Vol 1, No 5, 26 July 1999
C E N T R A L E U R O P E A N N E W S:
Last Week in the Czech Republic
The residents of a housing block in Vimperk have presented a petition to their local council protesting against the council's plans to house Kosovan refugees in their buildings. The petition, signed by the majority of residents, states that nationalities such as Kosovan Albanians have an inclination to violence and criminality from an early age due to the intolerant environment in which they live (as opposed to the harmonious tolerant one in which most Czechs grow up in...) and asked that only citizens of Czech nationality be housed in the buildings. If these demands are not met, the residents vow to stop paying rent.
Tensions between local residents and Kosovan refugees staying at the Hnevotin refugee camp in Moravia increased when a fight broke out between three young Kosovars and several locals. One of the Kosovars was charged with disturbing the peace, damaging foreign property and endangering the health of others and held in custody. The Czech Press Agency, CTK, did nothing to help matters, reporting the "bloody brawl" in true sensationalist style. Residents vowed to approach the mayor regarding the unacceptable "behaviour " of the refugees.
Environment Minister Milos Kuzvart offered to aid Serbia in the clean-up of the ecological damage caused by the recent war. Kuzvart offered two million Czech crowns and the help of Czech experts and firms.
According to Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, the Czech Republic will sign an agreement with Mexcio this year regarding tourism, dissolution of visa requirements and economic co-operation.
Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda has been dismissed from his post on the request of President Vaclav Havel, who asked Premier Milos Zeman to dismiss the minister on account of the charges brought against him in the bankruptcy case of the firm Libreta. Svoboda is charged with damaging creditors. Svoboda's advisor on monetary policy and former head of Motoinvest Pavel Tykac has also decided to leave the Finance Ministry. Minister without portfolio Jaroslav Basta considers the investigation and dismissal a result of the government's "Clean Hands" program. Svoboda will be replaced by the current deputy premier responsible for economic affairs, Pavel Mertlik.
According to Chief of Police Jiri Kolar, the number of police officers who commit criminal acts is several times higher than the number who are actually apprehended. Last year, 306 police officers were prosecuted.
A poll conducted by the agency Sofres Factum on occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin's moonlanding showed that 15% of Czechs believe that Russians were the first to land on the moon.
Forests in the Orlicky and Krusny mountains are dying out en masse due to harmful sulphuric emissions and waste from nearby power stations, chemical plants and coal mines.
The government announced that it will reassess the American-run Radio Free Europe /Radio Liberty service to Iran and Iraq which began broadcasting from Prague last October. At the time, there was a whole lot of stalling and moaning about the mountains of lost business which would result from allowing the broadcasts from Czech territory. After Iran recalled its ambassador and both countries bowed to limit their economic co-operation with the Czech Republic, Minister of Trade and Industry Miroslav Gregr suggested that the American government pick up the tab for lost trade - which Gregr's ministry estimated at 30 billion crowns in lost business with Iran alone (despite the fact that Iran is currently under an international economic embargo).
The Humanities Faculty at Charles University in Prague is in dire financial straits, as it attempts to deal with a 20-million-crown deficit and new autonomy in administering its budget.
Another earth-shattering appeal by Czech intellectuals appeared on the scene. Headed by Catholic priest Tomas Halik, former political advisor to President Havel Jiri Pehe and journalist Jana Smidova, Impuls 99 is meant to spread good cheer and bring peace on earth and good will to all men, or at least those found on Czech territory; or in the words of the declaration, thus far signed by 183 prominent intellectuals and a few token plebes: to develop and cultivate a civic society and by this contribute to a renewal of moral values, overcoming indifference, provincialism and intolerance while supporting solidarity and responsibility among citizens; address the value of interpersonal relationships, so that our (Czech) society will acquire a friendlier face; and ensure a rapid and thorough integration into European structures. Ok, now that we have once again had the broad general objectives of a democratic society restated and veiled in yet another set of inspiring platitudes, it will be interesting to see whether the impulse turns into an actual living pulse which drives some practical steps that perhaps achieve some of the more banal aspect of these grandiose goals.
Kazi Stastna, 25 July 1999
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