News of Radio Prague

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Roma to stage protests over Ruzyne controls

Roma rights organisations are planning demonstrations against the presence of British immigration officials at Prague's Ruzyne airport. The officials have been at the airport for two weeks now, to try to reduce the number of Czechs seeking asylum in Britain. As the overwhelming majority of those seeking asylum are from the Czech Republic's Roma minority, organisations representing the Roma, and human rights activists, have called the measures racist and discriminatory. Roma activists from several countries announced on Thursday that demonstrations will be held in front of Czech embassies in London, Bucharest and Warsaw and the Czech consulate in Kosice in Slovakia on Monday August 6th. Protestors will also gather outside the British embassy in Prague. The demonstrations will be the first in a series planned by the international organisation Europa Roma.

On a related note, after talks on Thursday with the British ambassador to Prague, David Broucher, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan announced that Britain has given the go ahead for members of the Czech Helsinki Committee to oversee the controls at Ruzyne airport. Also on Thursday, a government commission called on the cabinet to ensure that no members of the Roma community were discriminated against, and to bring about an end to the measures as soon as possible.

Ferrero-Waldner: only Czech government can resolve Temelin

Austria's Foreign Minister says that the issue of the Temelin nuclear power plant can only be resolved by the Czech government. Temelin, which lies just fifty kilometres from the Austrian border, has strained relations between the Czech Republic and Austria, a staunchly nuclear-free country. Austria's far right Freedom Party recently started a campaign to force the Austrian government to block Czech EU membership if the Czech government did not shut down Temelin permanently. In an interview for the Austrian daily Die Presse, Mrs Ferrero-Waldner said that although she has joined in calls for work on the plant to be halted, only the Czech government can take this step, as this is an internal Czech issue. But the Austrian Foreign Minister also warned that if Austrian safety concerns are not properly addressed, then Austria may block the completion of accession talks between the Czech Republic and the EU on the energy chapter of legislation until they are dealt with.

CNB raises GDP and inflation forecasts

The Czech National Bank has raised its forecasts for GDP growth and inflation for 2001. The central bank has raised its inflation forecast from a maximum of 4.4 percent to 5.8 percent, while inflation in 2002 should remain at around the five percent mark. The bank also estimates that Gross Domestic Product for 2001 at up to 3.8 percent, a 0.5 percent increase over previous prognoses, and forecasts further growth of up to 4.5 percent in 2002.

Professional Czech army by 2006

A Defence Ministry official says that the Czech armed forces should be completely overhauled by 2006 as part of plans to meet NATO requirements. A report compiled by the Defence Ministry, which is to be put to the government by the end of August, proposes reducing the number of troops in the army from the current level of 54,000, more than half of whom are conscripts, to about 35,000 professional soldiers and 10,000 civilian employees. The official, Major General Jaroslav Skopek, says that the restructuring programme could be completed even if current defence spending levels, roughly 2.2 percent of GDP, are maintained. The ministry's plans to modernise the army may not include the controversial and expensive purchase of up to 36 supersonic jets for the air force. Instead, says Major General Skopek, this may have to take place after the reforms have been completed.

Gross unveils plans to get tough on extremists

Interior Minister Stanislav Gross has unveiled plans to improve the Czech police force's record of combating racially motivated crime. The Czech police have frequently been accused by local human rights agencies, and international organisations such as Amnesty International, of not doing enough to fight racially motivated crime. According to an Interior Ministry spokesman, from now on, all demonstrations held by right wing extremists will be overseen by a regional chief of police and Mr Gross will personally review all cases involving racially motivated crimes. The Interior Minister has also appointed a commissioner for Roma issues, Stanislav Danihel, who is himself a member of the Roma minority.

Weather

And finally, a quick look at the weather forecast. Friday in the Czech Republic should see partially cloudy to clear skies, with rain showers and thunderstorms coming in from the West during the day. Daytime highs could reach up to 34 degrees Celsius. The weather over the weekend will cloudy and cool, with scattered rain showers, with daytime highs around 25 degrees Celsius.