News Saturday, AUGUST 28th, 1999

Hello and a very warm welcome to Radio Prague. I´m Ray Furlong and we begin the programme with a bulletin of news. First the headlines.

Those are the headlines - now the news in more detail.


Voting has begun in central Prague to fill the seat made vacant by the recent death of former dissident Václav Benda. The main candidates are independent Václav Fischer, the owner of one of the biggest Czech travel agencies, and actress Jiøina Jirásková representing the opposition Civic Democratic Party, or ODS. Casting his ballot, Fischer said he hoped greater numbers of people vote in Senate elections - which have traditionally been dogged by low turnout. Although only 95,000 people are eligible to vote in this by-election, the campaign has attracted nationwide attention due to the controversy surrounding an ODS advert which strongly criticised Fischer - and led subsequently to a sharp exchange of views between President Václav Havel and ODS leader Václav Klaus.


The Environment Minister, Milos Kuzvart, has said government spending plans for next year must be made with an eye on the Czech Republic´s efforts to join the European Union - and that plans to further reduce state spending could hamper those efforts. Kuzvart said that in his own portfolio there was a need for a further 1,400 bureacrats in order to bring Czech environmental legislation in line with the EU´s. He also warned that if the Czech Republic cut spending on important projects, this could also lead to a reducation in aid from the EU, which partially funds such projects. Around 20 Czech laws on the environment need to be altered to be compatible with the EU´s.


Customs in northern Moravia are celebrating their biggest haul of contraband cigarettes in two years. Spokesman Karel Moskor told the CTK news agency that three men were caught trying to smuggle over 8,000 cartons of cigarettes from Ukraine. Customs officers found the cigarettes hidden inside hollowed-out wooden pallettes, he added.


The Czech police have now arrested nine men in connection with the incident in which football hooligans pelted a train with stones, seriously injuring a young woman. But police spokesman Milan Klézl told reporters that the arrests did not mean the end of police investigations of the case, which shocked the nation, and that he expected further arrests to follow.


Czechs and Germans have launched a blockade of a site near the German border where a company is planning to build a large industrial poultry farm. Around 40 people joined the protest, and said demonstrations over the weekend would be even bigger. The demonstraters say that the plans to build three such plants are an attempt by the German investors to get around German laws on animal rights as well as European Union guidelines. They say they have lodged an appeal for an inquiry into the decision to grant the company planning permission for the farms - and that they intend to keep up their blockade until the appeal is answered.


And finally, the weekend weather - Saturday will be a cloudy day with scattered showers and the occasional storm. Temperatures will range between 19 and 23 degrees Celsius, falling to between ten and 14 degrees overnight. On Sunday, expect skies to brighten up a bit - although there may be the odd shower in eastern parts early on. Again, temperatures will be between a pleasant 19 to 23 degrees.