On Tuesday, Mladá fronta Dnes daily revealed parts of a 10-page secret document that it had allegedly received a from a top government official describing an operation intended to discredit popular Social Democratic politician and Deputy Chairwoman of the lower house Petra Buzková entitled "Operation Lead" (allegedly so named on account of that particular element's chemical symbol - Pb - which matches Buzková's own initials). The document allegedly outlines a smear campaign which was to draw on the lurid details of Buzková's supposed past and character flaws, which allegedly include abuse of her three-year-old daughter, prostitution, collaboration with the Communist secret police. The document describes her as uneducated, vulgar aggressive and lazy and accuses her of opposing Prime Minister Miloš Zeman but showing servility to President Václav Havel, claimed Mladá fronta Dnes.
In the ensuing furore, top ČSSD (Social Democrats) politicians denied any knowledge of the document. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Zeman pronounced that he had adequately investigated the matter and was assured that the text had not originated in the Government Office, although the daily claimed that its source had found the document on the computer of a member of the team of Zeman's advisors led by Miroslav Šlouf, who has been the centre of much negative media attention lately but who denies the document came from his office. In an interview with the paper, the Prime Minister implied the text could have originated in the paper's own editorial office. An accusation denied by Mladá fronta Dnes.
The lower chamber rejected the proposed reforms of Justice Minister Otakar Motejl, which included amendments to the Criminal Code and the Constitution that would have seen a complete overhaul of the justice system. Motejl expressed great disappointment at the result and accused MPs of blindly voting along political lines rather than actually considering the issue at hand and said he does not plan to start from scratch revising amendments that had been prepared over many months and years. Motejl, the only non-partisan member of government, had expressed frustration on several occasions at the cool reception toward his long-planned reforms in Parliament and his own cabinet and had recently threatened resignation from his post.
The American Embassy in Prague admitted that the 1999 Report on Human Rights published annually by the US State Department had falsely accused Czech regional police of illegally searching the home of Romani Czech Television news anchor Ondřej Giňa and apologised for the mistake. An investigation had been launched on the basis of the report during which it became clear that police had never carried out such a search.
On Sunday, approximately 200 to 300 homosexuals marched through the streets of the Western Bohemian spa town of Karlový Vary to celebrate Christopher Street Day. Meanwhile, around 100 members from the extreme-right groups National Alliance and Patriotic Front demonstrated against the homosexuals. They also condemned US culture, sexual violence, the use of drugs, Czech entry into NATO and its EU membership bid. The march was part of the third International Rainbow Festival of Gays and Lesbians held in Karlový Vary.
On Monday, the Votobia publishing house published the complete files compiled by the Communist secret police (StB) at the end of the 1960s on current Foreign Minister Jan Kavan under the title "Kato, the tale of a real person." The book appeared just two weeks after the appointment of Jan Kavan as co-ordinator of the country's secret service. Minister Kavan regards the publication as both illegal and unethical. One of the owners of the publishing house, Tomáš Koudela, said that Votobia wanted people to form their own opinion of Kavan's "unknowing collaboration." He stressed that the book was an uncensored verbatim copy of Kavan's file, without any interpretation or commentary, but only an outline of the work of agents operating abroad and some Czech Press Agency reports.
The government decided against the wishes of Environment Minister Miloš Kužvart and granted control over the office responsible for managing the country's water supply to the Ministry of Agriculture rather than Kužvart's own ministry.
Spain and France have blocked Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Slovene, Estonian and Cypriot entry negotiations with the EU. Madrid was reluctant to compromise on the wording of the document on the free movement of labour and wanted to put off issues of the budget until the end of enlargement talks. Paris, meanwhile, had some extra demands in the Justice and Home Affairs chapter. It also requested that all membership candidates apply the Schengen Agreement at the moment of entry, which other EU members said was unrealistic.
39 Czech soldiers departed on Monday to participate in a two-week staff training session for international peace operations in Frejus, France. Around 650 troops from 22 countries belonging to NATO and the Partnership for Peace Programme took part in the training session.
Interior Minister Stanislav Gross issued new regulations for foreigners on Monday. Citizens of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iraq, Iran, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Eritrea and Syria are now to apply for an airport visa to enter the transit halls of Czech international airports to allegedly prevent the misuse of these premises.
A recent survey on racism among Czech youths showed that 13 per cent of young Czechs describe themselves as racist. The Opinion Window polling agency conducted the survey, which had 2000 respondents from 80 secondary and vocational schools, as part of the national Tolerance Journey campaign. The Tolerance Journey campaign is part of the government's Tolerance campaign to fight racism and other types of prejudice.
In a speech to the Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday, President Václav Havel praised the efforts of the Chamber to intensify and speed up the process of harmonising Czech and EU legislation. Havel emphasised, however, that the country needs to also practically apply the legislation. He supported steps to strengthen the real market economy and to grant courts the authority they need to have in any democracy.
A campaign to support the ban on selling cigarettes and other tobacco products to people younger than 18 was launched on Tuesday. A total of 539 tobacco shops around the country will change their appearance within a few weeks. Posters, stickers and other promotional materials are to be distributed to tobacco retailers to remind both merchants and customers of the law. According to a recent poll by the STEM agency, 45 per cent of Czech teenagers between 14 and 18 are regular smokers.
The German insurance giant Allianz has decided to buy more than half of the stake in Czech insurance company IPB as well as smaller parts of IPB bank from the current owner, Nomura. IPB general director Jan Klaček announced on Wednesday that Allianz was conducting an in-depth audit of the IPB insurance company. IPB was also in talks with another potential investor, UniCredito of Italy, which was interested in acquiring the remaining Nomura shares.
The Czech National Hockey Team brought home the winning title from the World Hockey Championships in St Petersburg, Russia.
Markus Bonorianto, 19 May 2000
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