News of Radio Prague

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CEFTA countries adopt joint approach to BSE

The member countries of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) have adopted a common policy to prevent BSE or mad-cow disease. Agriculture ministers of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia met in Prague to discuss adopting a joint approach to prevent the spread of BSE and measures to renew consumer confidence in beef. In a declaration, the ministers said their countries were BSE-free and the risk of the disease appearing in the region was extremely low. The countries have committed themselves to a ban on feeding cattle with bone meal, to produce bone meal using technology that would remove the threat of the disease and to introduce wide-spread testing of slaughtered animals. They also require that the European Union keeps them fully informed.

Czechs in Kosovo: No depleted uranium contamination

A Czech army mission to Kosovo said on Thursday it had detected no threat of contamination by depleted uranium to the country's peacekeepers stationed there. Although the team had not yet completed examination of all samples, results so far proved no evidence of unusual levels of radiation amongst either Czech troops or in the air, water and food tested in areas where they were based. The mission was sent in last month after NATO acknowledged that it had used ammunition containing depleted uranium during its military campaigns in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s. A number of cases of cancer and other fatal diseases among Balkans veterans from various NATO countries have sparked fears that they were victims of so-called Balkan Syndrome from being exposed to radiation from uranium. Czech Brigadier-General Jan Petras said no link had been proved. He said that 169 Czech peacekeepers returning home had already been tested with negative results.

Corruption plagues Czech Republic

The level of corruption and crime among Czech civil servants is alarming, according to a study published on Thursday by the Ministry of Interior. The study was produced by a special police unit responsible for investigating corruption and serious economic crime. According to the document, corruption is increasing both on the political scene, in the public sector and the private sector. There has also been a sharp increase in the number of cases of abuse of office in the regional and local administration. It also reveals that Czechs consider corruption to be one of the most serious problems in society. According to international surveys, the Czech Republic has an above-average level of corruption compared to other European countries.

No more blockades at Czech-Austrian border

Austrian anti-nuclear activists have dropped plans to blockade Czech-Austrian border crossings at the weekend. This was the outcome of a meeting between anti-nuclear campaigners and Austrian politicians on Thursday. Nevertheless, they are still planning to organise demonstrations to protest against the Temelin nuclear power station in South Bohemia.

In December last year, after a series of border blockades, the Czech government promised Austria that it would conduct an independent environmental impact study at Temelin. Both parties have also committed themselves to ensuring the free movement of people and goods across the border. Renewed blockades on the Austrian side would allow the Czech Republic to withdraw from fulfilling the agreement.

Czechs to supply weapons to Sri Lankan government

The Czech Republic is to provide Sri Lanka's armed forces with fresh weapons and training to battle Tamil rebels in the north and east of the island. Czech Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy told local radio about this on Thursday during a visit to Colombo. This assistance will be on a government to government basis. Vetchy, who will leave the island on Saturday, met Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte and President Chandrika Kumaratunga. Czech defence companies have in the past been key suppliers of military equipment to Sri Lanka, but according to Reuters, this is the first known official mention of direct military co-operation between the two governments. Last year, Sri Lanka purchased Czech-made Multi-Barrel Rocket Launchers and is reportedly interested in Czech tanks, armoured vehicles and other equipment to battle the Tamil Tiger rebels, who have been fighting since 1983 for a separate minority Tamil state.

Industry minister: let's give economy a boost

The Ministry of Industry and Trade is planning to boost economic growth with massive investments. Industry and Trade Minister Miroslav Gregr told reporters on Thursday that the investments, amounting to 265 billion Czech Crowns, which is nearly half of this year's state budget, should help increase the GDP, reduce unemployment, enhance industrial performance and increase the purchasing power of the population. Another aim is to strengthen the Czech economy prior to the Czech Republic's accession to the European Union. The programme includes support for 13 weaker regions in the country, export incentives and infrastructure investment.

Czech weather forecast

And finally, let's take a look at the weather. Friday should be mostly sunny, with the highest daytime temperatures ranging up to 10 degrees Celsius. At the weekend, a wave of cold and humid air from the North will end the series of unseasonably warm days, bringing cloudy weather with snow showers and afternoon highs between 1 and 5 degrees Celsius.