News Thursday, NOVEMBER 25th, 1999

Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. I'm Nick Carey and this is the news. First, a look at the headlines.

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

British Home Secretary welcomes news of Maticni Street Wall

The British Home Secretary, Jack Straw, has praised the removal of the Maticni Maticni Street wall in Usti nad Labem. The wall was built in October between Czech and Roma housing estates, and has been widely criticised as a breach of human rights. The wall was dismantled and removed in the early hours of Wednesday, and the local council will buy up the houses of the Czech residents who want to move out. Mr. Straw expressed his pleasure at the news and that a solution to the problems of the Roma should be found as soon as possible. Failure to do so, he said, could hinder the Czech Republic's accession to the European Union. The head of Council of Europe, Walter Schwimmer, welcomed the move on Wednesday, and repeated his offer to the mayor of Usti nad Labem that the Council of Europe is prepared to provide support for social programmes in the area. And the European Commissioner for Expansion, Gunter Verheugen also announced that the news was welcome, as he said it will strengthen the reputation of the Czech Republic as concerns human rights.

Judge puts former finance minister and his advisor on remand

A Prague regional court ordered that former Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda and his advisor Barbora Snopkova be held on remand pending their upcoming trial. This was undertaken on the recommendation of the state prosecutor's office. Svoboda and Snopkova are accused of asset stripping the now bankrupt pram manufacturer Liberta of over six million Czech Crowns. Svoboda was forced to resign as Finance Minister by Prime Minister Milos Zeman in July after charges were filed against him by the police. Snopkova resigned when news of the affair broke in March of this year. Svoboda and Snopkova were arrested on Tuesday after a lengthy police investigation. The state prosecutor's office wants to keep both of them on remand for fear that they might try to interfere with witnesses. There was also concern that Svoboda might try to flee to avoid facing trial.

Budget committee calls of budget discussions

The parliamentary budget committee called off discussions on the government's revised budget proposal for the year 2000. The original budget proposal was rejected by parliament last month and the government was given one month in which to come up with a new one. The new proposal was presented to the committee last week. The opposition centre-right Civic Democratic Party and the Freedom Union, also centre-right, refused to approve the proposal, and so it failed to pass through the budget committee. The government now has a limited amount of time to persuade the remaining parties in parliament, the Communists and the centre-right Christian Democrats to support them. Without the aid of these two parties, the budget will not make it through parliament.

Czechs and Slovaks sign property deal

Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and his Slovak counterpart Mikulas Dzurinda signed an agreement on Wednesday on the division of property that has been disputed since the split of Czechoslovakia at the end of 1992. The deal means that the Slovaks will hand over their share in the Czech Republic's Komercni Banka, and the Czechs will hand over their stake in Slovakia's Vseobecna Uverova Banka. Both prime ministers agreed that the stake in Komercni Banka is worth more than that of the Slovak bank, but that no further financial settlement will be made. The Czech government has also bought up a disputed twenty five billion Czech Crown Slovak debt for one Czech Crown and will return four and a half tonnes of gold to Slovakia. The agreement will now have to be ratified by the parliaments of both countries.

Faith in government reaches new low

In a new opinion poll released by the IVVM public opinion institute, faith in the Social Democrat government has dropped to nineteen percent, which is a new record low for the government and is twenty five percent lower than when they came to power in June 1998. Almost eighty percent of people asked said that they had no faith in the government. The lower house of deputies has also reached a new low, with seventeen percent of the population expressing saying they believe in it. Support for the Senate, however, which has never been very popular, has increased by one point to thirteen percent. On a related note, Sofres-Factum released figures for voter preference today. The opposition Civic Democrats are still in first place with almost twenty one percent, the Communist Party is catching up in second place with almost eighteen percent, while the ruling Social Democrats are back in third place with fifteen percent.

And on a lighter note, citizens of Prague will be able to see a massive condom walking around Wenceslas Square next week to promote AIDS awareness. The giant prophylactic will hand out leaflets about the disease and smaller versions of itself for human consumption. Should be fun for all the family.

And finally the weather. The weather today should be fairly unpleasant with cloudy skies, with the possibility of snow showers or freezing drizzle in places. Maximum temperatures should reach five degrees centigrade. And that was the news.