News Friday, OCTOBER 20th, 2000

By Nick Carey

Lower House approves budget

The Lower House of Parliament has approved the state budget for 2001 in its first reading. The budget will total 685 billion Czech Crowns, roughly seventeen billion dollars, with a deficit of 49 billion Czech Crowns, or roughly one and a quarter billion dollars. 127 out of the 182 MPs present voted in favour of the budget. The minority Social Democrat government and the opposition Civic Democrats agreed on the figures for the budget early on Thursday morning, after extensive discussions on the total deficit for next year, and on the use of privatisation income to pay off state debts. The remaining political parties refused to back the budget, though with more than sixty percent of the seats in the Lower House, the two largest parties were able to push through the budget easily. This is the first time that the Social Democrat government has been able to pass a state budget in its first reading. Prime Minister Milos Zeman welcomed the vote, saying that it will contribute to economic growth in the Czech Republic.

Austrian Commissioner criticises Prague

An Austrian member of the European Commission has criticised the Czech government for its actions concerning the Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia, which went on line last week. Franz Fischler criticised the methods used by the Czech government to resolve the issue, and said that they were unacceptable. The Temelin nuclear power plant went on line last week despite strong Austrian protests. Mr. Fischler said in an interview for the daily Die Presse that if the Czech Republic wants to join the European Union in the future, then it is not a good idea for the Czechs to fall out with their immediate neighbours. According to Mr. Fischler, as the EU has no joint policy on nuclear power, a highly unpleasant situation has arisen. The Austrians, he said, have the right to choose their own strategic partners for the future.

CEFTA reaches agricultural agreement

Three of the countries of the Central European Free Trade Agreement, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic have agreed to liberalise all agricultural between the three countries as of the start of 2001. This comes after delays caused by the lengthy discussions that preceded the signing of bilateral agreements between the three countries involved.

Reduced sentence for man who published confidential

A twenty-year-old man who attained nation-wide notoriety last year for stealing confidential client information from one of the largest Czech banks, Ceska Sporitelna, has had his prison sentence reduced. Jakub Vozar copied a database containing the financial and personal information of the owners of 2.5 million accounts at the bank and then tried to sell this information to several firms. He also attempted to blackmail the general director of Ceska Sporitelna, Dusan Baran, for 25 million Czech Crowns, or roughly six hundred thousand dollars, with warning that if Mr. Baran failed to pay, he would publish all of the data. Mr. Vozar was sentenced to five years in prison in June. The appeals court stated that although Mr. Vozar's behaviour was neither rational, nor planned, he should spend time in prison for his crime.

South Moravian policemen promoted for work during IMF/World Bank meetings

Fifty two policemen from South Moravia have been promoted by the head of the South Moravian police force, Bretislav Brecka, for their work during the IMF/World Bank meetings that were held in Prague at the end of September. The meetings were marred by violent clashes between demonstrators and police. The South Moravian police force sent one thousand officers to Prague, four of which were injured during the clashes. The fifty two men who received a promotion apparently demonstrated exemplary behaviour.

And finally, the weather forecast.

The weather on Saturday in the Czech Republic should start off foggy, followed by overcast or partially cloudy skies, with scattered showers expected. The highest daytime temperatures should reach sixteen degrees Celsius. Temperatures during the night should reach a maximum of six degrees Celsius. The weather should remain cloudy and cool on Sunday. I'm Nick Carey, and that's the end of the news.