The Czech Senate has approved the removal of sanctions against Yugoslavia. The bill to remove the sanctions was originally proposed by the Czech government and has already been approved by the Lower House. Economic sanctions, which included a halt on the sale of fuel to Serbia and cancelling commercial flights to Belgrade, were introduced in 1999 during the Kosovo crisis. Following the fall of Slobodan Milosevic from power in Yugoslavia late last year, the Czech government stated that sanctions were no longer necessary, because of their negative impact on the Serbian people. All sixty senators present voted in favour of removing sanctions.
The EU commissioner for enlargement, Gunter Verheugen, says he will propose a seven-year transition period for the free movement of labour after EU expansion, with a review after two years. The idea of a transition period on this sensitive issue has created tensions between the EU member states and the candidate countries, and Mr. Verheugen, currently on a visit to Prague, has urged both sides to be flexible. Mr. Verheugen said that the best way to make the process flexible would be to review the situation after two years. The commissioner says he hopes the chapter of EU legislation on the free movement of labour can be completed by the end of this year.
The Helsinki Committee in the United States Congress has called on the Czech government to stop discriminating against Czech émigrés. In a letter sent to Czech Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky, the committee says that émigré Czechs have been discriminated against in restitution cases and have called for property seized from them prior to the Velvet Revolution in 1989 to be returned, or to compensate them. According to the committee, many individuals have not had their property returned to them because they no longer have Czech citizenship, and the committee's members say they are deeply unhappy about the way in which these American citizens are being treated.
The State Veterinary Authority has announced that measures against the spread of foot-and-mouth disease are to be relaxed on Friday. People arriving at the Czech borders will no longer have to disinfect their shoes or drive across disinfect mats. But customs officials will still be required to confiscate any meat or dairy products that have not been heat treated. According to the director of the State Veterinary Authority, Josef Holejsovsky, all other measures against foot-and-mouth will remain in place for an indefinite period of time. A ban on the import and transportation of cattle is to continue and tourists arriving at airports from EU countries will still have to disinfect their shoes.
On a related note, according to Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman, if cases of foot-and-mouth appear in the Czech Republic, the most likely course of action will be nation-wide vaccination against the disease, rather than the mass slaughter of livestock.
The Austrian Green Party has called for the Temelin nuclear power plant to be shut down until the completion of an environmental impact study at the plant. Following widespread protests against Temelin by Austrian environmentalists last year, the Czech and Austrian prime ministers agreed in December that an environmental impact study would be carried out at the plant before it commences commercial operations. But the Austrian Green Party wants test operations at the plant to be halted altogether until the completion of the study. The party has called on the European Union to start talks with the Czech authorities to have Temelin shut down. The party fears that frequent shutdowns at Temelin due to technical problems indicate that the plant is dangerous.
The Brno district court has sentenced a man to ten years in prison for stealing 115 medieval books, worth fifteen million Czech crowns, or some four hundred thousand US dollars, from the Moravian Regional Archives. The court has further ordered him to pay the archive eight million crowns in damages. The man maintains his innocence and has appealed the court's verdict.
Police in the North Moravian city of Ostrava have arrested five men suspected of committing large-scale fraud. The five men, who are all leading representatives of a local brokerage firm, have been charged with embezzling two billion Czech crowns, or roughly fifty million US dollars, from two Czech companies.
Saturday should see cloudy to overcast skies with scattered rain showers in places. Daytime high temperatures are expected to reach fourteen degrees Celsius. Night-time lows on Friday are expected to drop to two degrees Celsius.
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