News Saturday, JANUARY 09th, 1999

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Ray Furlong, and we start with a bulletin of news. First the headlines.

Now the news in more detail.


The main opposition Civic Democratic Party, or ODS, may be ready to allow the government's budget proposals for 1999 to pass through Parliament - after an appeal from one of its deputy chairmen, Petr Necas. He suggested that otherwise there was a danger the government would seek the support of the Communists to get the budget through, and that the Communists' price might be a reduction in defence spending - just as the Czech Republic was entering NATO. The ODS leader, Vaclav Klaus, said the party leadership would consider Necas's appeal and that an attempt by the Communists to block Czech NATO membership should be taken seriously. Necas's appeal was also welcomed by the Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, but representatives of other opposition parties criticised it.


In another political story, the Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich has declared that he and the Justice Minister, Otakar Motejl, are obliged to do all they can to remove obstacles to the investigation of secret bank accounts allegedly held by the ODS. The allegations played a prominent role in bringing down the ODS-led government in December 1997, but have not been proved. Minister Grulich said the case must be cleared up, but stressed that he was not attempting to further damage the ODS. However, leading ODS representative Ivan Langer has said that Grulich's efforts to clear up the affair are "alarming and unbelievable."


Bringing Czech water hygiene standards up to the level of the European Union could cost over two billion dollars, according to a report by the CTK news agency citing a study carried out by the World Bank. There are a whole range of things to do: from practical areas like upgrading water-processing technology, to legislative matters such as introducing the principle that water polluters must pay clean-up costs. Nevertheless, an Environment Ministry official told CTK he was confident the Czech Republic would be able to meet the EU requirements by the target year of 2005 set by the European Commission. He added that great progress had already been made over the last few years.


The Czech Helsinki Committee has voiced serious concerns over the investigation of last year's killing of a middle-aged Romany man. In May last year, Milan Lacko was beaten unconcious by skinheads and left lying in a road - where he was subsequently killed by an oncoming vehicle. The skinheads have been charged with causing bodily harm, not with murder. The Czech Helsinki Committee said it calls for an "uncompromising approach strictly adhering to the law" to be taken by bodies dealing with the case - and for a more active role from the ministries of Justice and the Interior in ensuring this.


Border police near the Moravian town of Hodonin have apprehended 13 Kosovo Albanians who sought to illegally enter the Czech Republic from neighbouring Slovakia. The group was made up of six men, three women, and four children - the youngest of whom was just 15 months old. The police said the migrants were apparently trying to reach Switzerland, where they have relatives. They will now be returned to Slovakia.


And finally, a look at the weekend weather. Saturday will be cloudy with scattered showers, and temperatures will be between one and five degrees Celsius - dropping overnight to between two and minus two degrees. On Sunday it's set to get colder, with temperatures falling to between two and minus two degrees during the day, and between one and minus three at night. There is also the possibility of snow showers. And that's the news.