News Saturday, AUGUST 07th, 1999

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I am Ray Furlong and we start with the news - first the headlines.

Now the news in more detail.


The European Union ambassador to the Czech Republic, Ramir Cibrian, has made a moderately upbeat assessment of Czech efforts to join the EU. Cibrian, who held talks with Czech deputy premier Egon Lansky, said the last three months had seen a positive trend - with Parliament discussing moves to bring Czech legislation into line with the EUs. But he also warned that what mattered most was actually completing the approval of such changes to Czech laws. The annual EU report on progess made by candidates to meet membership criteria will be released in mid October, and many observers expect it to be critical of the Czech Republic.


The dispute over TV Nova, this countrys most popular television station, has continued with the intervention of the local authorities in central Prague. They said that CNTS, a company which had been the sole provider of Nova programmes, did not have the authorisation to place a big screen on Wenceslas Square on Thursday night. CNTS broadcast its own news and other shows on the screen, in reaction to the decision by CET 21 - the company which owns the broadcasting licence - to stop using programmes made by CNTS. Instead, CET 21 broadcast its own news bulletin and other programmes from new makeshift studios. CET 21, owned by Czech media magnate Vladimir Zelezny, has now announced that it has rescinded all contracts with CNTS.


Czech Communist leader Miroslav Grebenicek has said his partys growing support is largely due to what he called the "half- baked" performance of the current Social Democrat government. Opinion polls have shown a steady upward trend in Communist support for the past few months, and one poll this week gave the party over 20 percent support. The rising trend has shocked many political commentators here, but Social Democrat deputy chairman Petr Lachnit has responded by casting doubt on the survey results.


Days before the total eclipse of the sun, the Czech Health Ministry has warned people of the dangers of damaging their eyes by watching the spectacle. However, unlike in some other European countries, there are no plans to distribute special glasses free of charge. The Czech Republic does not lie in the central zone where the solar eclipse will be total, but nevertheless experts believe the Health Ministry should be doing more to protect people. The CTK news agency quoted Petr Soucek from Pragues Vinohrady hospital as saying that it was a catastrophe there was a shortage of special glasses in the Czech Republic for viewing the eclipse with - and that children were especially at risk.


Czechs are using plastic rather than hard cash more and more. Visa International, the largest cash card system in the world, has released figures showing that Czech Visa card holders made transactions worth 353 million dollars in the first quarter of this year - this is a 144 percent increase on the same period last year, one of the largest rises in the world.

Visa International also said that there are now 950,000 Visa cards in this country, a massive 68 percent increase on last year.8


And finally the weekend weather - Saturday will be another hot and sticky day, with temperatures between 26 and 30 degrees Celsius. There is also a chance of showers and thunderstorms. Temperatures will drop to between 17 and 13 degrees overnight. Sunday may be cloudier, again with the chance of rain - and temperatures between 24 and 28 degrees.