News of Radio Prague

Finance minister vows privatization will go ahead

The recently appointed Czech Finance Minister Jiri Rusnok has assured foreign investors that the planned privatisation of the country's remaining state-owned enterprises would remain on track. Addressing a gathering of potential investors in London, Minister Rusnok said the unexpected resignation of his predecessor Pavel Mertlik would not affect the government's fiscal policy or slow down privatisation. He said the privatisation of Komercni Banka was in its final phase and that the privatisation of the country's telecommunications network would be finished by the end of the year.

In his address to the assembly Mr Jack Stack, General Director of Ceska Sporitelna, a leading Czech bank, described the Czech Republic as "a land of opportunity with a highly-qualified, cheap labour force".

Austrian Chancellor says Temelin needs more safety tests

The Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel has said that his government does not consider the environment impact study on the Temelin nuclear power plant a sufficient guarantee of safety. Speaking after Tuesday's cabinet session in Vienna, Chancellor Schussel said that many questions remained unanswered and that more safety tests would have to be undertaken before the plant was ready to go into commercial operation. The Chancellor said that since the present safety documentation was incomplete he advised postponing the public hearing on Temelin scheduled to take place in Linz on May 9th. In the Czech Republic a public hearing on the outcome of the environment impact study is to take place later today /Wednesday/ in Èeské Budejovice. EU commissioner Henning Ehrstein is to attend the hearing, German and Austrian anti-nuclear activists have not confirmed participation.

Anti-Temelin activists to hold major protest on Friday

Austrian anti-nuclear activists have been putting pressure on the Austrian government to take a tough line with Prague. A spokesman for the Austrian anti- nuclear committee said a major demonstration was being planned for this Friday at the Wullowitz border crossing in Upper Austria to commemorate the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 15 years ago, but above all to highlight problems involving Temelin. Politicians and well-known personalities from the arts world are expected to address the rally and the organisers say that they cannot rule out "spontaneous blockades" of the border.

Czech ministers at odds over how to respond

The Czech industry and environment ministers are at odds over how Prague should respond to the Austrian Chancellor's statement regarding Temelin. Trade and Industry Minister Miroslav Gregr has described the demand for more safety tests as "nonsensical" while Environment Minister Milos Kuzvart has said the Czech Republic should find out what further tests Austria wants and negotiate a compromise solution.

Georgian on trial for sexually abusing underage boys

A 40-year-old associate professor from the former Soviet republic of Georgia has gone on trial for sexually abusing two underage boys. The man, who is employed at Prague's prestigious Charles University and is a freelancer for Radio Free Europe, is alleged to have forced two 14-year-old boys to have oral and anal sex with him, beating one of them up and burning him with a cigarette when he refused to co-operate. The accused has pleaded innocent and has asked to undergo a lie-detector test.

EBRD to invest in Czech mobile operator

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has announced its intention buy 25 million dollars worth of shares in Cesky Mobil – the smallest of the three mobile operators on the Czech market . Cesky Mobil currently has over 300.000 clients and a 7% share of the market. According to the EBRD's director for the Czech Republic and Slovakia the money will be used to expand the Oscar network.

Czechs support Croatia's ambition to join CEFTA

A Czech Parliament delegation to Croatia has expressed support for Croatia's ambition to join CEFTA, the Central European Free Trade Agreement. The official membership papers are to be signed in June during Prime Minister Milos Zeman's scheduled visit to Zagreb. Croatia's presence in the loose economic alliance is expected to repair and revitalise business relations between Croatia and Central Europe, which suffered during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. The country has been especially damaged by the loss of tourist revenues, but there are indications that Czechs are ready to return to Croatian shores this summer. Close to a million of them have booked holidays there this year.

Organized crime fighting agencies meet in Poland

Organised crime fighting agencies from 37 countries including the Czech Republic, are holding a three day conference in the Polish capital Warsaw. The meeting is aimed at identifying the most active mafia gangs in different parts of the world and sharing know how in combating international narcotics and money laundering cartels. The officers present are said to have identified the Vietnamese mafia as the most difficult to track. In Poland and the Czech Republic they are known by police top be involved in counterfeit goods smuggling, including clothing, software and CDs worth millions.

Weather forecast

Wednesday looks set to be the warmest day of the week. Morning fog should give way to clear or partly cloudy skies and day temps between 15 and 20 degs C. However you'd be well advised to carry an umbrella since the afternoon hours are expected to bring scattered showers and thunderstorms in places. The rain, which may persist throughout the night, will bring Thursdays temps down to between 10 and 14 degs, but Friday is expected to bring a slight improvement, with afternoon highs back at 17 degc C.