News Sunday, MARCH 05th, 2000

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

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

Prime Minister Zeman promises cabinet reshuffle

Prime Minister Milos Zeman is expected to announce the country's biggest cabinet reshuffle since the last elections within the next 24 hours. The Prime Minister promised to replace four ministers within 48 hours on Friday evening, after the Lower House of Parliament approved the 2000 state budget. The budget's approval was made possible by votes from the opposition Civic Democrats who demanded a cabinet reshuffle in return, as part of an agreement between the two parties. This was the budget's third draft and the spending plan projects a deficit of 35 billion crowns, approximately 1 billion US dollars.

Reactions to 2000 budget

Prime Minister Zeman and leader of the main opposition Civic Democrats Vaclav Klaus expressed satisfaction with the budget's approval, welcoming the end of the provisional budget. Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik was also satisfied calling the budget a reasonable compromise which would allow the government to satisfy the main points of its program. But members of smaller right-of-centre opposition parties in parliament have criticized the budgetary policy of the government, saying it will lead to high indebtedness. And economic analysts, have warned that the government should now concentrate on preparing the budget for next year and planning long-overdue fiscal reforms.

Czech Republic to near end of EU negotiations by 2001

The Czech Republic should by the end of 2001 be nearing the end of its accession negotiations with the European Union, according to the country´s chief negotiator with the EU Pavel Telicka. Telicka told the audience of an international economic conference in Prague on Saturday that he expects the remaining six chapters of negotiations to be opened early next year, followed shortly by a list of the main problematic issues requiring transitional periods. Telicka stressed that the Czech Republic´s date for entry into the EU will depend on its efforts as well as the European Union´s own plans of internal reform. The European Commission´s ambassador in Prague Ramiro Cibrian praised the Czech government for accelerating the pace of legislative reform since the Commission´s last report in October 1999.

Czechs attempt to save Jewish cemetery site

The Czech government is to decide whether or not to save a Jewish cemetery site in the centre of Prague by declaring it a cultural landmark. Czech Minister of Culture Pavel Dostal told Reuters news agency on Friday that he would ask the cabinet to declare the site a cultural landmark, which would block the planned construction of a parking lot by local insurance company Ceska Pojistovna. The move follows mounting pressure from Jewish communities around the world to preserve the remains at the site of the 13th century Jewish cemetery, uncovered last year during deeper digging for the planned project. The chief rabbinate of Israel has issued an opinion that the site should remain sacred, with no further construction on it. The Czech government will vote on whether to cancel the project and pay some 20 million US dollars compensation to the company or re-locate the bones to another site, erect a monument, and let the construction continue despite international protest.

Prime Minister Zeman defends his stance on women in politics

Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman speaking in front of 500 women members of his social democratic party at a seminar in Prague on Saturday denied any intentional exclusion of women in his cabinet. 'Positions in the cabinet are awarded regardless of age, weight, height, sex or hair thickness,' said Prime Minister Zeman in his defense. The Prime Minister had been sharply criticized earlier this year for remarks he made about male candidates being more qualified than their female counterparts. In response to this, Social Democrat Member of Parliament Jana Volfova announced in mid-February that she would set up a shadow female cabinet to prove that there were enough capable women worthy of consideration for a ministerial post.


And we end with a brief look at the weather. Sunday should bring mainly cloudy skies with the chance of snow. Temperatures during the day should range from zero to plus four degrees Celsius, dropping to a low of minus five overnight.

I'm Jana Kotalik and that's the end of the news.