News of Radio Prague

Former communist officials get suspended sentences

A Prague court has handed suspended sentences to three former communist top officials for their part in a clearance campaign aimed at ridding the country of Charter 77 human rights activists. Two of the officials were section heads at the former communist interior ministry, the third was a Prague secret police chief. The three masterminded the infamous Asanace or Slum Clearance campaign from 1977 to the mid 80s during which agents repeatedly interrogated dissidents and sometimes used violence to force them to flee the former Czechoslovakia. A fourth accused was released because his signature did not appear on any of the incriminating documents. Judge Katerina Kohoutkova said the sentences were symbolic, given the age of the defendents, all in their 70s, and the time which had passed since their crimes.

NATO and Russia may set up new council

According to an anonymous NATO source, Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization could agree to form an organization for "joint political and military decisions", the CTK press agency reported on Tuesday. An agreement creating the organization could be discussed by NATO foreign ministers when they meet in May in Reykjavik, and the deal could be signed at the next NATO summit due to take place in November in the Czech capital. Karel Kovanda, the Czech ambassador to NATO told the CTK press agency that a NATO-Russia council approved by the alliance in December was not flexible enough and could not make serious decisions but that the new body would enable this. The council was formed after Moscow agreed to help the US-led war against terrorism.

V. Klaus on peace-mission in Austria

The Speaker of the Lower House Vaclav Klaus is to travel to neighbouring Austria on Wednesday for a day of talks aimed at diffusing tension in bilateral relations. Mr. Klaus said that the original aim of the visit –to attend an international conference on globalization – had shifted when leading Austrian politicians suggested a round of talks. The Czech Speaker of the Lower House is to meet with the Austrian President Thomas Klestil, Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel, the Speaker of the Austrian Lower House Heinz Fischer and environment minister Wilhelm Molterer. Czech-Austrian relations have been under considerable strain lately due to the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant and re-kindled controversy over sensitive WWII issues.

Czech firms not ready for tough competition within the EU

A full 60% of Czech firms have not prepared a survival plan in view of facing future competition on EU markets. Martin Tlapa, director of the government agency Czech-trade said this lack of strategic planning was a serious problem which must be remedied as swiftly as possible. He said Czech firms should be more aware of ongoing changes in Czech legislation and the situation on EU markets. Some, he said, were not even prepared for the linguistic demands which EU membership will naturally place on them.

Japanese royal visit expected in June

The Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko are to visit the Czech Republic in June within the framework of a European tour including Austria, Poland and Hungary. The Japanese royals are expected to visit Prague on June 6th where they are to meet with President Vaclav Havel.

And finally, a quick look at the weather forecast for the coming hours: it should be another cold and windy night with scattered rain showers and temps between 4 and 8 degs C. Wednesday is expected to be partly cloudy to overcast with more rain in places and snow showers in the higher altitudes. Day temps 6 to 11 degs. C.