News of Radio Prague
"Pre-clearance controls" at Prague airport suspended for time being
British consulate officials have once again suspended pre-clearance controls at Prague's Ruzyne airport, measures aimed at preventing potential asylum seekers from leaving the Czech Republic for Britain. For the time being Czech citizens will once again be allowed to travel to Britain without having to state the reasons for their visit in the pre-clearance controls. British immigration officials have been periodically stationed at Prague's airport since last summer, when a first wave of Czech citizens, mostly of Roma origin, applied for asylum en masse. Although the controls have come under criticism from human rights groups, they are upheld by a consular agreement between the Czech Republic and Britain from 1975. A recent drop in the number of asylum seekers has led to the current suspension of consular checks.
Four-Party Coalition Party crisis continues
The leadership of the opposition Four-Party Coalition Party is expected to convene on Thursday evening in an attempt to resolve the continuing political crisis fuelled by the financial scandals of one of its members, the Civic Democratic Alliance. The party, which owes almost 70 million crowns in debt to a Czech insurance company, faces yet another scandal over the improper allocation of controversial sponsorship funds. In 1998 the Civic Democratic Alliance pledged to donate sponsorship funds, whose donors could not be ascertained, to charity, but it came to light on Tuesday that the party has not done so. Now it appears that the financial difficulties plaguing the Civic Democratic Alliance are threatening to break the coalition apart: some members of the Freedom Union have joined the Christian Democrats in calling for the Civic Democratic Alliance to be struck off the coalition's list of candidates in the general elections in June.
Lawyer Ales Rozehnal freed on bail
Ales Rozehnal, the lawyer for controversial Czech media magnate Vladimir Zelezny, has been freed on bail awaiting trial, after being remanded in custody for eighty-five days. Mr Rozehnal, who along with Mr Zelezny, is charged with attempting to cheat a creditor, was remanded in custody on the 7th of November, after a Prague court ruled there was a possibility that Mr Rozehnal could influence witnesses or flee the country. Now the state prosecutor says the danger of Mr Rozehnal influencing witnesses has passed. Mr Rozehnal has been freed on a bail of a 10 million crowns, or approximately 280,000 U.S. dollars.
Austrian Foreign Minister refuses to back Freedom Party rhetoric
The Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrer-Waldner has refused to back the far-right Freedom Party's arguments that the Czech Republic should be blocked from joining the EU, unless two conditions are met: first, that the Czech Republic shut down its Temelin nuclear power plant, and second, the scrapping of the post-war Benes Decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion of Czechoslovakia's large German population. In a session of the Lower House Thursday, Mrs Ferrer-Waldner reminded Austrian members of parliament that her country had fully committed itself to EU enlargement, and said that the Benes Decrees were not a matter for EU discussions. But her statements did not prevent her own People's Party and their coalition partners the far-right Freedom Party from passing a resolution asking the government to push harder for the annulment of the Benes Decrees. Mrs Ferrer-Waldner herself recommended dialogue with Prague to resolve the issue.
Finally a look at the weather: Thursday evening will see cloudy skies, with a chance of light rain showers. Temperatures will hover at lows between six and two degrees Celsius.