News Thursday, FEBRUARY 03th, 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 let's take a look at the news in more detail:

Privatisation of Ceska Sporitelna

The Czech government has decided to sell its 52 % share in the bank Ceska Sporitelna to Austria's Erste Bank. Czech Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik announced on Wednesday that the government had accepted Erste Bank's bid valued at 19 billion Czech Crowns, approximately 600 million US dollars and the contract should be signed in the next month. Since the government announced its majority stake in the bank was up for sale in April 1999, five banks and two monetary institutions have responded with offers. The Czech Republic has been criticised by the European Union in the past for the slow privatisation of its banking sector.

Czech Republic re-imposes visa regime with Russia, Belarus and Ukraine

The Czech government has decided to reinstate a visa regime with Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, which is to go into effect in May. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan told journalists on Wednesday that the main reason behind the move was the country's attempt to move visa policy closer in line with that of the European Union. Russia, Belarus and Ukraine are expected to react reciprocally, introducing a visa requirement for Czech citizens. Visas are also expected to be applied in the future, according to the Minister Kavan to other states of the former Soviet Union.

Members of supervisory board of Czech TV resign

The chairmen and three members of the supervisory board of Czech TV resigned on Wednesday. The resigning members cited the public's loss of confidence in the board as the reason for their resignation. The supervisory board of Czech TV has come under fire in recent months by television employees, experts and politicians and pressure did not let up after the board's recent decision to elect Dusan Chmelicek as the new executive director. Member of Parliament and chairman of the parliamentary media committee Ivan Langer told the Czech News Agency that the entire board should resign, and not only individual members. The Lower House of Czech Parliament can sack the board if in the course of six months it votes twice that Czech Television is not carrying out its charge as a public service. It is possible that the two required motions can be passed by the Parliament at one session, which would mean a rapid end to the board members' term in office.

Prague cautious about opposition to Haider

The Czech Foreign Ministry is for the time being not changing its foreign policy towards Austria, where the far-right party of Joerg Haider is expected to enter a government coalition. Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on Wednesday that Prague fully understands the position of the 14 members of the European Union of which Austria is a member in threatening to break diplomatic ties with Austria if Haider's Freedom Party enters government but Prague is not for now adding its voice to this official protest. The Austrian Deputy Foreign Minister assured the Czech Foreign Minister at a meeting on Wednesday that Austria's stance towards enlargement of the European Union would not change. Entry into the Union is one of the Czech Republic's main foreign policy goals.

Dienstbier on Croatia

Former Czech Foreign Minister now UN special rapporteur for human rights in former Yugoslavia Jiri Dienstbier has compared the present political environment in Croatia to that prevalent in Czechoslovakia after the Velvet Revolution of 1989. Croatians, like the Czechs and Slovaks in 1989, are excited and full of energy, according to Dienstbier, after the majority of Croatians voted out the authoritarian regime following Franjo Tudjman's death in late 1999. The democratic developments in Croatia should stabilise the entire region, Dienstbier said after his return from the region on Wednesday.


And we end as usual with a quick look at the weather in the Czech Republic. For Friday we can expect partly cloudy skies. Temperatures should be mild, ranging from plus one to plus five degrees Celsius during the day dropping to -6 overnight.

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