A delegation of Czech MPs has held talks with Cuban dissidents in Havana, several weeks after the Czech MP Ivan Pilip was released from prison for meeting anti-Castro dissidents. The delegation, in Cuba to attend a conference organised by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, met Cuban opposition figures at the home of Elizardo Sanchez, one of Cuba's most outspoken critics of the Castro regime. Mr Sanchez extended an invitation to the leader of the Czech Communist Party, Miroslav Grebenicek, to visit him in Havana during his forthcoming trip to Cuba. The Communists were the only Czech political party to support Cuba following the arrest of Mr Pilip and a colleague in January.
Right-of-centre parties have used their majority in the lower house of parliament to defeat plans by the Czech Finance Ministry, which would have loosened state control over rent. The law proposed that rent in state-controlled properties should be negotiated between the owner and the tenant, with the state stepping in to mediate if the two sides failed to reach agreement. The law would have replaced existing legislation, under which rent of state-controlled property is increased gradually by the authorities. Right-of-centre MPs said the Social Democrat government's plans did not count as proper deregulation, which they say is essential. The state still controls rent prices in both publicly-owned housing stock and some former state-owned property returned to the original owners after the 1989 overthrow of Communism.
A new poll suggests "euro-scepticism" has grown in the past year in the Czech Republic and fellow European Union candidate countries Poland and Hungary. Enthusiasm for EU membership appears strongest in Hungary and weakest in the Czech Republic, according to the poll released on Wednesday by the Central European Opinion Research Group. Forty-five percent of Czechs said they wanted their country to join the EU, down from 49 per cent last year. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland are the leading candidates for the next round of EU enlargement, which could take place as early as 2003.
The Czech National Bank has warned Czech citizens not to buy euro notes or coins before the first of January 2002, for the simple reason that they will be counterfeits. The bank, which published the recommendation on its website, said most Czech citizens were unaware that the single European currency was not yet in circulation, and that the recommendation had been made to prevent unsuspecting holidaymakers from falling victim to fraud. The Czech National Bank will also train clerks at banks and exchange offices to recognise false euros. The single European currency will be released into circulation in 12 EU countries - known as Euroland - on January 1st, 2002. The countries' national currencies - including the German mark and the French franc - will be withdrawn from circulation within two months.
The spokesman for the Temelin nuclear power station said on Wednesday that the plant will probably be shut down for ten days, to allow employees to carry out repairs and maintenance. The announcement came after a series of tests and a number of technical problems, including vibrations in a generator turbine and an oil leak. The spokesman said Temelin would be restarted after the repair work and would continue to supply electricity to the national grid until June, when it will be shut down for a month, to allow technicians to change the ventilators. Anti-nuclear activists say the constant stopping and starting is hazardous, and the problems are proof that Temelin is unsafe.
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 U.S. decision to withdraw from the 1997 treaty for economic reasons, other countries might follow suit. 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. The Czech Republic has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 25% since 1990.
And finally a quick look at the weather: Thursday night will be cloudy, with night-time temperatures falling to minus 1 degrees Celsius. Friday will remain cloudy, with rain in most parts of the country. Daytime temperatures will reach a maximum of 13 degrees Celsius.
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