News Monday, JANUARY 24th, 2000

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm Nick Carey and this is the news. First, a look at the headlines.

Those were the headlines, now the news in more detail:

Patriotic Front against plaque explaining Hebrew inscription on Charles Bridge

An extreme right-wing party, the Patriotic Front, has objected to the placement of a plaque explaining a Hebrew inscription on the Charles Bridge in Prague. The Hebrew inscription was placed on a statue called Calvary at the end of the 17th century by a member of the Jewish community, apparently as a punishment for slandering the cross. The inscription has caused controversy within the international Jewish community, as it acknowledges the deity of Jesus Christ, which is against the Jewish faith. Prague's mayor, Jan Kasl, proposed placing a plaque on the bridge to explain the history behind it, a move which was welcomed by the Jewish community. In a letter to the mayor, the chairman of the Patriotic Front's regional headquarters in Prague, David Machacek, says that his party will hold demonstrations or even tear down the plaque if the plan goes ahead. He claims that this is proof that Prague is being turned into a Jewish city, and that the Jewish lobby is far too powerful. The mayor has rejected these claims, saying that the plaque is an effort to understand past events.

Criticism levelled at new Social Democrat and Civic Democrat agreement

The Czech Republic's smaller opposition parties have criticised the new agreement between the Social Democrat government and the main opposition party, the Civic Democrats. The two main parties agreed after talks that lasted through much of Friday night to co-operate in five new areas. These areas which include the budget for 2000 - 2002, electoral reform and co-operation in parliament. The opposition Civic Democrats keep the minority Social Democrat government in power through an agreement called the opposition pact, and the new areas of co-operation are seen as a way of strengthening this agreement. The former leader of the centre-right Freedom Union, Jan Ruml, called the deal a coalition agreement, and said that the only true democratic opposition left in the country is represented by his party and the other parties in the Four Party Alliance. The deputy chairman of the centre-right Christian Democrats, Cyril Svoboda, said that the deal is a death blow to Czech politics.

Prior to the talks on Friday, the Social Democrat government positively evaluated its performance over the eighteen months since it took office, and Prime Minister Milos Zeman said that his four Deputy Prime Ministers were all fulfilling their tasks well. The smaller opposition parties were again critical of this, saying that the government could not be doing well if it had failed to pass its proposed budget for the year 2000 twice.

Prime Minister on two-day visit to the Netherlands

On the second day of his two-day visit to the Netherlands, Prime Minister Milos Zeman is due to meet with his Dutch counterpart Wim Kok. The main topics for discussion will be developing co-operation in order to help the Czech Republic prepare for EU accession, and bilateral economic co-operation. The Prime Minister is also due to meet with Queen Beatrice, and will give a speech to the Association of Dutch Businessmen on privatisation and investment opportunities in the Czech Republic.

Czech Republic recovering from heavy snowstorms

The Czech Republic is recovering from the heavy snowstorms that hit the country on Friday night. Many roads in the Krkonose Mountains near to the German border were impassable on Saturday, and mountain rescue officials warned that there was a risk of avalanches in the area. Almost all major roads and highways have now been cleared. Up to one foot of snow fell in some areas, and a state of emergency was declared in some regions, with the army being called in to help stranded motorists and villages. With the exception of one region in South Bohemia, the state of emergency has now been called off, and the situation is returning to normal.

Foreign Minister meets with general secretary of the League of Arab States

On the first day of a three day visit to Egypt, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan met with the general secretary of the League of Arab States, Ismal Abdal Magid, to discuss the peace process in the Near East. After the meeting, Mr. Kavan said that he and Mr. Magid had agreed that there is now a chance, although not a guarantee, of peace in the region. Mr. Magid also told the Foreign Minister that the election of Ehud Barak as Israel's Prime Minister had given the League of Arab States a clear signal that the Israelis want peace. Mr. Kavan is also due to meet with energy and agricultural experts to try to find common ground for co-operation in these sectors.


Over the next few days we should see overcast skies with occasional snow showers. Temperatures during the day should range between minus eight and minus four degrees centigrade. Temperatures during the night will range from between minus eleven to minus fifteen degrees centigrade. And that was the news.