News Friday, DECEMBER 24th, 1999

Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. I'm Bill Bathurst, first we start with a bulletin of news:

You are tuned to Radio Prague, those were the headlines, now let's take a look at the news in full:

Government approves Employment Charter

The Czech government has approved a ten point National Employment Plan for the year 2000. The plan drawn up by Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla concentrates mainly on reducing unemployment in regions such as Moravia where the number of jobless is highest. Spidla said his main aim was to motivate employees at Job centres around the country to achieve government targets. He added that he would reveal these targets in the near future. Another major goal is to introduce various training schemes to improve qualifications among the jobless. This will mean closer contact with international organisations and institutions such as the European Union. Vladimir Spidla still has to hand over a report he is currently working on, aimed at reducing unemployment among university graduates.

Falbr and Four Coalition leaders thumbs up over cash loans

The leaders of a coalition of four opposition parties and Trade Union chief Richard Falbr, approved a plan to provide financial aid to unpaid workers. This comes as the government decided earlier in the week, to give 400 million Czech crowns, which is roughly 11 million dollars, to regions where workers who have not been paid for months are becoming desperate. Falbr and the coalition leaders said on Thursday that this is the best way to help these people and resolve the problem. Wednesday saw thousands of workers from heavy, industrial Czech companies, who have not been paid for months, demonstrating outside the lower house of Parliament, demanding action from the government.

Decrease in Roma arrivals in GB

The British Home Office said on Thursday that the number of Roma applying for asylum in the U.K. dropped slightly in November. Although Prague welcomed the news, British authorities were not as enthusiastic, saying they were monitoring the situation closely. This comes after British Home Secretary Jack Straw said last month that London may still impose a visa requirement on Czechs visiting Britain, in order to stem the tide of Roma applying for asylum.

Mr Kasal and the fish soup

And finally, if you are hungry on Christmas eve and fancy some fish soup, the Old Town Square is the place to be. Prague Mayor Jan Kasal will be wandering around handing out the traditional soup, made of boiled fish heads. Last year, this event was a great success as Mr Kasal fed many children, tourists and members of Prague's homeless population.

We end as usual with a brief look at the weather: Christmas eve will see a cloudy start to the day, with the possibility of snow as the day progresses. Temperatures will hover at about 2 degrees Celsius, dropping to -8 overnight.

That was the news and this is Bill Bathurst wishing you all, a very merry Christmas.