News of Radio Prague

Czech Republic marks 3 years of NATO membership

The Czech Republic marked its third anniversary as a NATO member on Tuesday with emphasis on army modernization and commitment to the war on terrorism. At an official function to commemorate the country's admission to NATO in March 1999, President Havel told journalists that the planned deployment of a Czech field hospital in Afghanistan shows that the Czech Republic cares about what goes on outside of its borders. The Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik had praise for Czech troops, saying that they had won the respect of their NATO allies in international peacekeeping efforts. However there were some difficult moments for the Defense Minister as he faced reporter's questions about alleged leaks of sensitive NATO information and the resignation of his deputy Josef Jehlik. The minister denied allegations of a security risk at the defense ministry saying that everyone who handled classified information had undergone security screening. We do everything in our power to meet NATO requirements and there has been no complaint from Brussels, Mr. Tvrdik said.

Bill on Civil Service approved by the Lower House

The Lower House of Parliament on Tuesday approved a long awaited bill on civil service. The proposed legislation was pushed through the Lower House by the governing Social Democrats with support from the right of centre Two Party Coalition. According to the proposed legislation, which has yet to be approved by the Senate and signed by the President, civil servants will be required to take an oath of allegiance and their work will be periodically evaluated but they will be given a number of advantages over other employees, such as 5 months severance pay and an extra week of paid leave annually. The centre right Civic Democrats who voted against the bill said they saw no reason why taxpayers should have to pay for these perks. The Czech Republic has been under growing pressure from the EU to approve a law on civil service.

New law expected to help children in orphanages

The Lower House of Parliament on Tuesday also approved a law which should significantly improve living conditions for children in orphanages and correctional institutions. The legislation should speed up the process of putting abandoned children into foster care and place stricter norms on how problem children in correctional institutions are treated. For instance it will no longer be possible to place children under age 12 in solitary confinement. The Fund for Children at Risk, an NGO which has done much to bring these problems to light, sees the legislation as a big step forward.

Czech and Austrian heads of cabinet may meet

The Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and the Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel may attempt to breach their countries' differences at the EU summit in Barcelona later this week, according to the APA press agency. The two heads of Cabinet are expected to attend a joint lunch for EU members and candidate states on Friday, their first public meeting since bilateral relations cooled following a highly publicized row over sensitive issues dating from the Second World War. The Austrian Chancellor made an official protest after the Czech prime minister called Mr. Schuessel's coalition partner the Austrian Freedom Party " a neo-fascist party" that the Austrians would be much better off without. The two neighbour states remain at odds over the so-called Benes decrees which sanctioned the expulsion of close to two and a half million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia at the end of the SWW war.

And finally a quick look at the weather forecast for the coming hours:

we can expect a clear night with temps between 0 and 4 degs C. Wednesday should dawn bright and sunny day across most of the Czech Republic with afternoon highs expected to reach 17 degs C.