News of Radio Prague

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Czech president welcomes Milosevic's extradition to the Hague

President Vaclav Havel, who is currently on an official visit to Switzerland, said on Friday that the extradition of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic to the International Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia in the Hague meant a step away from the isolation of the Balkans. "I consider it a good thing that Milosevic will stand trial in the international tribunal, and I feel it is a step from isolation towards partnership, to participation in common responsibility," the Czech president told journalists.

Havel calls for the right to vote for Czech ex-patriots

On the second day of his visit to Switzerland, the Czech president debated the problems of a federal state and a civic society with representatives of the canton, city and university of Luzern. According to Mr. Havel, a richly structured civic society with strong regional governments is the safest guarantee of stability in a country, because it forms a system of defence against possible political storms. After meeting with Czech ex-patriots, the president expressed the conviction that they should have the right to vote in the Czech Republic, because they're doing a great deal for their former homeland.

Finances for the regions passed by Lower House

The Lower House has passed to the second reading an amendment to the law on the financing of regions. Another amendment has been compiled out by representatives of the local governments, and MPs will have to find a compromise between the governmental and regional bills. Finance Minister Jiri Rusnok said on Friday that in any case this would not be the last change in financing the regions, because responsibility in this sphere is still being decided. According to the government's bill, the regions should receive 2,5 percent of national revenues from VAT and the income taxes of individuals and legal entities, which is slightly over 9 billion Czech crowns for each region. Regional representatives are not satisfied, saying such a low sum could be a stumbling block for the work of regional governments.

Czech cattle breeders face substantial losses

The losses of Czech cattle breeders could amount to 2 billion crowns after the first case of BSE - or mad cow disease - was confirmed in the Czech Republic a month ago. The consumption of beef has dropped substantially and its production price is now around 30 Czech crowns for a kilogramme of live weight. The Agricultural Chamber Secretary, Jan Zahorka told the CTK news agency that Czech cattle breeders had lost another billion crowns due to BSE in exports to EU countries. The Agricultural Chamber sees a possible solution in beef exports. Countries which banned Czech beef some time ago are beginning to ease their restrictions, said Mr. Zahorka.

Criminal code amended

The Upper House of Czech parliament, the Senate, passed an amendment to the criminal code on Friday, which is to shorten the period of time between committing a crime and passing sentence on a culprit. As of January next year, it will thus be possible to sentence a pickpocket within just several hours after he has committed a crime. Also, such a case could be resolved through financial compensation, without going to trial. Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures told the Senators the new criminal code represented the biggest change in the Czech criminal process in more than 200 years - since the criminal code was issued by Emperor Josef II in the 18th century.

Czech Republic will benefit from EU membership

After joining the European Union, the Czech Republic will receive approximately three times more money than it will put into the common treasury, a recent study has shown. The Czech Finance ministry estimates the difference between the revenues from and deliveries to the Union to some 70 billion Czech crowns - that's around 1.8 billion US dollars. The study elaborated by the Finance Ministry was sent on Friday to the government for further discussion.

Capital punishment favoured in post-communist countries

A recent international survey has shown that more than a half of the population in the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Hungary and Poland favour capital punishment. The lowest level of support is in the Czech Republic, at 58 percent, but unlike in the other countries included in the study, there are still many undecided. 22 percent of the Czech population are fiercely opposed to the death penalty.