The management of Spolana, a chemical factory north of Prague, has rejected the claim that highly toxic substances leaked into the environment when the plant was flooded last August. According to a report published by the Arnika environment group the floodwaters released an unspecified amount of highly toxic dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls into the river Elbe. Arnika said that water samples it took from the Elbe at the time were found to contain traces of these substances. Spolana acknowledged that these substances were stored at the plant, although their production was stopped many years ago, but said that they were encased in hermetically sealed, heat-resistant, waterproof containers and ruled out the possibility that they could have leaked. Arnika has asked the Czech Inspection Office to investigate the matter.
Trade Minister Jiri Rusnok has said the second reactor at the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant should be fully operational by January. Mr Rusnok said repairs to the unit's generator were almost complete, and the reactor should be fully online within three months. Temelin was first launched in October 2000, to the anger of environmental groups in neighbouring Austria and Germany, who claimed it was unsafe. Temelin's first unit was plagued with technical problems, which appear to have been resolved.
The Czech farmer's union said on Wednesday that summer floods and lower commodity prices have combined to make this year the worst for Czech farmers since the fall of communism. In a letter to Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, union officials called for higher subsidies to rescue farmers from bankruptcy. They said an increase in government payments to around 80 dollars per hectare was needed to keep crop farmers and many of their suppliers in business long enough to plant next year's crop.
Earlier Mr Havel warned officials they were inviting trouble at November's NATO summit in Prague, by focusing more on security than the historic agenda of the meeting. Mr Havel wrote in a newspaper article that he understood precautions were needed at such high profile events, but questioned whether officials were going too far. The president said the huge emphasis on security during the summit - which will see an estimated 12,000 police officers patrolling the streets and NATO warplanes patrolling the skies - could provoke, rather than prevent violent protests.
Foreign ministers and deputy foreign ministers from the ten countries hoping to become members of the European Union in 2004 have held talks in Prague, at the invitation of the Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda. Mr Svoboda said while the ten EU candidates did have their own specific national interests, certain matters were important to all of them, including budgetary issues and agricultural policy. Pavel Telicka, the Czech Republic's chief negotiator on accession, has said in the past that Czech farmers would have to accept lower subsidies than those received in existing EU countries.
Czech top politicians have welcomed the outcome of Ireland's referendum on the Nice Treaty after the final count put the "yes" side ahead by nearly 63 percent. Saturday's vote was Ireland's second referendum on the European Union's Nice Treaty, which is deemed essential for admitting 10 applicant countries, including the Czech Republic, to the EU in 2004. Ireland voted on Saturday in a re-run of a referendum held last year when the treaty was defeated by 54 percent with only a third of the electorate voting.
Czech farmers are considering fierce protests such as street blockades and demonstrations against the demands of the European Union, the commercial TV station Nova reported on Saturday. Czech farmers listed their objections in a petition last Tuesday, demanding the government to face the problem. According to its authors, almost half of Czech farmers have already signed the petition. The protest rallies could be averted if farmers succeed in negotiating better terms for themselves at a meeting with EU commissioners and the Czech government on November 11th.
Polls opened on Saturday morning in Ireland as its 2.9 million voters decide whether to accept or reject the European Union Treaty of Nice, which enables enlargement of the bloc. This is Ireland's second referendum on the treaty and the outcome of the poll will be watched closely by the 10 countries, including the Czech Republic, hoping to join the EU in 2004, as well as Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, who hope to join at a later stage. Ireland rejected the Nice Treaty in June 2001 by 54 percent in a referendum. Latest opinion polls show 42 per cent of the electorate intend to vote "yes" this time while 29 percent intend to vote "no". Ireland is the only EU member state to hold a referendum on the Treaty of Nice. National parliaments decided in the other 14 member states. The final result of the referendum is expected on Sunday evening.
The European Union Commissioner for economic competition, Mario Monti, has said the Commission is dissatisfied with the Czech Republic's documentation on state assistance to banks prior to their privatisation. After a meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, Mr Monti stressed that the Czech Republic should secure full confidence and legal security to banks and investors, adding that more efforts would be required for achieving higher transparency of state assistance to banks.
The Netherlands has prevented the Czech Republic from closing the economic competition chapter which is part of negotiations between the European Union and the Czech Republic. The Dutch representative said the Netherlands' objection was the Czech state assistance to the steel industry. The Czech government's chief EU negotiator Pavel Telicka will not therefore meet his counterparts from EU member countries.
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