Austrian environmentalists have threatened further blockades of the Czech-Austrian border over the Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia. Temelin has been a cause of friction between the Czech Republic and Austria over the past six months, and border blockades were held in September and October by Austrians who are concerned over safety standards at the plant. Following these blockades, an agreement was reached by Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel in December to carry out an environmental impact study at Temelin. The Czech government also promised that Temelin would not commence commercial operations until the study has been completed. But environmentalists say that no plan for the study has been produced, and so they intend to blockade border crossings next weekend in protest. The Austrian ambassador to Prague, Klaus Daublebsky, has called on protestors to negotiate rather than blockade the borders.
The Czech and Polish governments have announced that they are working on a fresh UN resolution condemning human rights violations in Cuba. The two countries have already put forward two such resolutions, and according to a Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman, the new one will contain elements that were previously not passed by the UN. The resolution will not call, for instance, for economic sanctions, but for measures that diplomats say will harm those behind the violations: the Cuban government. The Foreign Ministry spokesman denied that this was in any way related to the recent arrest of two prominent Czechs, who returned to Prague on Tuesday after three weeks in a Cuban jail.
Unemployment in the Czech Republic increased by 0.3% to 9.1% in January. This brought the total number of Czechs out of work to 475,000, up almost 17,000 from December. The lowest level of unemployment, 3%, was recorded in Prague. The highest figure was recorded in the industrial town of Most in Northern Bohemia, with 22 percent.
According to a public opinion poll carried out by the European Commission in the EU's fifteen member states, the majority of EU citizens are in favour of expanding the Union eastwards. 44 percent of those asked said they were in favour of enlargement, thirty five percent were against and the rest were undecided. The lowest level of support was found in the EU's largest countries, Britain, France, Germany and Austria. People in Germany and Austria in particular are concerned over a possible influx of cheap labour from candidate countries such as the Czech Republic.
Czech customs officers have seized eighty-eight kilograms of heroin, with a street value of eighty-eight million Czech Crowns, or more than two million dollars, on the Czech-Slovak border. The drugs haul was made as part of a campaign by the customs service to cut down on the amount of drugs, weapons and alcohol smuggled into the country. The heroin was discovered in a secret panel on the bottom of a goods vehicle. Two Czechs have been arrested and charged with attempting to smuggle the drugs into the Czech Republic.
Germany's main opposition party, the Christian Democrats, have called for the dispute over the expulsion of Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia to be resolved before the Czech Republic joins the EU. Up to three million ethnic Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia after WWII, in accordance with the Benes Decrees. The centre-right Christian Democrats and their political partner, Bavaria's Christian Social Union, where many of the expelled Sudeten Germans have settled, say that Social Democrat Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder can no longer avoid the issue. The two parties propose that talks on the issue should be held on neutral terms, in order to improve relations between the Czech Republic and Germany prior to Czech accession to the EU. A representative of Bavaria's Christian Social Union called on the Czechs to annul the Benes Decrees, saying they discriminate against Sudeten Germans, and damage the Czech Republic's international reputation.
Friday should bring cloudy to overcast skies, with rain showers expected in places. Daytime high temperatures should reach ten degrees Celsius. Night-time lows are expected to drop to zero degrees Celsius.
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