News Thursday, MAY 18th, 2000

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

Consultations on reform of the judiciary

The right-of-centre Civic Democratic Party and the governing Social Democrats may hold consultations on the reform of the judiciary after Parliament rejected two crucial pieces of legislation which were seen as being central to planned reforms intended to bring the Czech Republic in line with EU norms.

Although the governing Social Democrats backed their minister unanimously the opposition voted against the bills en block. Ivan Langer, a leading Civic Democratic Party representative said his party was seriously interested in seeing the justice sector reformed and that two-party consultations might help to clear up some of the problems involved. Meanwhile, in his own assessment of the situation , Justice Minister Otakar Motejl said that as the only non-party member in Cabinet he had seriously underestimated the importance of lobbying.

Austria promises Czechs full compensation

Austria has agreed to give Czech ex-Nazi slave labourers full compensation. This was confirmed following a conference in Vienna on Wednesday at which all the countries whose nationals had filed for war compensation were represented. In the Czech Republic this concerns some 19,000 people who are to receive approximately 35 thousand schillings each. Initially Austria attempted to negotiate a smaller compensation package for Czech nationals saying they had received better treatment than for instance Poles had.

Buzkova ready to go to court

Petra Buzkova of the Social Democrats has filed charges against the author of a document intended to discredit her as a politician and a mother. The document which alleges that she abuses her three year old daughter and that she had collaborated with the communist secret service is said to have been copied from a computer belonging to one of Prime Minister Zeman's advisors. Petra Buzkova said that although she normally ignores slander, this matter was too serious to ignore.

Farmers want special privileges

Farmers are demanding special privileges to help them survive the impact of this years' drought. At a press briefing in Prague the head of the Farmers' Union Miroslav Jirovsky pointed out that unless the government lent a helping hand there would be mass bankruptcies in the agricultural sector and the price of re- establishing this area of enterprise would be very high. He said farmers deserved the privilege of lower property tax, a generous policy in settling loan- repayments and a government policy which would curb the import of heavily subsidized Western goods. The government has already made water-supplies for irrigation available free of charge.

Allianz to buy controlling share in IPB

The German insurance company Allianz is to buy a majority stake in the Czech insurance company IPB and a smaller share in the IPB Bank from the Japanese investor Nomura. IPB general director Jan Klacek confirmed the news on Wednesday, saying that Allianz was now conducting an in-depth audit of IPB's finances. The IPB is also holding talks with another potential investor , the Italian UniCredito, which might be interested in acquiring Nomura's remaining shares in the bank.

Pope - birthday

Cardinal Miloslav Vlk is to attend the Pope's 80th birthday celebrations on Thursday, May 18th. A mass attended by over 4,000 top church dignitaries is to be served at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and thousands of pilgrims are expected to congregate at the Vatican to wish the Pope a happy birthday. Tens of thousands of well-wishers are also expected to flock to Wadowice , the Pope's birthplace in Poland.

And we end with a quick look at the weather:

meteorologists are finally promising rain. Thursday should be a much cooler day with overcast skies and rain , possibly hail-storms in places. Day temps between 18 and 22 degs C.