News of Radio Prague

Senate amends Constitution in view of EU accession

The Czech Senate has approved an amendment to the Constitution, paving legal ground for the Czech Republic's accession to the European Union. The new law links accession to a national referendum or a vote in the two houses of Parliament. In the latter case the ratification process would require a vote of support from 120 deputies in the Lower House and three fifths of senators in the Upper Chamber.

2002 state budget proposal rejected in its first reading

The Lower House of Parliament on Thursday rejected the government's state budget proposal for 2002. The main objections to the proposed budget were unrealistic revenue expectations and excessive deficit. 122 out of 196 deputies present voted against the proposal and approved a set of recommendations for improvement made by Parliament's Budget Committee. The government has been asked to present a new draft within twenty days. According to Vaclav Klaus the leader of the Civic Democrats, the main opposition party on whom the minority Social Democrat government relies for support, there is a good chance that the amended version of the proposed budget will gain approval, assuming that the Cabinet adheres to the recommendations made. In his first reaction to the vote the Prime Minister Milos Zeman described the recommendations as reasonable and said they would be taken into account. The Finance Minister Jiri Rusnok said that, at best, the deficit in state finances could be lowered by approximately five billion crowns.

The rejected budget proposal outlined a deficit of 52 billion Czech crowns, with 700 million crowns in revenues and 752 billion crowns in expenditures.

Universities to get the promised 2 billion crowns from state coffers

In a related development, the Education Minister Eduard Zeman told journalists on Thursday that Czech universities would get the 2 billion crowns from state funds that they had been promised. He refused to say where the money would come from saying there was an information embargo on budget related information for the time being.

Institutions tighten security for employees opening mail

Amidst growing concern over the possible spread of anthrax to the Czech Republic some institutions have ordered special security measures for employees opening mail deliveries. Institutions which are viewed as potential targets have set up separate quarters where employees can open mail wearing face masks and rubber gloves and dump suspicious deliveries into special containers. The anthrax scare has put a strain on the Czech Republic's fire brigades and chemical experts. Over the past few days they have been called to deal with suspicious mail deliveries over eight hundred times. A number of people who sent white powder in envelopes as a practical joke are being questioned in connection with possible charges of scare-mongering. Three people have already been charged.

Anti-tank missile found close to runway

An anti tank missile was found close to one of the runways at Prague's main international airport at Ruzyne on Thursday. Police are investigating the possibility of a planned terrorist attack. The missile was found about a kilometer from one of the runways by local patrolmen.

Austria warns it could impede Czech Republic's EU accession

The Austrian environment ministry has warned Prague that there are still serious hurdles on the road to closing the energy policy chapter in Czech EU-accession talks. The statement comes in the wake of speculation that Austrian officials could close the energy policy chapter in Czech-EU accession talks sometime next week. Such considerations are premature, an Austrian environment official told journalists on Thursday adding that there were still serious hurdles on the road and many open questions that would have to be dealt with. "The talks with Prague are at a critical phase and a great depends on their outcome" the ministry said. The Austrian environment ministry has come under a lot of pressure from the country's anti-nuclear activists in recent days. Environment groups have demanded that Austria block the Czech Republic's accession to the EU until Prague has agreed to close down the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant.

In connection with the terrorist threat, the Czech Republic's chief EU negotiator Pavel Telicka told journalists that Temelin was as well protected against possible terrorist attack as any nuclear power plant in Western Europe.

And finally a quick look at the weather:

We can expect an overcast night with drizzle and morning fog. Nighttime temps between 6 and 10 degs, possibly as low as 4 in the higher altitudes. Friday should bring overcast skies and rain in places with day temps between 12 and 15 degs.