Dispute over Central Bank governor to be decided in Court
A dispute over the President's right to appoint the governor of the Central Bank without the Prime Minister's counter-signature is to be decided by the Constitutional Court. President Havel, who attended Monday's Cabinet session, told newsmen that the Cabinet would ask the Constitutional Court to clarify the President's rights as a matter of principle but that it would respect the legitimacy of this and past governors and board members. Legal experts are divided over whether a counter-signature by the Prime Minister is essential, since the law allegedly enables a dual interpretation. President Havel said he supported the government's decision, describing it as "the best possible course of action under the given circumstances".
However a statement made by Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky a few hours later suggests that the row may not be over. Rychetsky said the Cabinet would respect the legitimacy of Zdenek Tuma's appointment until the Constitutional Court produced a verdict. He would not disclose what the Cabinet intended to do if the Court were to rule that a counter-signature by the Prime Minister was essential to Tuma's appointment. Prime Minister Zeman has called the new governor "a disaster for the economy".
Many Czech consumers are reported to be shunning beef and beef products for fear of contracting CJD, the human form of mad cow disease. Butchers say as many as 40% of their customers have stopped buying beef, despite the fact that Czech herds are said to be safe and the Czech authorities have banned beef imports from all EU states where BSE has been detected. The demand for poultry and pork is growing and observers say a price-increase is inevitable. Agriculture minister Jan Fencl has advised farmers not to sell their herds under- price, saying that the panic will die down in time, but others predict hard times for beef producers across Europe.
In order to calm the public, the State Veterinary Inspection has announced it would increase by at least ten-fold the number of tests for mad cow disease in cattle. SVI spokesman Vaclav Duben said that while in the past the practice was to take samples from 200 cows, that number would now be raised to 2,000 or more. The State Veterinary Inspection has found no cases of BSE in Czech herds to date.
Russia says it no longer has any legal or moral responsibility for the fate of the Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia. A statement issued by the Russian Ministry for Nuclear Power says that by upgrading the Soviet designed nuclear power plant with Western technology and using Western nuclear fuel the Czech authorities had violated the conditions of a 1981 bilateral agreement on Temelin. The nuclear power plant was activated in October, despite fierce opposition from Austria. It is to begin commercial operation sometime next spring.
An 82-year-old former member of the Waffen SS went on trial at a court in Ravensburg, southern Germany, on Monday in what is likely to be one of the country's last hearings against alleged Nazi war criminals. Julius Viel, a former officer in the elite Nazi unit, faces seven charges of murder. He is alleged to have shot dead seven Jewish prisoners at a detention camp in Litomerice, North Bohemia. An earlier probe into Viel's alleged crimes was halted due to insufficient evidence. He is now back in court following extensive research in Czech and German archives. Viel has repeatedly denied the crimes, but the prosecution has produced new testimony from Canadian economics professor Adalbert Lallier, a former Waffen SS member who says he witnessed the killings.
Tuesday should bring morning fog and overcast skies with day temps between 4 and 7 degs C. Nighttime lows at one to two degs below O.