News Monday, MAY 24th, 1999

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Vladimir Tax and here's the news. First the headlines.

These are the main points and now the news in more detail.

Kavan, Papandreu sign peace initiative

The Czech and Greek foreign ministers Jan Kavan and Jorgos Papandreu have signed a joint initiative on resolving the Kosovo crisis. Minister Kavan said that the Czech Republic and Greece will present the material to the North Atlantic Council on Tuesday. Although the document has not been made public, Papandreu said that it deals with the presence of peace- keeping forces in Kosovo, withdrawal of Serbian troops, local administration in the province and the return of refugees.

Kavan stressed that the initiative did not undermine the unity of NATO. On the contrary, he said, it was a contribution to the debate within NATO. He explained that the initiative was to be viewed as a supplement to the resolution adopted by the G8 group.

Czech politicians welcome election of German president

Czech politicians have welcomed the election of Johannes Rau to the post of German president.

Spokesman for the Czech Social Democrat government, Libor Roucek, voiced the hope that close and friendly cooperation would develop between the Czech government and the new German president . "Mr Rau is an old friend of the Czech Republic and we firmly believe that this friendship will help promote close Czech-German relations, also because Johannes Rau has been a member of the Social Democratic Party for a long time," Roucek said.

Shadow foreign minister for the Civic Democratic Party, Jan Zahradil, said he considered the election of Rau a very good choice and a contribution to the development of Czech-German relations, not so much because Rau is a Social Democrat but mainly because he is an experienced politician.

Kavan continues trip to east

Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan continues his tour of Eastern Asia in Mongolia. He is to meet with leading Mongolian representatives to discuss bilateral relations. He will also re-open the Czech embassy in Ulanbatar which was closed down in 1993 for financial reasons. Mongolia is the last stop on Kavan's 11-day journey to four countries of the Far East, including China, South Korea and Japan.

Tax cuts to go on

The Social Democrat government wants to cut income and corporate tax further in the coming years, deputy premier Pavel Rychetsky said in a televised debate on Sunday. However, he added that the government saw no room for cuts in the social security payments with regard to the social welfare system annual deficit of around 10 billion crowns. At the same time, the government wants to level consumer tax on petrol, tobacco and alcohol with that in EU countries.

On Friday, the lower house of the Czech parliament passed changes to the tax code, raising consumer tax on petrol, cigarettes and alcohol and cutting income and corporate tax rates. The amendment will come into effect next year and is expected to bring-in additional 6 billion crowns to the state budget.

Govt to fight crime

At its session this week, the government is to discuss a report on the security situation in the Czech Republic. According to the report, there were almost 430 thousand crimes committed in the Czech Republic in 1998, the highest number since 1990. One of the main problems are traffic accidents and their consequences. The total number in 1998 rose to almost 12 thousand, about 60 percent more than the European average. Last year, there was also an increase in organized crime penetrating to Western countries through the Czech Republic. The dominant criminal gangs on Czech territory are from the former Soviet Union, the Balkans, Italy and Asia. Political extremists in the Czech Republic are similar to those in neighbouring countries, including both far-right and far-left organisations.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. Weather in the Czech Republic should be influenced by a high pressure area from South-West. We are expecting a mostly clear day, afternoon highs should range from 20 to 24 degrees Celsius. The next two days should be rather cloudy with occasional showers, with highest daytime temperatures up to 26 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.