News Monday, NOVEMBER 08th, 1999

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:

Taskforce 2000 warns against flying to the Czech Republic at the end of 1999

An independent British organisation that is assessing the Y2K preparations of airspace systems around the world has warned against flying to the Czech Republic at the end of the year. The Czech Republic is one of ten countries, including Poland, Hungary, Russia and Italy, which, according to the organisation Taskforce 2000 represents a serious risk for travellers, as there is inconclusive proof that its airspace computer systems are ready for the change over to the new millennium. This follows a similar move by the State Transport Department in the USA last month. The head of Czech air traffic control, Petr Materna, has called Taskforce 2000's claim nonsense, and stated that the Czech Republic's airspace system is one hundred percent prepared to face the year 2000. He stated that Czech air traffic control has worked very closely with the International Air Transport Association and completed its preparations in October.

New draft budget for the year 2000 ready

The ruling Social Democrat government has prepared a new reduced draft budget for the year 2000 with a deficit of forty two billion Czech Crowns. The government first proposed a budget with a deficit that was almost four billion Czech Crowns higher, and this was rejected in the lower house of parliament two weeks ago by all of the opposition parties except for the Communists, who abstained. The government was then given one month in which to reduce the budget deficit and present a new proposal to parliament. The new reduced proposal will be discussed by the cabinet today and should be presented to parliament within two weeks.

Inflation at zero percent

According to figures released by the Czech Statistical Office, consumer prices in the Czech Republic have remained at the same level as in September. The overall increase in consumer prices from October 1998 to October 1999 reached 1.4 percent, but net year-on-year inflation, which is a comparison of prices in these two months, is at zero percent. This stagnation in the inflation rate has apparently been caused by falling prices in transport and leisure services, and stagnating price levels for the majority of groceries.

Havel says that Russian oppression is to blame for terrorism in the Caucasus

In an interview for the German weekly newspaper Der Spiegel, Czech President Vaclav Havel claims that Russian oppression is chiefly to blame for terrorism in the Caucasus. According to Havel, Russia has been behaving arrogantly towards the nations in the Caucasus for a long time, and that this is responsible for the growth in fundamentalism and terrorism in the region. Havel stated that he is deeply dissatisfied with what Russia is doing in Chechnya, and has been for some time. Human rights should be respected throughout the world, the president concluded.

Social Democrat leaders agree that three ministers must go

The central committee of the ruling Social Democratic Party have agreed that three ministers must leave Prime Minister Milos Zeman's cabinet. The Social Democrat cabinet has been hit by several scandals in the recent past, and there have been calls in parliament for some government ministers to step down. The three ministers that have been under the greatest pressure to resign are Health Minister Ivan David, Minister for Local Development Jaromir Cisar, and Minister Without Portfolio Jaroslav Basta. The head of the Social Democrats in the Senate, Zdenek Vojir, stated that the committee had made specific recommendations to the prime minister for who should be removed. Vojir refused to comment who the committee had selected, but stated that the minister for local development was not one of them. According to Vojir, it is up to the prime minister whether or not to act on these recommendations.

Congressmen ask for compensation for Ronald Lauder

Two American congressmen, Tom Lantos and Benjamin Gilman, have sent a letter to Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman, in which they ask for compensation from the Czech Republic for American businessman Ronald Lauder over the private television station TV Nova. This television station is the cause of an ownership dispute between Lauder and Czech businessman Vladimir Zelezny. Until earlier this year, Zelezny was the general director of TV Nova, until Lauder's company, CME, had him removed due to alleged asset stripping. Zelezny, who was the license owner of TV Nova, pulled the plug on the television station and started broadcasting his own version in August. Ronald Lauder then filed a lawsuit against the Czech Republic for allegedly failing to protect his interests, therefore breaching a Czech-American mutual trade protection agreement. In their letter the congressmen call for an immediate review of the situation, and the return of Lauder's company to the position it held before the dispute with Vladimir Zelezny came to a head.

Communist leader warns against euphoria

The leader of the Czech Communist Party, Miroslav Grebenicek, has warned against euphoria at the party's continued success in public opinion polls. Over the past few months the Communist have been gaining steadily on the other leading political parties, and has been in second place for some time. Grebecinek made his remarks in his opening speech at the meeting of the party's central committee. Despite his warning, he encouraged the party to make preparations for the next elections. He then attacked the Social Democrat government, which he said had lost its left-of-centre policies and for becoming a willing hostage of the opposition centre-right Civic Democrats via the opposition agreement that keeps the minority Social Democrat government in power.

Havel stresses the importance of the United States in Europe

In an interview for a French television station on Sunday, Czech President Vaclav Havel stressed the great importance of the United States of America in European affairs. He stated that the United States has more clarity of vision in these affairs than Europe itself. Without America, the president believes, Europe would not be able to resolve its regional conflicts. NATO, Havel continued, is the only truly functional defence organisation in Europe, and without the United States it would not have expanded to former Communist countries in Eastern Europe. This does not mean, the president stated, that the Czech Republic is merely an American protectorate as is sometimes claimed, but that instead there is great partnership and friendship between the two countries.


The weather on Monday will bring us overcast skies, with the possibility of rain showers in places, which should fall as snow in hilly areas. Maximum temperatures should reach ten degrees centigrade. And that was the news.