News Thursday, FEBRUARY 18th, 1999

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

Foreign policy strategy approved

The Czech Cabinet has approved the country's long-term foreign policy strategy . In outlining foreign policy goals, the Social Democrat Cabinet accented continuity, with membership in NATO and the EU leading foreign policy priorities. The document likewise underlines the need to strengthen Central European cooperation and work on above- standard relations with Slovakia. The Cabinet also approved a proposed law on dual citizenship rights, which would allow expats who lost their Czechoslovak citizenship between 1948 and 1990 through the so called naturalization act, to apply for Czech citizenship. The bill still requires the approval of both houses of Parliament where it should be discussed within the next few weeks.

New secret service scandal unfolds

The Czech Republic was allegedly slow in removing Slovak nationals from its Secret Service /BIS/ after the break up of the Czechoslovak federation at the beginning of 1993. The disclosure was made by the chairman of the BIS supervisory commission in Parliament Jan Klas amidst allegations that the former left wing government in Slovakia, headed by Vladimir Meciar, had ordered the Slovak Secret Service to launch two programmes aimed at disrupting the Czech Republic and damaging its reputation abroad. One was to have stirred up anti-Roma sentiments, the other opposition to NATO membership. Although Klas told the media he was certain there were no more Slovaks in the Czech Secret Service the ctk newsagency claims that it has reason to believe otherwise. It has not disclosed its sources.

Czech EU negotiator says: work harder

The Czech Republic's chief EU negotiator Pavel Telicka has stressed the need to work harder at making Czech law compatible with EU norms and regulations. He stressed that legislators in both houses of Parliament should not underestimate the importance of assessing proposed legislation from this angle and warned that the state of the country's legislation would be sharply scrutinized in the screening process. According to Telicka progress made in the next few months could be crucial for there was a chance the EU might produce a framework admission plan before the end of this year.

Prague 2,000 - lack of funds

The organizers of "Prague 2,000 - European city of culture" have admitted the need to cut back on the number of cultural events planned due to lack of funds. The Prague 2,000 society, which is singlehandedly responsible for organizing a spectacular celebration of culture in Prague, has said that for 1999 it received only 60 million crowns instead of the promised 200 million from the state. Although the Prague magistrate has promised 250 million from its own budget and there are private sponsors, some of the planned events will have to be scrapped. However the organizers stressed, at a press briefing in Prague Wednesday, that the money shortage would not in any way detract from the quality of the events planned.

Farmers - protest actions

Czech farmers have given the government until March 1st to curb imports of subsidized agrarian produce from EU states warning that protest measures on a national scale would follow if this were not done. One of their spokesmen Jiri Balga told the ctk that after symbolic protest actions had proved ineffective, farmers were prepared to block the entrance to all government buildings in Prague. Imports of subsidized pork and milk are said to be doing the most damage.

Turkish official in Prague

Visiting Turkish foreign minister Ismail Cem is due to meet with leading government and parliament representatives on Thursday. The talks are expected to focus on bilateral cooperation, European integration and the Czech Republic's accession to NATO.

Finally a look at the weather:

Thursday should be partly cloudy to overcast with scattered showers, high wind and day temperatures between minus 4 to zero degrees. Nighttime lows between minus two and minus 6 degs C.