwoman of the committee Ursula Stenzel, said she hoped that the resolution which the Czech Parliament is planning to approve will not close the door to further negotiations.
The Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik is pushing for action in Parliament where deputies are expected to vote on the means of financing a Czech field hospital in Afghanistan. The government is in favour of issuing bonds worth 600 million crowns to help cover the expenditures but opposition politicians have criticized the plan, saying the government must find the money elsewhere. The Defense Minister is pushing for action and has threatened to resign if Parliament fails to find a means of financing the planned mission. The governing Social Democrats are planning to request an extraordinary Parliament session devoted to the matter. Meanwhile, an advance team of 30 Czech soldiers is to leave for Kabul on Wednesday to prepare the ground for the field hospital.
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