News Saturday, FEBRUARY 12th, 2000

Hello and 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.


The Czech Republic is to cut high-level contacts with Austria, owing to the presence of Jorg Haider´s far-right Freedom Party in the Austrian government. The Prime Minister, Miloš Zeman, told a news conference that normal links with Austria would be maintained - but that he saw no reason for contacts on the highest level, especially not with ministers from the Freedom Party. Prague believes the programme of the new Austrian government, led by conservative Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, poses a threat to enlargement of the European Union and is also worried by Austrian calls for compensation for ethnic Austrians expelled from Czechoslovakia after the war. Mr. Zeman stressed that he respected the will of the Austrian voters - but that his government must defend the national interest of entry to the EU. You can hear a more detailed report about the strained state of Czech-Austrian relations after this news bulletin.


Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, which are not members of the European Union but are members of NATO, may get a role in the EU´s planned security wing. Foreign Ministers from the 15-nation bloc are meeting on Monday to discuss setting up a political and military organ at which NATO countries which are not in the EU would have a seat alongside EU member states. Other European countries would also be invited to attend some meetings. If approved, this would give the Czech Republic a voice on any future military operations carried out by the EU.


The European Commission is drawing up a detailed report on the extent of pedophile sex tourism in the Czech Republic. A representative of the Commission said it did not yet have a clear picture of how widespread the problem was. Similar reports have been made in other countries, and have been followed up by reccomendations on how to deal with it. The Czech police says child prostitution is not a major problem, but non-governmental organisations have said it´s just not registered here. At present, four foreign nationals are on trial in Prague for allegedly using boy prostitutes.


Pressure is growing on Czech Television´s independent supervisory board to resign. The lower house of Parliament´s media commission has now called almost unanimously for the board members to resign, saying that Czech Television is not fulfilling its public service role. The controversy at Czech Television led recently to the resignation of its General Director, Jakub Puchalský. He said that political pressure had been applied, interfering on Czech Television´s independence. Members of Parliament´s media commission greeted his departure, but have also criticised the appointment in his place of Dušan Chmelíèek - seen as close to Puchalský.


Environmentalists are handing out information booklets to sheep farmers in Moravia´s Beskedy mountains extolling the virtues of sheep dogs. The booklets are part of a new campaign to save wolves in the area - activists say sheep dogs are an effective defence against them. Activist Mojmír Vlašín, who wrote the booklet, told the CTK news agency that wolves died out in the Beskedies decades ago - making sheep dogs redundant. But in the last few years about ten wolves have made their way into the area from Poland and Slovakia and attacked flocks. Mr. Vlašín´s booklet explains that it is not necessary to shoot wolves immediately.


A quick look at the weekend weather now - Saturday will see fairly clear skies and temperatures between two and six degrees Celsius, falling to between zero and minus five overnight. On Sunday it´ll cloud over and there´ll be rain or snow storms in places, but temperatures should remain mild. And that´s the news.