The cost of preparing the Czech agricultural sector for EU integration has been estimated at 80 billion Czech crowns. Approximately half of that sum should be injected into the sector and related institutions, and half will be covered by consumers, since it represents the current price gap on Czech and EU markets. At a press briefing in Prague on Tuesday the president of the Agrarian Chamber, Vaclav Hlavacek, criticized the government for failing to finance preparations adequately and for having so far failed to set up an agency which would distribute EU funds. He said that it was essential that the state should negotiate more favourable conditions for Czech goods on foreign markets and create the necessary legal conditions for establishing a marketing fund to support Czech exporters.
European expansion and integration likewise topped the agenda of Tuesday's talks in Prague between President Vaclav Havel and the visiting Portuguese head of state Jorge Sampaio. President Havel expressed the hope that despite the present low rate of public support for EU expansion, the majority of Czechs would ultimately vote YES in a referendum on EU membership. The latest public opinion polls put the support rate at 38%, with 38% undecided and 17% of respondents firmly against joining the EU. On Wednesday President Sampaio will attend an economic forum in Prague and visit the south Bohemian town of Cesky Krumlov, which is on UNESCO's list of cultural monuments.
Several dozen people gathered outside government headquarters in Prague on Tuesday morning to remind the authorities of unsettled restitution claims. Close to 50 people, who have asked for land and property confiscated by the communists to be returned to them, stood holding banners with the words "We want our property back" and "How much longer must we wait?". These cases allegedly remain unresolved due to legislative hurdles.
An autopsy on five year old Tereza Cermakova, whose dead body was found buried in a wooded area late Monday night after a twenty day search, has revealed that the child died of respiratory and heart failure. At this point the police do not know what caused it. The mother of the child, who has changed her version of the events that led to her daughter's disappearance several times and attempted to commit suicide a week after, maintains that she did not harm the child. The police say they have grounds to file charges of negligence but not murder. Five year old Tereza had a heart problem and was to have been operated on.
The Lower House of Parliament has approved the Senate's version of a law on compensating activists of the SWW anti-fascist resistance movement and political prisoners under the communist regime. This version of the law extends the time within which compensation claims can be made by 12 months, i.e. until December 31st, 2002. People who were active in the anti-fascist resistance movement for over a year should get 120,000 crowns, those who spent at least two months in the resistance movement 60, 000 . Compensation paid to political prisoners will depend on the length of their imprisonment. In the event of death the compensation money can be collected by a surviving spouse or children of the diseased. The legislation still requires the signature of President Havel.
Court officials, aided by a locksmith and a police officer are reported to have raided a Prague villa on Tuesday in search of property owned by the Czech media mogul TV NOVA director Vladimir Zelezny. Officials allegedly spent several hours making a list of the property inside the villa before leaving empty- handed. Courts have been searching for Zelezny's assets for months following an international arbitration panel's ruling that he pay 27 million US dollars to former business partner Ronald Lauder, heir to the Estee Lauder cosmetics fortune. Zelezny promised to pay but has not so far done so.
Doctors have issued a stern warning to Czechs who enjoy mushroom picking during the summer season. In addition to killing the forests, acid rain has been found to change the color of a highly poisonous and otherwise well discernable green mushroom. The mushroom reportedly turns white and resembles mushrooms commonly sold in supermarkets for human consumption.
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