News Monday, JUNE 26th, 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:

Senate approves election law

The Senate approved the new election law late on Friday night, after almost eight hours of debating. The new law will introduce elements of the first past the post system, and will favour the larger political parties. There was speculation right up until the last minute that several senators from the ruling Social Democrat party would not support the law. Prime Minister Milos Zeman said that any senators who voted against the law would be removed from the party. The opposition Civic Democrats, who support the government in power via a so-called opposition agreement, had threatened that if the law was not passed, they would withdraw their support for the government. The bill was passed by a narrow margin of 40 to 38 senators. The bill now has to be approved by President Havel, who has already expressed strong opposition to it. If the president vetoes the law, his veto can be overturned by a simple majority in both houses of Parliament. All of the smaller parliamentary parties have fiercely criticised the law, calling it a negative signal for the future of the Czech Republic.

GDP grows by more than four percent

The Gross Domestic Product in the Czech Republic grew by more than four percent in the first quarter of the year 2000. The overall GDP for the first quarter was 440 billion Czech Crowns, or roughly twelve billion dollars. This is second consecutive quarterly growth for the Czech GDP, after several years of economic stagnation.

Havel sends doctors to Schuster

President Vaclav Havel has sent his personal team of doctors to Slovakia to help treat his counterpart, Slovak President Rudolf Schuster. President Schuster is apparently suffering from problems with his lower intestines, and as Havel had a life-saving operation after his lower intestine ruptured in 1998, his doctors have great experience of this. Schuster's condition has been deteriorating rapidly over the past few days, and he has now apparently contracted pneumonia. President Havel sent his team of doctors south to Bratislava late on Sunday night.

CEI ministers call for revaluation of sanctions

The Foreign Ministers of the sixteen member countries of the Central European Initiative have called for the revaluation sanctions against Yugoslavia. The call came after the ministers met in the town of Segedin in southern Hungary. According to the ministers, sanctions must have a real impact on the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, and not on ordinary Serbs. Following the meeting, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said that the ministers still feel that the sanctions are indeed causing more harm to ordinary people than Mr. Milosevic's government, and that it is necessary to redefine the sanctions.

Foreign Ministry publishes proposed amendment to foreigners' law

The Czech Foreign Ministry has published its proposed amendment to the controversial foreigners' law, which has been the focus of sharp criticism both at home an abroad. According to the ministry, the amendment will remove the controversial parts of the original law, which came into effect on January 1st of this year. The amendment would, for instance, mean that people applying for visas for their children will not have to do so at the Czech embassy or representative in their home country. People wishing to extend their visa or residence permits will now have ninety days to so, instead of the current thirty day period.

Zeman apologises to Macek on television

Prime Minister Milos Zeman has officially apologised to the Deputy Chairman of the opposition Civic Democrats, Miroslav Macek, for comments the prime minister made two years ago, to the effect that Mr. Macek was a criminal and a fraud. A Prague court ordered Mr. Zeman to apologise on television in May. The prime minister's apology was in text form, and was broadcast prior to Sunday's edition of the discussion programme Seven or Seven Days, the programme on which Mr. Zeman made his comments two years ago. Mr. Macek's case against the prime minister is one of several others over the past few years. Mr. Zeman has been ordered to apologise on other occasions, but this is the first time he has actually done so.

Klaus attacks government over Austrian relations

Opposition leader Vaclav Klaus has attacked the Social Democrat government over its position towards the Austrian government. Speaking in the Austrian Lower House in Vienna, Mr. Klaus said that the Czech Republic must have dialogue with Austria, and that he considers it terribly short-sighted that the current government is not doing this. No members of the Czech government have met with their Austrian counterparts since February, after 14 member states of the European Union froze bilateral relations with Austria, the fifteenth member. Relations were frozen following the inclusion of the far right Freedom Party in the Austrian government. Mr. Klaus said that Austria is frustrated by this unfair treatment, and with good reason.

Far right parties call for death sentence for drug dealers

Protestors at an anti-drug rally organised by the far right Patriotic Front and the Patriotic Republican Party in the Moravian city of Brno, have called for the death sentence to be introduced for drug dealers. According to one member of the Patriotic Front, drug dealers murder dozens of people with heroine and pervitin, and therefore deserve to die.

Verheugen warns against abusing the issue of EU membership

EU Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen has warned politicians of the candidate countries against abusing the issue of EU membership in their political campaigns. According to Mr. Verheugen, there is a tendency to identify the problems of economic transformation with those EU integration. He warned politicians not to abuse the ignorance of voters concerning EU membership. If this happens, Mr. Verheugen, it is nothing to do with the European Union.

Nomura to be repaid its investments

Japan's Nomura Group, which claimed on Friday that the recent take-over of the stricken bank IPB was politically motivated is to receive its investments back from the state. The bank was placed under forced administration last week after reports that its reserves had fallen below minimum levels, and Nomura, which was the largest shareholder, refused to inject further funds. IPB is to be sold to another large Czech bank, Ceskoslovenska Obchodni Banka for a rumoured price of sixteen billion Czech Crowns, or roughly four hundred million dollars. According to a Czech National Bank spokesman, the state intends to refund Nomura the three billion Czech Crowns, or roughly seventy five million dollars, that it has invested in IPB.

Communist Party should not reject, but conquer EU

According to Communist Party Deputy Chairman Miroslav Ransdorf, the party should not reject EU membership, but should instead join up with the communist parties of other member states once inside the EU, and then take it over from within. The first opportunity the Communist Party may get to implement this plan, says Mr. Ransdorf, could in 2004, when the next European Parliament elections are held, if the Czech Republic has joined the EU by that date. The advantages of EU membership, according to Mr. Ransdorf, are that left-wing parties would have a greater opportunity for co-operation, and that union rights could be strengthened.

And finally the weather forecast.

The weather for Tuesday in the Czech Republic will continue cool with cloudy to overcast skies. Temperatures during the day should reach between fourteen and eighteen degrees. Temperatures during the night should be between five and nine degrees.

I'm Nick Carey, and that's the end of the news.