News Friday, AUGUST 11th, 2000

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Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Kazi Stastna and we start the programme with a brief news bulletin. First, the headlines:

Those were the headlines, now for the news in more detail.

Austrian Environment Minister calls for nuclear safety in EU talks

The Austrian Environment Minister, Wilhelm Molterer, has said that the European Commission was obliged to discuss issues of nuclear safety when negotiating with potential new European Union members. The Minister's comments, made to the Austrian Press Agency, came in response to those of a Brussels spokesman, who said that the Commission could not prevent the launching of the Temelin nuclear plant in South Bohemia. Austria has long been a vocal opponent of the plant, and has attempted to make it a key issue in the Czech Republic accession talks with the EU. The Minister stressed that Austria has reservations not only about the plant's safety but also about the possible threat to fair competition in the sale of energy.

Foreign activists to be kept out of country during IMF meeting

Some foreign anti-globalisation activists may not be let into the country during the meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Prague this September. The Interior Minister, Stanislav Gross, told Czech Radio that Czech authorities will use laws governing residency of foreigners to prevent some individuals from entering the Czech Republic. The Ministry plans to step up security at border crossings as well as in the capital, where it will employ some 11,000 police officers to ward off what it expects will be several tens of thousands of protestors.

Czech economy looks brighter from both sides of the fence

Both international and Czech financial institutions have increased their growth estimates for the Czech economy for this year. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as the Czech Finance Ministry, the Czech National Bank and the Czech Statistical Office have all adjusted their Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, estimates upward, pegging it between 2 and 2.7 per cent. All of the institutions assessed the current inflation rate as positive but differed on unemployment. While the IMF sees unemployment growing to 10.5 pct this year and 11 pct in 2001, due mainly to restructuring of industry, according to the Finance Ministry the rate will not surpass 10 pct either this year or next.

Brno traffic protest participants charged

Two of the roughly 1500 participants of a May protest against car traffic in Brno, Moravia, have been charged with misdemeanours. The two charged individuals denied having taken part in the organisation of the protest and accused police of attempting to scare off activists before the fall meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Prague. The case of the May protest, the approval of which was denied by the Brno city council, is currently being heard by the Constitutional Court.

IMF criticises amendment to law on Czech National Bank

The International Monetary Fund has expressed concern over some of the amendments to the law on the Czech National Bank proposed by the Lower House. At a press conference in Prague, the IMF representative for the Czech Republic and Hungary, Roger Nord, described as unclear the intention to divide the central bank's budget into two parts - one approved by the bank's board and another by the Lower House. The IMF also requested clarification on the proposal that the bank should consult its inflation target with the government. Similar concerns have been expressed by the European Union and the European Central Bank. The new law was returned to the Lower House by the Senate last week.

Czech bishops call for settlement of property restitution

Czech bishops of the Catholic Church have called on the government to commit to resolving property restitution issues in an agreement to be signed between the Czech Republic and the Vatican. The head of the Catholic Church in the Czech Republic, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, has expressed concern that the state will attempt to bypass the question of property restitution in its negotiations with the Vatican. Although the government has committed itself to amending the law on church financing, Cardinal Vlk considers such an amendment to be ineffective without first settling property restitution. The Czech Foreign Ministry, however, insists that internal state matters cannot be resolved within the framework of an inter-state agreement. The government is set to meet for another round of talks with the Vatican next week.

Minister of Interior steps up fight against crooked cops

The Minister of Interior, Stanislav Gross, has vowed to step up his Ministry's fight against crime committed by police officers. Mr Gross intends to create a new division within the Bureau of Investigation devoted to police crime, organised crime, economic crime and corruption. The Minister's move comes on the heels of a report indicating that police crime has risen by almost 50 per cent since last year. However, Mr Gross stressed that this was an indication that more crimes were being successfully uncovered rather than that more were being committed. The report identified the most common crime committed by officers as abuse of public office.

Securities Commission Presidium still incomplete

The presidium of the Securities Commission has remained incomplete for the fifth month in a row. The Presidium has been functioning with only three members instead of the five required by law since March, when President Havel dismissed its chairman, Jan Mueller, on allegations of misusing funds from the state budget and inappropriate behaviour with respect to his personnel policy and international appearances. Around the same time, President Havel also accepted the resignation of another Presidium member, Jana Pospisilova. The Securities Commission, which acts as a supervisory body for the capital market, was established in April 1998.

Illegal migration to shift to Czech-Polish border

The Interior Ministry has said that it expects illegal migration to shift from the eastern Czech border with Slovakia to the northern Czech-Polish border. The Ministry identifies the shift as a consequence of new visa regulations imposed on Ukrainian citizens in June by both Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The Minister of Interior, Stanislav Gross, told reporters that his Ministry does not plan to step up security at the Czech-Slovak border even in the event that the Czech Republic precedes Slovakia in joining the European Union.

Senate holds last session before summer break

The Senate has closed its last session for the summer until mid September. Before breaking for the holidays, the Upper House amended the rules for electing ombudsmen, the first of which it expects to elect in October, appointed four of a total 7 members to the Bureau for Protection of Personal Data and amended the law governing land transport.

Weather

And finally a quick look at the weather forecast. The weekend skies will be clear with only some occasional clouds sneaking in throughout the day. Temperatures will reach highs of 30 degrees Celsius during the day and drop to lows of 10 degrees at night.

I'm Kazi Stastna and that's the news.