Tension at ČT heightens
Front pages have been dominated throughout the Christmas and New Year period by the dramatic events unfolding at Czech Television (ČT). The pre-Christmas appointment of Jiří Hodač, the former head of the BBC's Czech Section, as new director general of ČT has caused a storm of protest.
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ČT employees complain that the ČT Council, which appointed Mr Hodač is highly politicised, members being aligned to one or other of the two main political parties, the Social Democrats (ČSSD) and Civic Democrats (ODS). They have called for Hodač and his management to be sacked or resign.
Czech President Václav Havel has openly supported the protestors from the outset. The ODS and its Chairman, Václav Klaus, on the other hand, have loudly condemned the "unlawful behaviour of the rebel TV staff." The conflict, Klaus said, will either end in a "victory for standard democracy" or in the triumph of "Havlocracy." Klaus has denied he was in any way involved in Hodač's nomination.
To further complicate matters, Mr Hodač was rushed to hospital on Thursday morning suffering from"acute health problems," and was immediately admitted into the intensive acre unit. ČT News Director Jána Bobošíkovíá said Hodač had collapsed due to complete exhaustion.
The Chamber of Deputies will hold an emergency session on January 12 to discuss a draft amendment to the law on ČT, which should prevent political influences in ČT management in the future.
In what the spokesman for the European Commission, Jean-Christophe Filori described as "the first precise and meaningful proposal," the German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, stated that workers from new member countries would have to wait seven years before they could work freely in the EU.
Reaction to Schröder's statement was mixed. President of Hungary Vikor Orbán said "those from Hungary who would like to work in Austria or Germany are already doing so." The Czech Prime Minister, Miloš Zeman, however, was a little more circumspect. "I would not like to react hysterically because I realise that it is the statement of one representative out of 15 member states of the EU," he said.
The EU implemented similar restrictions for Portugal and Spain in 1985. A seven-year period, in which no Spanish or Portuguese worker could freely gain employment in other countries of the EU, was one of the conditions for entry. However, the condition was scrapped after only two years because fears that West European markets would be flooded with cheap labour seemed to be exaggerated.
The German Chancellor did, though, concede that the "advantaged candidates" might be granted a reduction in the transition period.
Controversy over new bank
Česká Národní Banka (ČNB) this week became subject to a new law which orders the central bank to agree on inflation targets with the government and makes its operating budget subject to parliamentary approval.
Czech President Václav Havel was quick to condemn the new law. "This kind of co-ordination with the government [on inflation targets] could in a fundamental way limit the ČNB in fulfilling its main aim, set by the Constitution," Havel said in a petition to the Constutional Court.
The two points also have been criticised by the European Commission, which has suggested that such fundamental links to the government could condition future bank behaviour.
The law was sponsored by the opposition Civic Democrats (ODS), whose chairman, former Prime Minister Václav Klaus, has for years been a vocal critic of the central bank's tight monetary policy.
The minority Social Democrat (ČSSD) Cabinet's deputies also backed the law, over=riding the Senate and Havel's vetoes.
New law ignored
A change in the Czech Republic's highway law, which came into effect on 1 January, coincided with a spell of extreme cold weather. As a result the country has this week seen hundreds of car accidents and two deaths.
Most recently an accident occurred involving six cars on a stretch of road between Olomouc and Přerov, blocking the road for some time. The government has denied any connection between the accidents and the new law.
The new law includes a ban on the use of mobile phones whilst driving, unless drivers use headphones, and it also mandates compulsory use of seatbelts for children. One of the biggest changes included in the new law is that for the first time Czech pedestrians now have the right of way at pedestrian crossings.
According to the national daily, Lidové Noviný, the new law has been widely ignored. Drivers continue to use mobile phones without headphones, and children are still not being strapped in.
Mark Preskett, 6 January 2001
Also on the Czech TV crisis in this issue of CER:
- Andrew Stroehlein's overview and analysis of the crisis
- Jan Čulík's article reviewing the current Czech Television crisis
- James Partridge's look at the protest and other issues surrounding events
- The role of the Internet in the crisis
- The crisis escalates: Prime Minister Zeman calls on President Havel to leave politics
- Jana Dědečková, member of the Council for Czech Television, rejects Parliament's demand
- Archive of Czech news reviews
- Archive of articles on the Czech Republic in CER
- Browse through the CER eBookstore for electronic books
- Buy English-language books on Central Europe through CER
- Return to CER front page
Today's updated headlines from the Czech Republic and Slovakia