The second reactor at the Temelin nuclear power station in south Bohemia will go into operation this year, the Trade and Industry Minister, Jiri Rusnok, said on Friday. Also on Friday, several Austrian anti-nuclear groups criticised statements made in a press interview by the Czech Environment Minister, Libor Ambrozek; Mr Ambrozek said Temelin was safe and should be put into operation. The plant has been forced to shut down several times since the launch of the first reactor began in October 2000. Critics say it is unsafe as it combines Soviet design and western technology.
A group of around 30 Romanies from the north Moravian city of Ostrava have left the Czech Republic for Great Britain, where they intend to apply for political asylum. They say they do not feel safe and are subject to constant discrimination. The British government is currently being taken to court on behalf of a group of Romanies who British officials refused to allow to fly to the UK from Prague airport. The airport controls have been carried out over the last year in an attempt to stop Czech Romanies from applying for asylum in Britain.
As of August, imports of poultry from the European Union to the Czech Republic will be renewed, but only under new veterinary rules. According to the spokesman of the State Veterinary Administration, Josef Duben, the veterinary authority in the country of origin will be obliged to provide information as to whether the exported meat was modified with beef proteins. Poultry imports were banned earlier this month after beef proteins had been found in meat coming from the Netherlands. Modification by beef proteins is not allowed in the Czech Republic.
Czech MPs have elected six deputy chairpersons of the lower house of parliament, completing the seven-member leadership of the chamber chaired by Social Democrat Lubomir Zaoralek who was elected last Thursday. The election-winning Social Democrats have another member in the leadership, deputy chairwoman Jitka Kupcova. Two of the deputy chairpersons of the lower house, Miroslava Nemcova and Ivan Langer, are members of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, the second strongest party in this years elections. Christian Democrat Jan Kasal and Hana Marvanova of the Freedom Union represent the two-party bloc which has formed a coalition government with the Social Democrats. And for the first time since the fall of communism, the Communist Party has a representative in the lower house leadership, Vojtech Filip.
The governor of south Moravia Stanislav Juranek has called a state of emergency in five villages where heavy floods killed two people and caused extensive property damage on Tuesday. A huge clean-up operation is underway in the region and volunteers are helping to pile up sandbags on river banks as protection against further flooding. Meteorologists have forecast more torrential rain over the next 24 hours. Tuesday's floods took the region by surprise and rivers rose by two meters in places. The Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, who visited the region on Tuesday, said the state would provide humanitarian aid. The damage has been estimated at over 30 million Czech crowns.
A public opinion poll conducted by the TNS Factum agency says that the main reason for the low turnout during the parliamentary elections in June was public disgust with the general behaviour of Czech politicians. Sixty-three percent of those polled furthermore said they failed to vote as they did not feel it would make a difference. Over half of the questioned parties also added that they were not able to choose a suitable party.
On Tuesday, the lower house of parliament voted Civic Democrat Ivan Langer and Communist MP Vojtech Filip as lower house deputy chairmen. This brings the total number of elected deputy leaders to four, although the new lower house of parliament passed a proposal last Thursday allowing for six new parliament deputy chairpersons. In secret ballots, Mr Langer received 161 votes and Mr Filip 105. The two other candidates, the Freedom Union's Hana Marvanova and Civic Democrat Miroslava Nemcova, failed to get the mandatory 100 votes. The two MPs hope to receive the necessary number of votes in the next round of secret balloting.
Another opinion poll, this time conducted by the STEM agency on the education system, has revealed that half of the Czech public believes they do not enjoy equal opportunities when pursuing university degrees. According to the results released on Tuesday, eighty percent of those polled claim to be discouraged from pursuing a higher education because they lack enough money to do so. Another reason stated in the poll was corruption. Many believed that a place in a good university can only be gained by offering bribes.
The leadership of the opposition Civic Democratic Party met on Monday to discuss the causes of their election defeat in June. At the meeting, the Civic Democrats agreed to form a new shadow cabinet by the end of September. The previous shadow cabinet, much criticised by the party's chief Vaclav Klaus, was dissolved on Monday. The Civic Democrats' leadership also endorsed a study the party had commissioned analysing its poor election results. A new party convention where the leadership is expected to offer its resignation will take place in December this year. Only one high-ranking member of the Civic Democrats resigned in the wake of the party's poor showing in the elections.
President Vaclav Havel appointed a new centre left coalition government on Monday, one month to the day after the general elections. The new Cabinet, which is expected to lead the country into the European Union, is headed by Social Democrat Vladimir Spidla. The government is dominated by the Social Democratic Party which has 11 ministerial posts, the remaining 6 have been divided between the centrist Christian Democrats and the liberal Freedom Union. With an average age of 42, the cabinet is the youngest ever in the country's history. The new government commands a one-vote majority, with 101 votes of the 200 seats in the lower house.
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