News Saturday, JUNE 03th, 2000
The Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, has sought to quell a looming revolt from his own Social Democratic Party's Senators over the electoral reform bill his government is pushing through Parliament with the help of the main opposition party - the Civic Democrats.
He said he'd try to persuade doubters within the party ranks that the electoral law, which observers say favours strong parties over smaller ones, was no danger to the Social Democrats.
Opposition to the law was merely fear of losing ones seat, he said.
Several Social Democrat Senators have said they'll oppose the bill, which critics say is a cynical attempt by the party and the Civic Democrats to reduce the influence of smaller parties.
The controversial Civic Democrat deputy leader Miroslav Macek has said that if the bill doesn't get through the Senate, his party could stop supporting the government in Parliament.
President Vaclav Havel has warned the European Union not to use technical difficulties associated with expansion as a pretext for delaying the process.
Mr. Havel was speaking with journalists in Aachen, Germany, where he was attending a ceremony at which US President Bill Clinton was awarded the Charlemagne Prize for efforts at uniting Europe.
The Czech President said he was aware that joining the EU was more complicated than joining NATO, which was more of a political decision. But, he said, this meant it called for good will on both sides - and it would be bad if the technical and administrative difficulties were used to hide a fear of expansion.
The Foreign Minister of Luxembourg, Lydie Polfer, has become the latest foreign visitor to criticise the Czech Republic's law on the residence of foreign nationals.
During a meeting with the Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, she complained the law had a negative impact on business relations
The law tightens the rules on foreign nationals living in the Czech Republic. Mr. Kavan confirmed that a number of countries had said it made things difficult for businessmen, and that his ministry was working on amendments which it would submit to the cabinet for discussion in June.
Meanwhile, the new visa requirement between Russia and the Czech Republic could also hamper trade.
The transport attache of the Czech embassy in Moscow, Zdenek Gerstner, has said that Russia is at present allowing Czech lorry drivers simpler procedures for getting visas - but that it will cease to do so at the end of the month.
This could lead to a collapse in the transport of goods, he warned.
((The Czech Republic introduced visas for Russia on Monday, after pressure from the European Union. Under reciprocal measures, Czech lorry drivers need a 30 dollar transit visa for Belarus and then an 80-dollar visa for Russia - valid for month.
Their Russian counterparts can secure a three-month visa for roughly the same price.))
Czech Telecom, the much-maligned monopoly operator on fixed-line telephones in the Czech Republic, has announced progress on installing new phones. It said it has installed almost 100,000 in the first four months of this year.
Improving the density of the country's fixed-line network was one of the pledges made when Czech Telecom was privatised in the early 1990s. But it seems there's still plenty of catching up to do before the telecommunications revolution arrives for many Czechs.
65,000 people are still waiting for a fixed-line phone. And about a hundred unlucky souls have been on the waiting list for over ten years. Maybe there's a future for carrier pidgeons yet.
A unique Baroque church has been reopened to the public for the first time in fifty years, in the central Bohemian town of Kutna Hora.
The church of St. John of Nepomuk was first constructed in the mid-18th century, but was closed down by the communist authorities in 1951. Many of its treasures were lost or stolen, and the building was used as a dump for construction refuse.
Reconstruction of the church began in 1980, and it will now be available for both religious services and cultural events.
And that´s the news.