News Saturday, JANUARY 15th, 2000

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm Jana Kotalik. We begin as usual with a brief news bulletin. First, a look at the headlines:

Those were the headlines. Now the news in more detail:

The right-of-centre opposition Christian Democrats have repeated that they will vote against the third version of the draft budget in the forthcoming parliamentary session. Deputy chairman of the Christian Democrats Cyril Svoboda told the CTK News Agency on Friday that the party has not changed its position in this respect.

Talks between ruling Social Democrats and opposition Civic Democrats continue Meanwhile, the ruling Social Democrats' problem in getting their budget proposal passed was also one of the main subjects of talks which continued on Friday between the Social Democrats and right-of-centre opposition Civic Democrats. Both sides were refusing on Friday to disclose the details of any agreements they might have reached, but analysts are expecting changes in election legislation, a cabinet reshuffle, and a new framework for co-operation between the parties to emerge from the negotiations.

European Union should provide time frame for enlargement by the end of the year, according to Foreign Minister Kavan Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said after a meeting with his British counterpart in London that the European Union should fix a date for concluding its entry negotiations with the Czech Republic by the end of this year. Kavan explained that up until now, the EU has not been able to set a date due to uncertainty about its own internal reforms and the progress of candidate countries. By the end of this year, however, all of the chapters being negotiated will have been opened, so according to Kavan, Brussels will be obliged to state a precise date. The Foreign Minister said that the Czech Republic is still aiming to join the European club by the year 2003.

Troubles continue in Czech prisons

Prisoners are continuing their hunger strike in several institutions around the Czech Republic, protesting new legislation on prison conditions and the general overcrowdedness of Czech jails. Over 1000 prisoners in 13 institutions refused to eat their lunch on Friday. The unrest which affected more than half of Czech prisons this week has calmed in many institutions however, since many of their demands for the improvement of living conditions in jails have been agreed to.

Unpaid wages at Vitkovice Iron and Machinery Works

12, 000 employees of the industrial firm Vitkovice Iron and Machinery works have still not received December's wages despite the management's promises that they would receive their pay on Friday. The firm's spokeswoman has said that financial problems in the company resulted from their failure to sign a contract with the crediting bank.

Prime Minister Zeman to intensify government "Clean Hands' campaign

Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman said on Friday that the government intended on intensifying its Clean Hands anti-corruption campaign. Zeman said this in reaction to findings from Minister Jaroslav Basta that the anti-corruption drive has not been as effective as expected. The 'Clean Hands' plan was one of the ruling Social Democrat party's main election promises in 1997 and later became a government priority. While Minister Basta blames the campaign's poor results on the idleness of the government Committee for the Protection of Economic Interests headed by Prime Minister Zeman, Zeman has in the past criticized Basta for his work in another committee coordinating the drive.

Flu epidemic continues

The flu epidemic in the Czech Republic has not let up, with over a dozen deaths reported among the country's aged population due to flu-induced complications. On Friday, more hospitals and retirement homes decided to cancel visiting hours until the epidemic subsides.


And we end with a brief look at the weather here in the Czech Republic. On Saturday, we expect mainly cloudy skies with the possibility of light snow or freezing rain. Daytime temperatures will range from - 3 to + 1 degrees Celsius, falling to a low of -7 overnight.