News Saturday, JANUARY 29th, 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.


President Václav Havel has responded critically to the constitutional changes approved by the lower house of Parliament, which could reduce his powers. Mr. Havel´s spokesman, Ladislav Spacek, was quoted by the CTK news agency as saying the President thought the changes were expedient and had not undergone wider public discussion. The changes limit presidential powers in a number of areas - mainly in appointing prime ministers and central bank board members. 125 members of Parliament from the ruling Social Democrats and the main opposition Civic Democrats voted in favour of the amendments - while the smaller right-of-centre opposition parties and the communists boycotted the vote.


The leader of the small centre-right Freedom Union party, Karel Kuhnl, has said the Czech constitution is now a hostage of Communist senators. Their support may be necessary if the proposed amendments are to pass through the Senate, where the Social Democrats and Civic Democrats don´t have a strong enough majority on their own. In other reactions, Social Democrat deputy leader Stanislav Gross said the changes would herald a better functioning constitutional system, while Ivan Langer of the Civic Democrats attacked critics of the amendments - saying they hadn´t bothered to propose alternatives.


Union leaders at the beleagured CKD engineering plant in Prague have called for an urgent meeting with the Prime Minister, Miloš Zeman, over the continuing problem of unpaid wages. CKD is one of the worse-affected companies in the country, its workers owed almost three million dollars, and it was announced that 420 employees will be laid off on Monday. Union leaders said that for all the promises of help made by the government recently, production lines at the plant still lay idle and CKD did not even have the money to make redundancy payments.


Hopes of a more energy-efficient future were given a boost on Friday as lower house MPs approved a a bill aimed at reducing the amount of energy wasted. At the heart of the bill is a provision under which energy suppliers will pay one haler - that´s one hundreth of a Czech crown - into a special fund for the environment for every kilowatt of energy they sell. The money from the fund will be used to support alternative energy sources.

This so-called "green haler" has its opponents though, and may not make into the final version of the law. Other elements of the bill are obligatory audits for certain companies, determining where they can make energy savings, and a plan for a 15-year state energy strategy.


And finally a look at the weekend weather - Saturday will see cloudy skies with snow gradually coming in from western parts. Temperatures will range from zero to four degrees Celsius, falling to between minus one and minus five overnight. Sunday will be similar, with snow in elevated areas and rain in lower lying areas. Temperatures on Sunday should range from between two and six degrees, dropping to around zero overnight.