News Thursday, OCTOBER 22nd, 1998

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

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

Havel - visit

President Vaclav Havel spent the third day of his state visit to Great Britain in Scotland. At a special ceremony at Glasgow University the president was awarded an honorary doctorate for his contribution to freedom and democracy in Central and Eastern Europe. In the evening the Czech president and first lady had dinner with Prince Charles. On Thursday President Havel is expected at Oxford University where he is to receive an honorary law degree.

Farming sector - crisis

The Czech farming sector is said to be facing a serious crisis, threatened by heavily subsidized agrarian imports. According to Jan Veleba, chairman of the Agrarian Party, unless action is taken immediately 25 to 30 % of Czech farmers will almost certainly go bankrupt by next spring. Veleba told the media that the Czech Chamber of Agriculture was compiling a report which would be discussed at next week's meeting with Prime Minister Zeman adding that although farmers wanted an amicable settlement, they might resort to various protest actions if the problem was not addressed adequately. In this connection a press spokeswoman for the agriculture ministry told the ctk newsagency that the Czech Republic had a significantly lower level of tax protection against cheap agrarian imports than the majority of EU member states.

Foot dragging on EU requirements

Several Czech Lower House deputies have admitted that the country has fallen behind in meeting this year's goals for European Union accession, justifying recent criticism from visiting representatives of the European commission. Freedom Union deputy Michal Lobkowicz said that the Czech Republic was lagging behind in various spheres, most notably in the planned restructuring of the financial sector and the judiciary. He expressed the hope that Zeman's Cabinet would remedy the situation although he noted that it was in a difficult position since it was dependant on what he termed "the Eurosceptic Civic Democratic Party".

Premiers' meeting

The premiers of the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary have been holding talks in Budapest, assessing multilateral cooperation within the Visegrad group of states. Also high on the agenda was the process of achieving EU and NATO compatibility, which is becoming increasingly coordinated. The three countries heads of government likewise discussed the situation in Slovakia following the recent general elections and means of developing closer cooperation with that country.

Banking Conference

A conference entitled Czech Finances and Banking ended in Prague on Wednesday. Experts present welcomed the fact that the privatization of the three remaining state-owned banks would in effect conclude the overall privatization process in the Czech Republic, and hopefully bring greater efficiency to the Czech banking sector. Several speakers pointed out the need to effect changes to the legislature and judiciary which would give creditors more leverage in calling in long- standing debts.

New US ambassador

The US Senate on Wednesday confirmed a score of President Clinton's foreign policy nominees including the new ambassador to the Czech Republic John Shattuck. Shattuck, US Assistant Secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labour, was involved in the negotiation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in Bosnia. He also played a role in establishing international criminal tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The new ambassador is expected to take up his post in Prague within a few weeks.

Czech culture in Sweden

Czech culture is currently getting a lot of promotion in Stockholm, Sweden. Following the Central European film festival, attended among others by Oscar winning film director Jiri Menzel, an exposition of the works of Alfons Mucha and Frantisek Bilek is now open at Stockholm's Museum of History, as well as a retrospective exhibition of the work of Josef Svoboda, a well known scenographer and founder of Laterna Magika . More information is available at the Czech culture centre in Stockholm.

Eagle fights for its life

An eagle who was shot and badly wounded during a weekend of hunting is fighting for his life at the Liberec Zoo. The eagle is a protected species on Czech territory and vets are doing their utmost to save the bird's life. Even so, there is not a great deal of hope since the eagle's body was torn by a vast number of bullets. Police are investigating the incident.

And finally the weather for Thursday, October 22nd : morning fog is expected to give way to partly cloudy skies and occasional drizzle. Day temps between 12 and 16 degs C.