News of Radio Prague

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Sudeten Germans and conservatives express outrage over Zeman's recent anti-Sudeten German remarks

Anti-Sudeten German remarks made by Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman during a recent interview with the Austrian Profil magazine drew rage from German conservatives and former Sudeten Germans who called for their country to demand either a formal retraction or an apology. Some even suggested the Czech Republic was not ready for EU membership. Mr Zeman had called Sudeten Germans "traitors" and added that one must not forget that they were a fifth column for Hitler. Germany's Deputy Foreign Minister, Christoph Zoepel, told parliament on Wednesday that Mr Zeman's comments were "not only not constructive but also unwise" and warned that unless Prague clarified its position there could be diplomatic consequences. He did not specify what these consequences would be and avoided making any demand for a formal retraction or apology. German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, however, only indirectly criticised Mr Zeman's words and stressed that he could not accept new hurdles for EU enlargement.

Austrian opposition demands pro-EU declaration from ruling coalition

Following the recent petition launched by Austria's junior coalition Freedom Party aimed at vetoing the Czech Republic's entry to the European Union unless it shuts down its Temelin nuclear power plant, Austria's opposition parties have called for the ruling coalition, especially the Freedom Party, to make a declaration expressing clear support for EU enlargement. Furthermore, during the next parliamentary meeting, Austria's Greens want to adopt a pro-EU expansion resolution, concentrating mainly on Czech membership. Representatives of the opposition parties have also said that the country's ruling coalition, consisting of the left-of-centre People's Party and the far right Freedom Party, needed to share the same view on the EU. If they failed to do so, the coalition should be dissolved.

President Havel back home

The Czech President, Vaclav Havel, and his wife returned to Prague on Wednesday after a two-week holiday on the Canary Islands. After staying in hospital with pneumonia over Christmas, President Havel - accompanied by doctors, a nurse, and a physiotherapist - flew to Lanzarote on January 8th where he stayed in the residence of the Spanish King, Juan Carlos.

EC report predicts slow but positive development in Czech economy

In a European Commission report on the economic development expected in the candidate countries for EU membership, unemployment in the Czech Republic is expected to fall from 8 % - recorded at the end of 2001 - to 7.5% by the end of 2003. The country's GDP is also expected to grow by 3.8% this year and 4.2% next year. Although experts have forecast a revival in the global economy, current estimates for the Czech economy are less optimistic than a year ago. The Czech Republic will develop positively but in a slow manner, the report says.

Hyundai may build plan in Czech Republic

The South Korean car manufacturer, Hyundai, is considering building a new production facility worth tens of billions of Czech crowns in the Czech Republic. According to CzechInvest CEO, Martin Jahn, talks are underway with the company and a final decision is to be made in the first half of this year. If the plan goes through, the most likely place for the plant will be the Novosice industrial zone in North Moravia. In the recent past, the Czech Republic has attracted two other car manufactures into investing in the country. Whilst Germany's BMW ended up choosing Leipzig over the Central Bohemian town of Kolin, PSA Peugeot Citroen- Toyota chose the town as the place for its 1.3 billion U.S. dollar investment.

Foreign trade deficit improves

Czech foreign trade ended with a deficit of 119 billion Czech crowns or around 3.5 billion USD in 2001, according to the latest data provided by the Czech Statistical Office. The result is slightly better than in the previous year. Both imports and exports have grown by more than ten percent and the Czech foreign trade was not affected greatly by both the global economic slowdown and recession in Germany, which is the Czech Republic's main trade partner. Significant improvement has also been recorded in the trade balance with twelve of the twenty largest target markets, including Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, and France.

Weather

And finally a quick look at the weather forecast. Wednesday night will have overcast to cloudy skies with occasional light showers or drizzle throughout the country. Night-time temperatures are expected to range between -1 and 3 degrees Celsius. Thursday will be cloudy with showers in places and daytime temperatures between 3 and 8 degrees Celsius.