Back to blockades?
The controversial nuclear power plant at Temelín has attracted headlines again this week. According to Czech national daily Mlada fronta Dnes, the power utility giant, ČEZ, secretly transported radioactive nuclear fuel from Štětín, Poland, to the nuclear plant in South Bohemia.
Responding to the news, Mayor of the Králík municipality Anton Zima stated, "It reminds me of the old days. We have no idea what we should do in case of an accident." The spokesman for Temelín, Milan Nebesář, argued that secrecy surrounding the fuel transportation was important for safety reasons and complied with the law. Mr Nebesář further stated, "Fuel has been taken to Temelín for two years and to Dukovan for 16 years without problems." According to Mlada fronta Dnes, ČEZ acted, in part, to avoid protests similar to those witnessed recently when radioactive material was transported from France to Germany.
Later in the week, the Czech minister for trade and industry, Miroslav Grégr, came under fire from Austrian opponents of the plant when he refused to initiate a new investigation of Temelín's environmental impact. According to a spokesman for the upper-Austrian lobby against nuclear danger, Josef Puhringer, "It is an attitude which clearly shows the unbelievably ignorant way
Mr Gregr has dealt with the Austrian position."
Having failed to convince Mr Gregr of the need for a new investigation, the protestors turned their attention closer to home. They promised new blockades of the Czech-Austrian border if, by 3 o'clock on Friday, Austrian President Wolfgang Schüssel failed to formally request the shutdown of Temelín in response to Mr Gregr's inaction.
Železný breaks his silence
For the first time since being charged with committing two criminal acts last week, Director of Czech TV Nova Vladimir Železný publicly reacted to the accusations. In a statement made at a press conference on Tuesday, Mr Železný attacked two key opponents in the case. He claimed, "For the first time, we have real and first hand evidence that Central European Media Enterprises (CME) has manipulated the Czech courts." Železný was previously ordered by international arbitrators to pay USD 27.1 million to CME and was further charged for damaging creditors, CME among them.
According to Mr Železný, CME added a document to the court's file proving that it is the successor to the original firm that enabled him to begin broadcasting TV Nova. A spokesman for CME, Michal Donath, curtly replied, "The charge is a fabrication."
Železný described Czech-American George Novotny, whose testimony serves as the basis for tax evasion charges filed against him, as a crook who acted illegally and committed blackmail. Železný has been accused of using Mr Novotny to import valuable paintings from abroad without paying duty on them.
Another businessman in trouble
Komerční banka, the second largest bank in the Czech Republic, has billed Chairman of the Czech-Moravian Football Union František Chvalovský CZK (Czech koruna) 280 million (USD 7.2 million). In addition, the bank plans to demand the confiscation of Mr Chvalovský's property.
Chvalovský currently faces charges of fraud based on allegations that he used a CZK 640 million (USD 16.5 million) bank loan, not for the pre-approved purchase and export of meat, but for paying off debts. Moreover, the loan was not repaid. Mr Chvalovský is now facing five to ten years in prison if convicted. In order to prevent him from influencing witnesses, Chvalovský has been taken into custody.
IPB estimates differ
Placing a value on the highly indebted Investiční a Poštovní banka (IPB) has been more difficult than originally expected. On Wednesday, the Czech national daily, Lidové noviny , reported that two separate audits of the bank, one by the government, and a second by the Československa obchodní banka (ČSOB), differed by over CZK 100 billion (USD 2.6 billion). In fact, government auditors claimed that IPB has a positive net worth, while auditors for ČSOB reported a negative net worth.
Last summer, the state handed control of IPB over to ČSOB, which is owned by the Belgian KBC group. This action was taken on the condition that ČSOB would buy IPB by June of this year.
Petrol prices up
This week, petrol prices at most gas stations in the Czech Republic rose by almost CZK one (USD 0.03). The rise in price has been blamed on increased demand for petrol, rising oil prices and the strength of the dollar. On average, the price for one litre of unleaded petrol in Prague has been reported at CZK 29 (USD 0.75).
It is believed that the price of petrol will continue to increase. "It is matter of weeks before we see prices reach CZK 30 (USD 0.77) per litre," said Chairman of the Association of Petrol Stations Ivan Indráček.
Mark Preskett, 27 April 2001
Mladá fronta Dnes
ČTK-Czech News Agency
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