News Thursday, FEBRUARY 10th, 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.

Further cabinet changes may be slow in coming

Shortly after Bohumil Fiser was named the new Czech Health Minister on Wednesday, presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek told journalists that further personnel changes in the cabinet may take weeks or even months. Deputy chairman of the ruling Social Democrats Zdenek Skromach reacted by saying that the President is stalling the cabinet reshuffle because of his disagreement with planned constitutional amendments and with the opposition agreement linking the country's two main parties. Member of Parliament for the opposition Civic Democrats Vlatimil Tlusty has said that the reshuffle should take place as quickly as possible. Prime Minister Milos Zeman has promised the opposition Civic Democrats a cabinet reshuffle in exchange for their approval of the state budget for 2000, and earlier this week he told President Vaclav Havel he planned on changing a total of 5 members of his cabinet.

Speculations on who would go

While the Czech press has named Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich and Regional Development Minister Jaromir Cisar among the most likely to be dismissed from the Cabinet, the two ministers told journalists on Wednesday that Prime Minister Zeman had not discussed their departure with them. Fresh criticism came from Czech political scientists on Wednesday who say that the manner in which the Prime Minister is making personnel changes in the cabinet is nontransparent and incomprehensible for voters.

Government passes legislation to liberalize energy market

The government passed legislation on Wednesday which is to gradually liberalize the energy market by 2007. The new energy law, which sets conditions on gas and electricity companies as well as the state, will bring Czech legislation in the sector into line with that of the European Union. Some critics - including former minister of environment Martin Bursik - have pointed out that the slow tempo of liberalization will mean that Czechs will have to wait seven years to get the better service and lower electricity prices that their European Union neighbours already enjoy.

Demonstration in Prague against Russian policy in Chechnya

About 250 people demonstrated outside the Russian embassy in Prague on Wednesday evening, in protest of Russia's policy in Chechnya. Representatives from the local non-governmental organisations who organized the demonstration read out a memorandum in which they call on Czech politicians to act in an effort to end the war in the breakaway republic and to usher in international observers.

Czech NATO force to receive distinction

Czech NATO troops are to receive distinctions for their service in NATO's peacekeeping operations in Kosovo in a ceremony on Thursday in the North Moravian town of Prostejov. The members of the first Czech contingent in Kosovo will be given distinctions by their NATO superiors for the seven months they spent in the Balkans under British command. Their duties included protecting returning refugees, securing the border between Kosovo and Serbia and overseeing distribution of humanitarian aid.

Czech Republic voices disagreement with EU Commissioner Verheugen over ratification process

The Czech Republic's chief negotiator with the European Union Pavel Telicka has expressed disagreement with EU Commissioner for Enlargement Gunter Verheugen's stance which holds that the process of ratification of candidate countries' accession treaties will begin only after the ratification of the Union's own institutional reforms. Telicka told reporters on Wednesday that he sees no reason - material or legal - that ratification of the treaties in question would have to be successive and not simultaneous. Successive ratification would effectively mean delaying entry for new members, making the Czech target to join the Union by the year 2003 impossible. Hungary - another frontrunner for EU enlargement - has taken a similar stance to the Czech Republic in arguing for a quicker concurrent ratification process.


And we end as usual with a brief look at the weather in the Czech Republic. Thursday should bring mainly cloudy skies with a chance of rain or snow in some areas. Temperatures during the day should range from plus four to plus eight degrees Celsius, dropping to 0 overnight.

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