News of Radio Prague

New Defence Minister takes up office

The new Czech Defence Minister, Jaorslav Tvrdik, has formally taken up office, and has been told to create a professional standing army and clean up the ministry's finances. Mr Tvrdik was appointed Defence Minister on Friday, after the dismissal of his predecessor on Thursday. He has been given three months to prepare a plan to end conscription and create a professional army. Mr Trvdik has also been ordered to implement radical changes in the way that the ministry purchases weapons for the army. The Czech armed forces have had severe problems in recent years trying to meet NATO standards, and lack proper funding and weaponry.

Kukan: keep calm over property dispute

Slovakia's foreign minister, Eduard Kukan, has called for calm over a Czech-Slovak property dispute. The dispute involves Czech holiday chalets that ended up on the Slovak side of the border after the split of Czechoslovakia at the end of 1992. The owners of these chalets have called for the border to be moved, so that the chalets end up once again on Czech territory. The matter has received extensive media attention in the Czech Republic, and the chalet owners have the backing of some leading politicians. But both Mr Kukan and his Czech counterpart, Jan Kavan, have turned down this proposal. The Czech foreign minister called on Mr Kukan at the weekend to have the case resolved in the Slovak courts as soon as possible, and the Slovak foreign minister has promised to provide all the support he can. Mr Kukan told journalists on Monday that this issue should not be allowed to damage Czech-Slovak relations.

Suspected pervitin gang arrested

Police in Prague have arrested nine people suspected of producing the drug pervitin. According to information released by the Czech police force, the gang is alleged to have produced and sold up to fifty kilograms of pervitin last year. This amount would be enough produce up to one and a half million doses and would have an estimated street value of sixty million Czech crowns, or roughly 1.7 million US dollars. All nine people are being held on remand pending trial for the production and sale of illegal drugs. If convicted, they could face up to ten years in prison.

Eighth letter bomb discovered

Police in Prague have discovered the eighth letter bomb in a row to be sent to the bankrupt firm H-System. The company was set up as a co-operative several years ago with the intention of building family homes for shareholders, but subsequently went bankrupt. Several public demonstrations have since been held by shareholders angry over the loss of their savings. Seven letter bombs were discovered by the police last week addressed to managers at H-System, one of which exploded. The device found on Monday was diffused by an officer from the bomb squad.

Agriculture ministers: take us off BSE risk list

Agriculture ministers from seven Central and Eastern European countries have called on the European Commission to remove them from a list of countries at risk of BSE, or mad cow disease. The joint statement came at the end of a farming conference in Bulgaria on Friday between the agricultural ministers of the Central European Free Trade Agreement countries, which include the Czech Republic. The list has already been fiercely criticised in the Czech Republic. In the declaration the agriculture ministers insist that the European Commission review the method used for grading states for the risk of BSE, as they say this has adversely affected the farming industry and has seriously damaged consumer confidence in their countries.

Kavan: Czechs still opposed to EU block on workforce movement

At an EU conference in Nykoping in Sweden, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has reiterated Czech opposition to a transition period for the free movement of labour after EU expansion. There is great concern in Germany and Austria in particular that following EU enlargement they will suffer a massive influx of cheap labour from post-Communist candidate countries such as the Czech Republic. German and Austrian leaders have therefore called for a transition period of up to seven years after expansion, whereby workers from candidate countries would not be able to seek jobs in current member states. Mr Kavan repeated Czech objections to the proposal on Sunday, saying that it could slow down the expansion process. The foreign minister also warned that this could have a negative psychological impact on the Czech people, and that it could be abused by Euro-sceptics.

And finally, a quick look at the weather forecast.

Tuesday should see overcast skies with rain in places and the possibility of isolated thunderstorms. Daytime high temperatures are expected to reach twenty degrees Celsius. Night-time lows on Monday are expected to drop to eight degrees Celsius.