News Monday, SEPTEMBER 20th, 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:

Prime Minister says agreement with Slovakia will be made by November

Prime Minister Milos Zeman has told journalists that an agreement between the Czech Republic and Slovakia over property disputes could be signed by November. The disputes arise from the split of Czechoslovakia at the end of 1992, and mainly concern bank debts and shares. The agreement should be initiated when Slovak prime minister Mikulas Dzurinda comes to Prague on state visit at the beginning of October. The main points of contention between the two countries are over shares in Komercni Banka that are held by the Slovaks, which will probably be swapped for Czech-held shares in Vseobecne Uverova Bank at a ratio of one to one, and the Slovak part of the foreign debt left over from the split of the Czechoslovak State Bank, which totals twenty nine billion Czech Crowns. The Slovaks have never acknowledged this debt. Both prime ministers, though, are confident that a deal can be made.

UN Commissioner to discuss Czech Roma situation

The special envoy of the United Nations Commission for Human Rights, Maurice Glele-Ahanhanzo will meet with Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Palous today in Prague to discuss the situation of the Czech Roma and the problems they face with racism. He will also travel to Usti nad Labem to discuss the Maticni Street wall, which some paying residents wish to erect to separate themselves from a predominantly Roma housing estate of non-payers. Glele-Ahanhanzo's visit to the Czech Republic is part of a tour in which he will also visit Hungary and Rumania to discuss discrimination against the Roma populations there.

Gregr says that many of Temelin's problems have been resolved

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Miroslav Gregr, has stated that almost all of the problems faced in the building of the Temelin nuclear power station have been removed. Gregr visited the power station, which has been the centre of much debate and controversy over the past decade due to increasing budgets, massive time delays and opposition groups, on Friday. He emphasised that the majority of the problems had been solved by the American company Westinghouse, which is supplying automation technology and other equipment. The minister stated that the first block will be completed by the end of the year, and the second block should also be finished on time. If the work on the power station had been carried out at today's rate, Gregr pointed out, it would have been completed four years ago.

Parliamentary chairman's villa burgled

The villa of parliamentary chairman and former prime minister Vaclav Klaus has been broken into. According to a police statement, everything of value in the villa has been stolen. The burglary took place on Saturday night while the Klaus' were away, despite the fact that the building is protected by security guards and surveillance cameras. On Sunday Klaus told journalists that the burglary could have a political motive and said that it is a sign of the troubled times that the Czech Republic is currently experiencing. In his opinion, this was definitely no ordinary theft.

Employee involvement likely in publication of Ceska Sporitelna account details

Experts suspect that the illegal publishing of account details of customers of Ceska Sporitelna, one of the leading banks in the Czech Republic, on the Internet, was carried out with the help of a bank employee. According to experts, the data could have been obtained from reserve diskettes upon which all of Ceska Sporitelna's financial data is listed daily and stored outside away from the bank in case of an accident. It is possible, though, that an employee swapped this diskette at the last minute with a blank one. One worry now is that if someone does indeed possess this diskette, that they may have customer signature examples, and with the help of false identification papers could remove large sums of money from their bank accounts.

Kavan meets with Zelezny to discuss American lawsuit

Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has met with Vladimir Zelezny, the holder of the license for TV Nova, to discuss the lawsuit brought against the Czech Republic be American Ronald Lauder over the dispute between Lauder's company CME and Zelezny, which culminated On August 5th in Zelezny taking over the broadcasting of TV Nova. Lauder has filed his lawsuit because he claims that Zelezny's actions, which have left CME unable to broadcast, have breached the trade protection agreement between the Czech Republic and the USA. According to the Foreign Ministry, Jan Kavan wants to find out the opinions of both sides of the dispute. His deputy, Hynek Kmonicek will meet with representatives of CME this week to discover their side of the dispute. Kmonicek stated that it was regrettable that it would have been much better if the dispute could have been resolved without a lawsuit, as this case gives a very negative signal to foreign investors.

Cesky Mobil currently in first place for mobile license

The management committee in charge of examining the bids from participants in the public tender for the third mobile phone operator in the Czech Republic, have selected Cesky Mobil as their first choice. Cesky mobil is a consortium that includes the Canadian telecommunications company TIW and IPB Banka. The committee's main reason for recommending this operator is its proposed pricing policy, which would lower costs for consumers by up to forty percent, as opposed to the twenty five percent proposed by the other participants in the tender. The Minister of Transport and Telecommunications, Antonin Peltram, will decide on the winner of the tender on Monday, and the name of the new operator should be made public by the end of the month.

Deputy Foreign Minister to visit Great Britain

Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Palous will visit Great Britain this week and meet with representatives of the British authorities concerning the continued exodus of Czech Roma into Great Britain. Palous will also meet with the members of parliament from constituencies in Britain that have the highest numbers of Roma refugees. The main reason for the visit, which is Palous' second, is to try to avert the threat of visa restrictions being introduced against the Czech Republic due to large numbers of Czech Roma seeking asylum in Britain. Last week Britain's ambassador in Prague, David Boucher warned that the situation was serious, and that visa restrictions could not be ruled out.

Havel completes official visit to Slovakia

President Vaclav Havel completed a two day official visit to Slovakia on Saturday. On Friday he met the Slovak prime minister Mikulas Dzruinda, and after the meeting both sides were positive that ongoing property disputes between the Czechs and the Slovaks left over from the split of Czechoslovakia at the end of 1992, could be resolved. Dzurinda stated that he sees a great and realistic hope that this process could be completed by the end of the year. Both Havel and Dzurinda stopped short of discussing any details, saying that it was premature to do so. Havel also met with Slovak president Rudolf Schuster, who presented him with the Adalbert Prize for his work as a dissident and for humanitarian causes. Havel is the fifth person so far to receive this award, given out by Germany's Adalbert Foundation. During the ceremony, Schuster reminded Havel of his own words in 1995 when he said that the Adalbert Prize has almost the same significance as the Nobel Prize. This is Havel's fist state visit to Slovakia, and signals a continued thaw in relations following former Slovak prime minister's Valdimir Meciar's defeat in elections last year.

Petition handed to government protesting gay partnership law

A hundred petitions containing a total of fifty seven thousand signatures have been handed to parliament to oppose the proposed gay partnership law. This law would grant homosexual partnerships many of the same basic rights that heterosexual marriages have, and is due to be debated in house of deputies again in October. In comparison, there were only two petitions handed in in favour of the proposed law, which contained a combined total of just over two thousand signatures. The proposed law has been fiercely debated several times in parliament now, and failed to pass in 1998. The house of deputies is apparently split fifty-fifty between opponents and supporters of the new law.

And finally the weather.

The weather today will be partially cloudy and temperatures should reach a maximum of twenty six degrees centigrade. And that was the news.