News Saturday, APRIL 18th, 1998

r_2100x1400_radio_praha.png

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Vladimir Tax and here's the news. First the headlines.

The Chamber of Deputies has passed a motion asking the cabinet to stop the privatisation process.

President Havel is successfully recovering from complicated surgery on his intestine.

and most Czechs support their country's membership in the European Union, although they are afraid of foreigners buying Czech land.

These are the main points and now the news in more detail.

Parliament/privatisation

The Chamber of Deputies on Friday passed a motion in which it asked the government of premier Tosovsky to stop privatisation of strategic companies. The proposal was supported by the Social Democrats, the Communists and the Republicans. According to observers, it is likely that the cabinet will respect the decision, otherwise the lower house could express non- confidence in the cabinet. Finance minister Ivan Pilip said after the vote that according to the law, the cabinet makes all privatisation decisions and the parliament does not have the right to enter the process. In another parliamentary action on Friday, the Social Democrats, Communists and Republicans again voted together to remove six members of the National Property Fund board. According to finance minister Ivan Pilip, this step could destabilize the institution which is the key for management and privatisation of state-owned companies.

Havel/health

President Havel is successfully recovering from emergency surgery on his intestine in an Austrian hospital. Head of the Czech president's medical team, Miroslav Cerbak, said on Friday that president Havel had started receiving food by mouth and his recovery was going well. President Havel is expected to stay in hospital in Innsbruck for about two weeks.

EU/Czechs/fear

According to the latest opinion poll conducted by the Median agency, two thirds of Czech citizens support the Czech Republic's accession to the European Union, and only 13 percent are against such a step. However, most Czechs fear that foreigners will buy Czech land and 66 percent of those asked are convinced that even after joining the EU, only Czech citizens should own land on Czech territory.

Russia still negative on NATO expansion

Chairman of the Russian parliament's foreign committee, Vladimir Lukin, who is on an official visit to Prague, said Russia's negative attitude towards the eastward expansion of NATO had not changed. He also expressed worries about the enlargement process eventually involving the Baltic states, which would bring NATO's frontier to Russian borders. Mr. Lukin met with Czech deputy foreign minister Otto Pick and chairman of the Senate foreign affairs, defence and security committee, Michael Zantovsky. Lukin repeated that although Russia opposes the enlargement, it will respect the right of sovereign countries to decide their own security.

Czech Social Democrats will present 7-year economic plan

The opposition Social Democratic Party, a likely winner of the general elections in June, announced on Friday that it would release a detailed seven-year economic programme next month. Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman told a news conference that his party believed the country needed a long-term economic strategy. The Social Democrats said its pro-growth and pro-export policies would aim to raise gross domestic product growth to 6-8 percent annually from the current one percent, but that any fiscal expansion would meet the European Union's convergence criteria of a budget deficit of no more than three percent of the GDP. Senior party officials said annual inflation of around 12 percent would be acceptable, and they would ask the independent central bank to compromise its restrictive monetary policy which is aimed at lowering inflation sharply by 2000.

Privatisation/banks/experts

The process of privatisation of Czech banks where the state still holds shares will continue even after the Social Democrats take power, Czech National Bank vice-governor Jan Vit and Komercni bank general manager Richard Salzman agreed on Friday. They said at a meeting with a delegation of the economic committee of the North Atlantic Assembly that it would not be easy to stop the ongoing privatisation process in the banking sector, and opined that the Social Democrats would pursue a different policy in reality than they are proclaiming now, before the elections.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast for Saturday. We are expecting a mostly cloudy day with occasional showers, afternoon highs should range from 10 to 14 degrees Celsius, and the same weather, warm but rather cloudy, should stay with us until the beginning of next week.

And that's the end of the news.