News Monday, OCTOBER 23rd, 2000

By Nick Carey

Czech Prime Minister starts tour of Italy and the Vatican

On the first day of a three-day tour to Italy and the Vatican on Sunday, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman has met with Pope Jean Paul II. The two men discussed recent efforts at improving relations between the Czech Republic and the Vatican. One of the main stumbling blocks to full relations has been property disputes. All church property was confiscated in Czechoslovakia by the state during the Communist regime, and ten years after the fall of Communism, the issue remains unresolved. The Czech prime minister informed the Pope that a bilateral agreement is currently being prepared in Prague, and that it should be ratified by Parliament next year. The two men also discussed the foundation of a church fund in the Czech Republic. The fund will contain all property confiscated during the Communist regime, and the income from this fund will be used to support churches in the Czech Republic.

Kavan to visit Belgrade with offer of humanitarian aid

The Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, arrives in the Yugoslav capital Belgrade on Monday to offer humanitarian aid to the new Yugoslav government. During his visit, Mr. Kavan will meet with the new president of Yugoslavia, Vojislav Kostunica. In a statement the Foreign Ministry stated that Mr. Kavan's visit will allow the resumption of commercial ties between the two countries, , which suffered during the Milosevic era, and the inclusion of Czech companies in Stability Pact projects in Yugoslavia. The Foreign Minister is also due to inform Yugoslav representatives of the extent of humanitarian aid that the Czech Republic will be able to provide Serbia.

Three countries introduce visa restrictions for Czechs

Czechs who wish to visit three former Soviet republics now face visa restrictions. Czechs will now need to apply for a visa if they want to visit Kyrgyzstan, Moldavia and Turkmenistan. Visa restrictions will also be applied for Czechs in Kazachstan as of October 30th. Similar restrictions were applied for citizens of these four countries by the Czech Republic in May this year.

Rescuers remove bodies from quicklime silo

Rescue workers have removed the bodies of two men from a quicklime silo on the outskirts of Prague. The two men are believed to have been working in the silo on Wednesday when they were apparently buried under several tonnes of quicklime. Rescue workers began looking for the men in the silo on Friday, after their colleagues noticed their disappearance. The cause of the accident is not yet known.

Senate rejects controversial referendum bill

The upper house of the Czech Parliament, the Senate, has rejected a controversial referendum bill, sending an amended version back to the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, for approval. The Senate said the Czech Constitution should allow a referendum only on joining the European Union, and not on any issue of national importance as proposed by the lower house. The amendment was passed by thirty-nine of the sixty-one senators present. If the amended bill becomes law, EU entry will be approved in a national vote within 75 days of the Czech Republic signing the EU accession treaty. More than half of the electorate must take part in the referendum for EU membership to be approved. The Czech Republic aims to join the Union in 2003.

New project to encourage Roma children to learn about 'The Devouring'

A new project will encourage Roma children to trace the fate of family members who perished in the Holocaust. The project, sponsored by President Vaclav Havel, will encourage Roma children to learn more about the Holocaust from older relatives. A spokesman said the project would also help historians gather more information about the extermination of Czech Roma during the Second World War, a controversial and often neglected subject in the Czech Republic. More than 500 men, women and children are believed to have died in Czech-run concentration camps for Roma during the Nazi occupation of Bohemia and Moravia. The rest of the pre-war Roma population, numbering some 7,000 people, were transported to Auschwitz, where all but a handful were killed.

And finally, the weather forecast.

The weather on Tuesday in the Czech Republic should bring cloudy to overcast skies, with rain showers expected in places. The highest daytime temperatures should reach sixteen degrees Celsius. Temperatures during the night should reach a maximum of six degrees Celsius. I'm Nick Carey, and that's the end of the news.