The Czech Foreign Ministry has protested to the European Commission about the Czech Republic being included in a list of countries "likely to present a BSE risk" despite the fact that no cases of mad cow disease have been reported in the country. The State Veterinary Authority called the decision "political rather than expert" and has sent letters to the European Commission asking it to review the matter. The Commission reportedly based its assessment on the amount of cattle and meat and bone meal imported to the affected countries. In its protest, the State Veterinary Authority stressed that it had banned feeding meat and bone meal to cattle in 1991. The Czech Republic is now in the same risk group as Switzerland, which has confirmed cases of BSE, and Czech farmers, whose beef sales have already dropped significantly say the government should demand compensation from the EU.
A former SS officer was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Tuesday for murdering seven Jewish prisoners in a concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic . A court in the German town of Ravensburg found 83 year old Julius Viel guilty of shooting the prisoners dead as they dug trenches near the Terezin concentration camp in early 1945. Viel, who worked as a journalist after the war, has denied the killings, saying he was stationed near Vienna at the time in question. However, another former SS officer, a retired Canadian professor named Adalbert Lallier, told the judge he had witnessed the killings as a young recruit. Proceedings are now underway in Canada to consider whether Lallier should have his citizenship withdrawn because of his own membership in the SS. The German media have dubbed the case "the last Nazi war crimes trial".
The Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel has said that the constant stopping and starting up of the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant is proof that Austria's concerns regarding its safety were legitimate. At a press conference following a meeting of the Austrian Cabinet, Chancellor Schussel said that he was glad that the Czech Republic was finally taking the matter seriously and fulfilling the terms of the Melk agreement.
Meanwhile, here in Prague Czech anti-nuclear activists said they would not be taking part in any border blockades held in protest against Temelin's trial operation. "Blockades block dialogue with the authorities and we consider it far more important to find out what exactly is wrong with the plant's turbine" one of the activists told the CTK news agency. The turbine has caused repeated problems in recent weeks, causing the plant to be stopped and re-started within 48 hour periods. The power utility CEZ, which built and operates the plant, maintains that frequent repair work is a normal part of any trial operation.
The Czech Republic is urging implementation of the Kyoto Climate Treaty. The Czech environment minister Milos Kuzvart told reporters that the Czech Republic was fulfilling its part of the agreement but was worried that after the US decision to withdraw from the 1997 treaty for economic reasons, other countries might follow suit. Carbon dioxide emissions reduction is considered a big step in helping to avert global warming but the Bush administration said last week that the terms in targeted cuts in fossil fuel pollution would harm the US economy. The US produces a third of all carbon dioxide emissions. European countries are now worried that this will make their products less competitive and in the long run may pose a serious threat to the treaty's implementation. The Czech Republic's carbon dioxide emissions have been reduced by 25% since 1990.
The Lower House of Parliament has passed an amendment to the foreigners' law according to which the children of foreigners residing permanently in the Czech Republic should, in future, be able to claim medical insurance. The present legislation which leaves foreigner's children uninsured despite the fact that their parents live here permanently, have health insurance and pay taxes has been subject to heavy criticism. The law, which will also simplify some bureaucratic procedures for foreigners, should have a smooth passage through the Senate, since the Lower House has incorporated its comments and suggestions into this final version. It is expected to go into effect as of July 1st of this year.
President Havel has granted pardon to a 22 year old Romanian mother who gave birth to a daughter while awaiting trial in a Czech jailhouse. The President's spokesman said that the decision had been made in the child's best interests since Czech law does not enable imprisoned women to keep their newborns with them. Daniela Schindelbeck, who has been ordered to leave the country, was arrested last year during a police crack-down on a whorehouse which she and her husband helped run. She was eight months pregnant at the time.
Up to 175 thousand Czechs would avail themselves of the opportunity to work abroad once their country joins the European Union. This finding was published by the Czech Research Institute at a Karlovy Vary conference devoted to the movement of labour following the EU's eastward expansion. According to a survey conducted last year 9.3 million Czechs have ruled out the possibility of working in another member state of the Union, which amounts to 9.5% of the population. According to the study, many of those who did not rule out the possibility considered it merely on theoretical grounds.
Wednesday is expected to bring partly cloudy skies and day temps between 16 and 20 degs C. A belt of rain moving across the Czech Republic should bring some drizzle later in the day, but will primarily effect the weather on Thursday and Friday with scattered showers and a drop in temps to between 7 and 11 degs C.
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Thousands pay tribute to deceased national pop icon Karel Gott