News of Radio Prague

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Senate passes bill on EU referendum

The Czech senate has unanimously approved a bill that should allow Czechs to vote in a referendum next year to decide the Czech Republic's entry to the European Union. Submitted on Thursday by members of the Senate Commission for the Constitution, the draft amendment outlines the rules for Czech EU accession; under the bill, the referendum will be held 3 months following the signature of the Czech Republic's signing of the EU accession treaty, set to take place in the first half of 2003. Czech parliament must now also pass the bill; a failure to do so would leave the decision on EU accession up to parliament alone.

Czech government to release an additional 600 million crowns

The Czech government will provide another 600 million crowns for municipalities and districts to compensate for emergency and clean-up operations in areas of the country hit by floods last month. The funds shall also go towards extra humanitarian aid. Finance Minister Bohumil Sobotka said on Thursday the funds would be taken from the three billion crown reserve put aside by the government to deal with the damages of the flood catastrophe. So far the government has provided 717 million crowns, sums which have already been depleted by hard-hit municipalities and districts.

Communist Party refuses to cover for absences by Social Democrat Deputy

Communist Party leader Miroslav Grebenicek has made it clear that in the future his party will in no way cover for the absence of Social Democrat deputy Jan Kavan during important parliamentary decisions, especially on such items as the state budget. Mr Kavan is currently serving as the president of the U.N. Assembly in New York, even though his vote in parliament is crucial for the Czech Republic's slim majority government. Just last week the government suffered its first major crisis since coming into power, over its failure to pass an important tax bill. One of the government's MPs voted against, but Mr Kavan was also absent. Until now it was speculated the Social Democrats had followed a gentleman's agreement with the Communists to compensate for Mr Kavan's absences during important decisions by pulling one of its own MPs, an agreement that Communist leader Grebenicek has denied.

Czech government approves new ministry for information technology and communications

The Czech government has approved the new ministry of information technology and communications, headed by Minister Vladimir Mlynar, for 2003. Speaking at a press conference Thursday Mr Mlynar said the ministry would set four important priorities, including the preparation of legislation defining the parameters of an electronic government communications system, the liberalisation of the Czech communications market, and the creation of a more effective and modern postal service.

Friends of diver claim he committed suicide

The friends of a Czech diver who died under mysterious circumstances in a underwater cave near Split, Croatia, on September 10th, have released a statement claiming the diver's death was an act of suicide. According to the statement the diver ran out of air while underwater, and chose to end his life by his own hand rather than drown. For the moment Croatian police are taking a different view, and are holding two Czech men in custody in connection with the death ever since investigations showed the diver had been stabbed. The Czech Republic is asking to be given the case so that, in the event of legal proceedings, the suspects can be tried at home.

Weather

Finally, a look at the weather: Friday is expected to be overcast with a possibility of showers. Daytime temperatures will reach highs between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius.