News of Radio Prague

Cabinet gives itself top marks

Assessing its four years in office the minority Social Democrat government has given itself top marks for bringing the Czech Republic out of an economic crisis and onto the threshold of the EU. The Prime Minister Milos Zeman told journalists on Monday that his Cabinet had transformed an ailing country into a stable and well functioning market economy with steady economic growth and growth of real wages. He particularly emphasized his Cabinet's merit in the field of privatization and structural reform which had brought the country "onto the threshold of the EU". Independent economic experts have produced a more sober analysis, giving the Cabinet due credit for progress in privatization and reform, but criticizing it for shady financing and a growing state budget deficit.

PM says he was not behind cancelled meeting with Arafat

Prime Minister Zeman has rejected accusations that he ordered the Foreign Minister Jan Kavan not to meet the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during his visit to the Middle East this weekend. Allegations that Mr Kavan cancelled a scheduled meeting with Mr Arafat on the explicit order of the Prime Minister appeared in Monday's edition of Pravo and Lidove Noviny. The papers said that in speaking to journalists who accompanied him on the tour the Czech Foreign Minister had clearly implied that in canceling the planned talks with the Palestinian leader he had acted in accordance with the Prime Minister's wishes and that he had been so put out by the decision he had seriously considered handing in his resignation over the matter. The Prime Minter told reporters on Monday that a meeting with the Palestinian leader had not been on the agenda even when the Cabinet approved the Foreign Minister's Middle East tour.

European states launch Danube Cooperation

The Czech Republic has joined a new European initiative intended to bring member states closer in the field of economics, tourism, culture and the environment. The Danube Cooperation project, initiated by Romania and Austria and supported by the European Commission, aims to involve more states in the process of European integration in preparation for EU enlargement. At a meeting in Vienna of the 13 states involved Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the goal was to bring EU countries and their future partners "still closer together". Thirteen states from central and eastern Europe are involved in the project –stretching from Germany to Ukraine.

Heydrich -exhibition

The Prime Minister Milos Zeman on Monday led the opening of an exhibition documenting the 1942 assassination of Gestapo chief and governor of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia Reinhard Heydrich. In an opening speech, the Prime Minister hailed the courage of the British trained Czech commandos who parachuted into the Nazi-held protectorate and killed Heydrich by tossing a bomb into his car. The Gestapo chief's assassination became a symbol of Czech independence and was later hailed as an important moment in the resistance movement. It also triggered a tragic backlash. To avenge Heydrich's murder, Hitler ordered two Czech villages to be razed to the ground and all their male inhabitants shot to death. International press agencies have commented on the fact that the opening of this exhibition coincides with increased tension between the Czech Republic and neighbouring Germany and Austria over the post war expulsion of two and a half million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia.

RFE/RL – relocation talks

The Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan is due to meet with the President of RFE/RL Thomas Dine later this week to discuss plans to move the station to a safer location away from the city centre. Minister Kavan told journalists on Monday that he would like to reach agreement on the matter before this Cabinet's term in office expires. He said "certain progress had been made" but that the two sides had agreed not to publicize any details in advance. US-funded RFE/RL operates from glass-plated headquarters at the top end of Wenceslas Square and has been under heavy security since the September 11th terrorist attacks against the US. RFE's management has not shown great enthusiasm for the relocation plans but officials have said they will consider all options.

The Superb in Britain

Skoda's latest car - the Superb - is to appear on the British market this week. The new model has received good publicity in Britain's Sunday Times which wrote that "no other car in this price range is so spacey and comfortable." However the paper has doubts as to whether Skoda has managed to overcome the stigma of a "cheap east European brand". The Superb is available in three versions – Classic, Comfort and Elegance, with the cheapest model starting at 14,000 pounds.

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

We can expect more overcast skies and rain in the next 24 hours with Tuesday's temps forecast at between 14 and 18 degs C.