News Thursday, NOVEMBER 19th, 1998

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Welcome to RP. Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail read by DL

Jospin - visit

French premier Lionel Jospin who is in the Czech Republic on two day official visit, is due to meet with President Havel and leading government representatives. However he will start his first full day in Prague at the Savoy where he is due to have an informal breakfast with leading Czech businessmen and entrepreneurs . The French prime minister heads a large French delegation to Prague, including foreign minister Hubert Vedrin and defense minister Alain Richard. Last night the French premier met with representatives of the French community in Prague and attended a dinner given in his honour by prime minister Milos Zeman.

Telecom - boycott

Close to one thousand Internet servers went out of operation for the entire day on Wednesday in protest of planned price hikes by monopoly state operator Telecom. Telecom, which has a monopoly up until the year 2,000 has announced 60% price hikes on all local calls as of January 1st -a move which many experts say would leave thousands of Internet users out of the action. Attempts to get Telecom to introduce a two rate system in which voice and data lines would have different fee structures have not so far proved successful. A demonstration took place in Prague, as part of the day-long protest action, and many Telecom clients joined the boycott by keeping local calls down to a minimum. A petition against the price hikes has been signed by over 100 thousand people.

Telecom - government

The Czech government, which joined the Internet boycott and expressed support for the protest actions, is considering what is to be done about the matter. Telecommunications minister Antonin Peltram has suggested finding a means to revise the agreement which guarantees Telecom its monopoly position up until the year 2,000. Although the state has 51% shares in the company it claims to have little influence on management since its strategic partner in the company , TelSource, has a 60% representation on the executive board. According to Peltram the state as the main shareholder could act to change this balance of power but not until the next shareholders' meeting which has been scheduled for December.

GSP-Czech

The recently approved US law on the federal budget renews the General System of Preferences for Czech exporters. The GSP preference system , established in 1976 enables 140 states to export 4,400 commodities to the United States on a tax-free basis.

Its renewal was backdated by the US authorities, as taking effect on July 1st 1998, which means that Czech exporters who have paid steep tariffs in the past four months will now be able to get their tax money reimbursed. The Czech Republic has enjoyed the advantages of GSP since 1991, and the tax-free system covers almost 50% of Czech exports to the United States.

Czech airbus- trouble

CSA officials have now revealed what happened on board the Czech airbus, which ran into trouble on a regular, non-stop Prague -New York flight and was forced to land in the Canadian province of Newfoundland for repair work. The airlines' spokesman said that due to a faulty air condition valve the pressure in the cabin dropped significantly, bringing down emergency oxygen masks. He described it as a minor technical problem which was quickly repaired on the stop over in Gander.

Havel steps in to make peace

President Havel will attempt to put negotiations between the government and the Church back on track next Monday. Following an hour long meeting with Cardinal Miloslav Vlk the President said he was inviting representatives of the State and the Church to Lany Chateau next week to try and renew talks. They were broken off last week after the two sides traded recriminations, and prime minister Zeman demanded a public apology from the Cardinal for having said the Church had no confidence in the present Cabinet.

Finally a look at the weather : Thursday is expected to be another crisp and frosty day with morning temps at around zero, afternoon highs at around 5 degs. Nighttime lows will dip to minus 6 degs C.