Activation of Nuclear Fuel in Temelin Means Foreign Policy Problems

Nuclear fuel was activated in the presence of Prime Minister Milos Zeman and the Trade Minister Miroslav Gregr in the Temelin nuclear power plant October 9. The controlled fission chain reaction, i.e. the actual start-up of the power plant, was initiated two days later. The construction of Temelin took 14 years and its completion was pushed back many times. Costs doubled original estimates and reached a total of 98.6 billion crowns. The first electric supply is expected by the end of the year.
Protests against the power plant grew stronger as the commencement of operation came near. According to the latest opinion polls, 59 per cent of Czech respondents agree with the activation of the power station. Austrians are strongly against it and want to achieve the shut-down of the nuclear process for at least six months, during which an international evaluation of the plant's safety and its impact on the environment would take place. After protests at the borders (see Carolina 387 and 388) the Austrians continued their blockades. Joerg Haider, former Free Democrats (FPO) chairman, personally supported the 10,000 protesters at one of the major crossings in Wullowitz-Dolni Dvoriste October 13.
The Czech Republic officially asked the EU for help with the blocked borders the same day (Czech-Austrian borders are the outer borders of the EU) because its request to the Austrian government to secure free transit failed. Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel accused the Czech government of disturbing neighborly relations.
The blockades were officially suspended October 15. Austria wants to enable the Czech government to open diplomatic talks about Temelin's operation without such extraneous pressure. According to the latest news, Zeman and Schuessel are to meet October 31 in Brno.

Vera Vonavkova/Simon Dominik, Ondrej Maly

After deadline: EU Commissar Gunter Verheugen said he considers the Austrian blockades a violation of European law. He said this after his October 18 meeting with Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and expressed his confidence that the conflict can be solved by bilateral talks.

Rychetsky Takes over Justice Ministry

President Vaclav Havel authorized Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky to administer the Ministry of Justice October 16. Rychetsky replaces Otakar Motejl, the only non-partisan in the government, who resigned because many of his proposals for judicial reform were rejected by the legislature.
The former minister managed to start speeding up civil and commercial proceedings, but the Chamber of Deputies in May rejected his Criminal Code reform that moved some authority from the police to the court itself.
Rychetsky said he would like to find a new minister as soon as possible, at the latest within three months. The current Chairman of the Appeals Court in Prague Jaroslav Bures is considered to be the leading candidate. Senators of the ruling Social Democrats (CSSD) nominated Motejl for the position of ombudsman. The former minister agreed with his candidacy after he met with Havel October 16.

Petr Adam/Simon Dominik

Forum 2000

Education, Culture and Spiritual Values in the Globalized World, was the main theme of the 4th Forum 2000 international conference organized by Czech President Vaclav Havel at Prague Castle October 15-18.
About 60 well known personalities from around the world took part in the conference, among them former Taiwan President Li Teng-chuei, Islamic philosopher and writer Abbas Mohadjerani, Russian human rights activist Sergei Kovalyov, the Tibetan Dalai Lama, musician Peter Gabriel and French political scientist Jacques Rupnick.
Participants of the conference came to the conclusion that globalization cannot be clearly and strictly defined. British sociologist Anthony Giddens said the driving force of globalization is not only the economy and market forces, but telecommunications. Former South African President Frederik de Klerk pointed out the danger which globalization poses to cultural diversity.
Forum debate was affected by the outbreak of violence in the Middle East. Havel and other Forum 2000 participants appealed to the fighting parties and asked them to return to dialogue and to search for a solution to the conflict through peaceful means.

Gabriela Pribilova/Milan Smid

Army Loses Two Pilots and Their Fighter Planes

Two fighter planes crashed near Havlickuv Brod October 10. Both pilots died. The crash occurred during a landing maneuver when the pilots were returning to their base from a training flight. The first aircraft's altimeter probably broke and both planes hit the ground. The pilots were highly trained, both had more than 1,300 flight hours and spent approximately 160 hours a year in the air. The planes were 25 years old but were modernized not long ago and were part of the NATO anti-aircraft defense. Both black boxes were found. Czech Army Air Forces Chief Ladislav Klima said there were no flaws in the navigation equipment and wondered why the pilots descended to such a low altitude and hit the ground 35 kilometers from the airport. The investigating commission should provide a clearer statement about the cause of the accident in 10 days.

Stepan Vorlicek/Simon Dominik


* The November 12 regional and Senate elections were the main theme at the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) party congress in Pilsen October 14. Party Chairman Vaclav Klaus criticized political subjects outside the party system that avoid direct political competition and further their interests behind the scenes (his remarks could be interpreted as a shot at President Vaclav Havel and his coterie). The top priority for ODS will be creating a government that would not need a coalition form.
* The Czech government cancelled all its sanctions aginst Yugoslavia at the October 11 Cabinet session. Visa limitations for Slobodan Milosevic and his family remain in effect.

Ales Borovan/Zdenek Sloboda