News of Radio Prague

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Havel in France

The Czech President Vaclav Havel met his French counterpart Jacques Chirac and the recently appointed Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin during his first day of a three-day state visit to France on Tuesday. On the agenda of talks was France's support for EU expansion, the upcoming NATO summit in Prague, Czech-French relations, and an exhibition of Czech culture currently underway in France. Mr Havel - a former playwright - will also travel to the southern city of Avignon where he plans to visit the annual theatre festival. He is expected to support the Bohemia Magica arts festival promoting Czech film, literature, theatre, music and art.

Gross visits areas affected by floods

Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross visited the Moravian region of Blansko on Tuesday where floods resulted in the deaths of two elderly women and caused extensive property damage. Five villages were flooded in the region and 22 fire brigade crews were engaged in rescue operations throughout Monday night. The neighbouring Zdarsko region was seriously affected as well when floodwater swamped local steelworks, knocked down bridges and damaged roads. During his visit, Mr Gross said he was pleasantly surprised by the quick and effective rescue work of fire fighters and numerous volunteers and said that those affected would not be left to fend for themselves. He added that the interior ministry would provide financial support out of its budget for humanitarian aid.

Obzina trial adjourned due illness

The trial of former Communist official Jaromir Obzina, charged with abuse of power, was adjourned on Tuesday due to ill state. Mr Obzina is believed to have helped launch the so-called "Asanace" or "Clearance" campaign of the late 1970s and early 80s, which used secret police (StB) intimidation and violence to force dissidents to flee former Czechoslovakia. Within this campaign the StB focused on signatories of the Charta 77 anti-Communist human rights manifesto. The nationally famous folk singers Jaroslav Hutka and Vlastimil Tresnak as well as the evangelical priest and newly elected independent MP Svatopluk Karasek were just some of those forced to leave the country.

Two more candidates prevail in parliament deputy leader bids

On Tuesday, the lower house of parliament voted Civic Democrat Ivan Langer and Communist MP Vojtech Filip as lower house deputy chairmen. This brings the total number of elected deputy leaders to four, although the new lower house of parliament passed a proposal last Thursday allowing for six new parliament deputy chairpersons. In secret ballots, Mr Langer received 161 votes and Mr Filip 105. The two other candidates, the Freedom Union's Hana Marvanova and Civic Democrat Miroslava Nemcova, failed to get the mandatory 100 votes. The two MPs hope to receive the necessary number of votes in the next round of secret balloting.

Poll: Low turnout due to public disgust with politics

A public opinion poll conducted by the TNS Factum agency says that the main reason for the low turnout during the parliamentary elections in June was public disgust with the general behaviour of Czech politicians. Sixty-three percent of those polled furthermore said they failed to vote as they did not feel it would make a difference. Over half of the questioned parties also added that they were not able to choose a suitable party.

Poll: Money most important factor in choosing to go on to higher education

Another opinion poll, this time conducted by the STEM agency on the education system, has revealed that half of the Czech public believes they do not enjoy equal opportunities when pursuing university degrees. According to the results released on Tuesday, eighty percent of those polled claim to be discouraged from pursuing a higher education because they lack enough money to do so. Another reason stated in the poll was corruption. Many believed that a place in a good university can only be gained by offering bribes.

Weather

And finally a quick look at the weather forecast. Wednesday is expected to be cloudy with scattered showers and thunder storms with hail in some parts of the country. Temperatures have been forecast between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius in the western parts of the country, reaching a maximum of 28 degrees Celsius in Moravia.