A toll-free hotline for questions about what Czechs can expect from the European Union has received its 100,000th query since the phones started ringing in October, the Czech government said on Monday. The milestone was reached on Friday at 3 p.m. when accountant Petra Dvorakova telephoned with questions about the practical changes she can expect at work after the Czech Republic joins the E.U., probably in 2004. The phone line, operated on weekdays by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, gets about 1,000 calls a day. Most questions concern the advantages and disadvantages of EU membership Recent polls have found a majority of Czechs favour EU membership, although EU scepticism among conservative voters is expected to play a role in next week's parliamentary elections.
Hundreds of Romanies from the Czech Republic and Slovakia have been applying for asylum in Sweden. In May, 74 Czech and 206 Slovak Roma asked for political asylum in the country, which is the same number as in the whole of 2001. None of the Czech and Slovak applicants were granted political asylum in Sweden either this or last year. Since January 111 Czech and 421 Slovak Roma have applied for asylum in Sweden. The majority of the Czech applicants are said to come from the north Moravian region of Ostrava. Swedish authorities say they think the attempts at mass-immigration from former Eastern Bloc countries are well organised.
The leader of the governing Social Democrats, Vladimir Spidla, said his party would not be prepared to form a coalition with the Communist Party or the Civic Democrats after the upcoming general elections. Speaking on a television debate programme with the leader of the Civic Democrats, Vaclav Klaus, Mr Spidla said he would consider forming a minority government if necessary. With the elections due to take place on June 14 and 15, opinion polls are putting the Social Democrats a few points behind the Civic Democrats.
The Austrian governing-coalition Freedom Party and opposition Social Democrats have criticised statements made by the head of the Czech Nuclear Safety Office, Dana Drabova. Mrs Drabova said in a newspaper interview that when the second reactor at the Czech Temelin nuclear power station goes into test operation, faults could be discovered and the reactor could be quickly shut down. A series of faults have seen the first reactor at the plant shut down on numerous occasions since the launch of the plant began in October 2000. Many in neighbouring Austria and Germany are opposed to Temelin, which they say is unsafe.
President Vaclav Havel has expressed his disquiet over recent statements made by Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Labour and Social Affairs Minister Vladimir Spidla about the post-war expulsion of Czechoslovakia's ethnic German minority. Mr Havel said in an interview on the German television station ARD that while he was in favour of calm reflection on the issue, it was dangerous to inject passion into the debate. Mr Zeman recently said that Czechoslovakia's German minority had wanted to join the 'reich' and that is what they had done, while Mr Spidla said that the expulsion had been a source of peace in the post-war period.
Mr Havel met the Austrian President Thomas Klestil at a meeting of presidents from Central and Eastern Europe in Slovenia on Saturday. The APA news agency reported that Mr Klestil had called for a "political or legislative declaration" to abrogate the Benes decrees, which sanctioned the post-war expulsion of Germans. He and Mr Havel agreed to meet again in south Moravia in September.
Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and the president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Thomas Dine have met to discuss alternative locations for the U.S.-funded radio station, although both declined to comment on possible sites for the new headquarters just yet. They are waiting to first present a plan to the State Security Office on June 25th. On Thursday Radio Free Europe spokeswoman Sonia Winter indicated that both sides were close to an agreement that would determine a new and safer location for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, than the current headquarters at the top of Prague's busy St Wenceslas Square. RFE / Radio Liberty have been under guard, first by army and now by police units, ever since the September 11th attacks on the U.S. last year.
French conductor Christoph Eschenbach, who was originally meant to conduct the last two concerts at the close of this year's Prague Spring Festival, will not appear due to injury. Earlier this week Mr Eschenbach suffered an injury to his arm, on which he has was operated several months ago. Mr Eschenbach will be replaced by Austrian conductor Has Graf, who will conduct the Czech Philharmonic in a performance of Beethoven's 9th symphony, the traditional close to the Prague Spring music festival.
By Czech accounting standards CAS Czech Airlines suffered losses of 456 million crowns in the year 2001, while the International Accounting Standards indicate that the carriers profits fell by 57 percent from the previous year. The losses come in reaction to last year's September 11th terrorist attacks, and the international airline crisis that ensued. CSA's yearly profits for 2001 totalled 260 million crowns, or almost 8 million dollars US.
The mayor of Prague, Jan Kasl, has said the timing of his resignation from the post was in no way related to the upcoming general elections. Mr Kasl announced his resignation on Tuesday, and also said that he was quitting the opposition Civic Democratic Party. He has had several high profile disputes with senior Civic Democrats, including party leader Vaclav Klaus, who called Mr Kasl's resignation a devious move. On Wednesday Prague Civic Democrat councillors accused Mr Kasl of timing his resignation in such a way as to harm the party and Mr Klaus ahead of the mid-June elections.
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