News Sunday, JULY 11th, 1999

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm Nick Carey and this is the news. First, a look at the headlines.

Those were the headlines, now the news in more detail:

Zeman asks journalists for better relations

Prime Minister Milos Zeman has sent an open letter to journalists calling for better relations, which also contains an offer for an open meeting. This comes as a response to an open letter from journalists, in which they protested his claims against them. The prime minister's claims included statements that journalists were unprofessional and that one journalist in particular had written a paid article in favour of the Temelin nuclear power plant. In his letter, Zeman says that he believes there are two conditions for better relations between the media and the government: first, differentiating between objective news and subjective commentaries, and second providing correct information including the right for people to react to incorrect reports. The prime minister then offered journalists an open meeting to discuss the issue.

Lower house approves bill to allow exiles to apply for Czech citizenship

The lower house of Czech parliament has approved a bill allowing Czechs who emigrated during the Communist regime to apply for Czech citizenship. The Communist Party and the majority of the deputies from the opposition Civic Democratic Party voted against the bill. The new law would apply to Czechs who fled the country between February 1948 when the Communists came to power, and March 1990. It would also make it easier for Slovaks who continued to live in the Czech Republic after the split of Czechoslovakia at the end of 1992 to obtain Czech citizenship. The bill was criticised by some members of the opposition. Civic Democratic deputy Jiri Payne that the measure would allow hundreds of thousands of Sudeten Germans who left Czechoslovakia after 1948 to return. Government deputies accused him of scaremongering.

Majority of Czechs think opposition agreement is meaningless

In a new opinion poll carried out by the STEM agency, almost fifty percent of Czechs believe that the opposition agreement made between the ruling Social Democrats and the Civic Democrats is meaningless. The agreement means that the centre-right Civic Democrats support the minority centre-left government in certain issues and will not support as vote of no confidence in the government. Sixty three percent of those asked think that the agreement is an attempt to get rid of the smaller parliamentary parties. Over fifty percent of Czechs asked, however, consider that the opposition agreement was the most workable solution available after the 1998 general elections left the Social Democrats as the largest party in parliament, but far short of a majority.

Argentine president cancels visit to the Czech Republic

The president of Argentina, Carlos Menem, has cancelled a two-day state visit to the Czech Republic that was due to take place from July thirteenth to the fifteenth. The news was announced on Friday by President Vaclav Havel's office. No reason was provided to for the cancellation. Argentine officials were not available for comment on Friday.

Five Roma apply for political asylum in Finland

Five Roma from the Czech Republic have applied for political asylum in Finland.. The five Roma, who are all women and children, flew to Helinski from Prague on Finnish Airlines, and their claim for asylum is being verified. Finnish authorities are now concerned that there may be an influx of Czech Roma into the country, following a wave of Slovak Roma applying for asylum over the past few weeks. Finland has now introduced visa requirements for Slovakia, but there are still no restrictions for holders of Czech passports.

Deputy Prime Minister Merltlik claims disputes with Trade Minister Gregr holding up revitalisation programme

Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Mertlik has claimed that disputes with the Minister of Trade and Industry, Miroslav Gregr, have delayed the government's revitalisation programme, which has been created to save some of the Czech Republic's largest ailing companies. If it weren't for these disputes, which are over the running of the programme, Mertlik claims, then the process of revitalisation could already have been underway at this point.

Czech prisons overcrowded

The Czech Republic's prison service has stated that Czech prisons are suffering from overcrowding. The current level of people service serving prison sentences exceeds the country's prison capacity by twenty percent. The situation is at its worst in the prison in Brno, where the current level of prisoners is double the facility's official capacity.

Czech businessmen urged to be active for Balkan renewal

Finance Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil has urged Czech businessmen who are interested in participating in renewal work in the Balkans to start working out business plans and to make contacts with businesses from the European Union. They should also look for opportunities in individual towns and regions in Yugoslavia. Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has apparently obtained offers from Norway, Italy and Greece for joint ventures. Due to a lack of funds and competitiveness in the Czech Republic, joint ventures are one of the ways that Czech companies can participate in renewal.

And finally the weather.

The forecast for Sunday is overcast skies with a possible rain showers and thunder storms later on. And that was the news.