News of Radio Prague

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Parliament overrides President's veto

The Lower House of Parliament on Tuesday overruled the President's veto of a law which would significantly increase state funding for parliamentary parties. The legislation doubles the annual state contribution to any party which has won over three percent of the vote and sets the state contribution for one seat in Parliament at one million Czech crowns. President Havel vetoed the law on the grounds that in its present form the legislation gives the larger parties an unfair advantage. He even took the matter to the Constitutional Court which ruled in his favour.

NATO approves of planned army reform

Following a meeting with NATO Secretary General George Robertson in Brussels on Tuesday, the new Czech defense minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said NATO approved of his reform plans for the Czech Armed Forces. The first Czech defense minister with an active military record since the fall of communism unveiled plans to cut down on army personnel and property in order to buy better equipment for the army and create an action capable professional force. He said that the plan to upgrade the outdated Czech air fleet was not beyond the means of the army if other changes to make it more streamlined are achieved. Earlier this year the NATO Secretary General sent a strong message to Prague that it must speed up and deepen the modernization of its armed forces.

UN report critical of Czech Republic

In its annual human rights report the UN anti-torture committee has criticized the Czech Republic for discriminating against minorities, in particular against the Roma minority. The report says that there is a growing incidence of racist- motivated attacks and that the police and judiciary are generally not alert to this form of discrimination. The UN anti-torture committee has concluded that while some progress has been made in combating racism and xenophobia a great deal of work still lies ahead.

Czech Foreign Minister on the mend, to continue visit

The Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, who suffered a mild heart attack shortly after arriving on a seven day official visit to the United States, is reported to be on the mend. Mr Kavan was released from hospital on Tuesday evening and is determined to continue his visit. However his scheduled meeting with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, which was expected to focus on Prague's hosting of a NATO summit in 2002 and human rights issues, has been cancelled. It is to take place at a later date. Mr. Kavan has a history of heart problems. He has had three heart attacks and underwent a quadruple bypass operation in December last year.

Police crack down on Internet child pornographers

Police have arrested three people in connection with distributing child pornography on the Internet. One of the three is a forty year old German man who allegedly paid young boys to have sex with him while his Czech accomplices videotaped the sessions and put them on various web sites. All three have been charged with child abuse. A police search of the flats they used has revealed a vast number of pornographic photographs, videotapes and drugs.

Germans determined to trace pollutant

The German government is determined to trace the origin of an unspecified pollutant that is believed to be the cause of unexplained health problems in Saxony. Over 12,000 people living in the vicinity of the Czech Republic's north- western border with Germany, have signed a petition asking the government to help trace the mystery pollutant, which is believed to be the cause of unexplained headaches, allergies and nausea. Czech officials in the Mostecko region, which is a highly industrialized area, claim that the unspecified pollutant is not coming from any industrial plant on the Czech side of the border. At the same time, Germany has been unable to trace the pollutant to any of its own industrial plants. The German deputy environment minister Sabine Probst told journalists it was vital to trace the pollutant. She said that, if the source was traced to a Czech plant, Germany would be prepared to help cover the cost of eliminating it.

EU deadlocked over labour issue

The European Union has announced that it is postponing scheduled enlargement talks with EU frontrunners until June 1st due to technical problems. In an attempt to play down the delay, Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, told reporters the delay was "nothing dramatic". Political observers have linked the delay to the EU's internal deadlock over the controversial "movement of labour" issue. In an unexpected setback on Monday, Spain blocked efforts to hammer out a common position on the free movement of workers inside an expanded Union, arguing that it first wanted assurances on its access to EU aid after enlargement.

Chvalovsky's assets frozen

A Prague Court has ordered the freezing of all assets belonging to Frantisek Chvalovsky, the president of the Czech Football Union, and five close associates who have been charged with large scale fraud. They are believed to have misappropriated approximately 1.4 billion Czech crowns. The frozen assets reportedly make up an estimated 10% of this sum.

Works of art to travel abroad more often

The Czech Republic wants to make it easier for works of art to be loaned to other countries. The government has drafted legislation designed to increase the amount of artwork, such as paintings monuments and sculptures, that can be loaned to foreign museums and art galleries. The present law restricts such loans because of insurance requirements.

And finally a quick look at the weather forecast:

the next two to three days are expected to be warm but rainy with day temps between 18 and 22 degs, as high as 25 in Moravia, that's the eastern part of the country, but expect a lot of drizzle and some late afternoon thunderstorms. Nighttime lows at between 9 and 13 degs C.