News Thursday, AUGUST 24th, 2000

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Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Kazi Stastna, and we start the programme with a brief news bulletin. First the headlines:

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

Austrian Foreign Ministry says EU entry not tied to post-war decrees

The Austrian Foreign Ministry has said that the EU membership of the Czech Republic and Slovenia will not be tied to the cancellation of the post-war decrees dictating the expulsion of the ethnic German populations in both countries. The Ministry was reacting to comments made this week by Joerg Haider, leader of the far-right Freedom Party and governor of the Austrian province of Corinthia, who said EU entry should be conditional on removal of the decrees from the respective Constitutions. The Ministry stressed that Austria's ruling coalition of the conservative People's Party and the Freedom Party will still aim to have the decrees, which they say contravene human rights and international laws, annulled but will not tie this aim to candidates' EU entry.

Border-town mayors call for regulated prostitution

The mayors of 25 municipalities on the Czech border have called on the President and both houses of Parliament to speed up legislation and increase municipal powers to enable the regulation of prostitution. The statement was made following a meeting of the mayors held in the Czech-German border town of Cheb, where prostitution is rife. The mayors called for new legislative measures which would restrict prostitution to brothels and specifically designated areas.

Government amends Constitution to change central bank aim

The government has approved the removal of an article of the Constitution defining the main objective of the Czech National Bank as monetary stability. According to the government, the current specification contradicts European Union legislation, which outlines price stability as the central bank's main goal. Under a separate controversial amendment to the central bank law itself, the government also aims to reform other aspects of the Constitution which govern the central bank's board and monetary policy.

Greenpeace calls for Temelin delay due to damaged reactor vessel

The environmental organisation Greenpeace has called on the Czech government to delay the activation of the Temelin nuclear power plant due to an allegedly damaged reactor vessel. In a letter to government representatives, Greenpeace suggests the vessel may have been damaged during repairs conducted in 1994. The call comes on the heels of allegations of safety risks at the plant made this week by German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin. However in its regular progress report, accepted by government this week, the Czech Nuclear Safety Office has declared a sufficient level of nuclear safety and protection against radiation at the plant.

Cabinet approves government's draft law on referenda

The cabinet has approved the government's draft law on referenda, which would allow citizens to vote directly on key domestic and foreign policy issues. Under the new law, proposals for referenda could be submitted to the President by the government, either chamber of Parliament or at least 300,000 citizens by means of a petition. The draft also specifies which questions cannot be voted on by referenda. These include changes to the democratic principles of the state, constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms and international obligations. The draft must now be approved in both chambers of Parliament, where similar proposals on referenda have been rejected on several occasions in the past.

Vice-President of World Bank to meet Czech officials

The vice-president of the World Bank, Mats Karlsson, is set to meet with the chairman of the Lower House, Vaclav Klaus, and the government commissioner supervising the Prague meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Zdenek Hruby. The men will discuss the country's preparations for the September meetings of the financial institutions, which are expected to be accompanied by fervent anti-globalisation protests.

Lower House has rejects President Havel's proposal to change new electoral law

The lower house has rejected President Havel's proposal to throw out some aspects of the new electoral law. In a written statement, the chairman of the lower house, Vaclav Klaus, denied that the new law introduced a majority system which contravened the Constitution. President Havel lodged a complaint with the Constitutional Court in July contesting aspects of the law which he said violated the constitutionally entrenched proportional system. The lower house passed the law on July 10th despite a presidential veto.

German police break up refugee and drug smuggling ring

Police in the German province of Saxony have broken up a criminal ring smuggling refugees and drugs across the Czech-German border. Police are currently investigating some 50 people in connection with the case, including one police officer and one border guard. Some fifteen hundred people are believed to have crossed illegally into Germany with the help of the gang.

Former high-ranking Communist official rejects charges of treason

The former high-ranking Communist official Miroslav Stepan has rejected charges of treason made against representatives of the former Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. Members of the marginal Right Block party have filed a suit against all paid officials of the former Communist Party who held their positions as of 1969. The Right Block representatives accuse the Communist officials of treason on account of their party's support of the invasion of Warsaw Pact forces in August 1968.

Popular Czech Television news anchor Ondrej Gina to stay off the air

Popular Czech Television news anchor Ondrej Gina will not appear on the nightly news until allegations of fraud against him have been cleared. In July, police accused Mr Gina, his wife and his father, a well known Romani rights activist, of unlawfully collecting social benefits. Mr Gina will take an extended holiday and then continue his work for the Czech Television news department but remain off the air until the case is resolved.

Weather

An finally a quick look at Friday's weather forecast. Skies will be clear with occasional clouds. Day temperatures will reach 23 degrees Celsius and drop to lows of 6 degrees at night.