News Thursday, MAY 21st, 1998

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Radio Prague E-news date: May 21th, 1998

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm DL and we begin with a look at the main newsstories this hour

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

Pensioners fight back

The Pensioners' party is planning to sue Czech justice minister Vlasta Parkanova for derogatory remarks she made about them on a recent TV debate. Minister Parkanova called the party, which has shot up in popularity ratings, "extremist" and suggested they would present a threat to the country's economy and social stability if elected to government and parliament posts. Although the party's new status indicates that it could be a future coalition partner it is being shunned by all right of centre parties and many left-of-centre politicians are also highly sceptical about its potential ability to govern.

Kocarnik not to face charges

Former finance minister Ivan Kocarnik will not be facing charges of abuse of power. Parliament on Wednesday overturned an initiative to strip him of parliamentary immunity in connection with his 1995 decision to provide Ceska Sporitelna with a 4.1 billion crown guarantee to cover a bad loan it had made to AB Banka. Kocarnik allegedly made the decision without consulting Cabinet. The former minister has pronounced himself to be outraged by the attack against his integrity, calling it"base election tactics". On the other hand, ODS deputy Jiri Payne is to be stripped of his immunity, opening the way for criminal charges in connection with a serious traffic accident which he caused earlier this year. Payne has taken the motion with good grace, saying immunity for mps should only cover political activities.

Farmers' protest

Some 5,000 Czech farmers on Wednesday travelled to Prague to demonstrate for better living and working conditions in the countryside. After laying a wreath at the equestrian statue of St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of the nation, they assembled on Old Town Square for an hour's protest mid-day. Their demands include more government subsidies , equal accession to Western markets, lower taxes and well-functioning labour courts. As one of the organizers of the event told the ctk, after Saturday's riot the demonstrators ruled out the idea of bringing livestock to Prague. Police report the demonstration ended without incident.

New law to prevent leaks

Parliament has approved a law on the protection of secret information. The legislation is considered long overdue, not only in view of a series of embarrassing information leaks from the military and intelligence service, but also with regard to the Czech Republic's projected admission to NATO.

Romanies want security

The minister in charge of minorities' issues, Vladimir Mlynar, on Wednesday met with a delegation of Romanies from Orlova, Moravia, after another racially motivated attack resulting in death. Local Romanies who had been threatening a vendetta, made several demands which minister Mlynar promised to put to Cabinet at its next session. They include adequate protection for Romany families living in so- called high-risk areas and a proper campaign against racism and xenophobia. Mlynar said later he had explained the government was not in a position to ban either skinheads or the Republican party.

Illegal migrants

In the early morning hours of Wednesday Czech border police detained a group of 59 illegal migrants attempting to cross the Czech-Slovak border. The group was made up largely of refugees from Kosovo and Vietnam, and included seven young children. All are to return to Slovakia. The traffickers managed to escape. According to a police spokesman 200 illegal migrants have been detained in the act of crossing the border in the first four months of this year, but the number of those who make it across the border undetected is believed to be several times higher.

And finally - a look at the weather :

Due to a cold front moving in from the north, Thursday is expected to be overcast and rainy across most of the country. Day temp between 17 and 21 degs C. Nighttime lows between 10 and 6 degs.