News Tuesday, APRIL 11th, 2000

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Vladimir Tax and here's the news. First the headlines.

These are the main points and now the news in more detail.

Belgium worried about Czech asylum-seekers

Belgium has expressed concern about the growing number of asylum seekers from the Czech Republic. Belgium has done so four days after it introduced entry visas for Slovak citizens for the same reason. The Czech foreign ministry, however, does not expect Belgium to introduce the entry visa requirement for Czech citizens in the near future. Czech ambassador to Belgium Katerina Lukesova was told by the Belgian Foreign Ministry that Prague should "do something" about the growing number of asylum seekers which number rose from 39 in January to 51 in March. Lukesova informed the Belgian authorities of Czech integration policy for the Romany minority who are seeking asylum in Belgium. She pointed out that Belgium was attractive for them since its deadlines for handling asylum applications are very long and financial benefits generous. The Czech government has announced that it will immediately take certain steps to limit the number of Czech asylum seekers in Belgium.

All Czech schools to have access to Internet by 2001

All Czech schools will have access to the Internet by the end of 2001. This is according to a draft state information policy in the education sector which the government has just approved. The draft was produced in response to the EU's Lisbon agreements from late March. Czech Education Minister Eduard Zeman explained that by focusing on information technology, the EU wants to catch up with the United States' leading position in the Internet field. Minister Zeman said that in some aspects, the Czech Republic will be lagging about one year behind the most advanced countries, but in general parameters, the country is going at the same pace as agreed in Lisbon.

Unemployment down in March

The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic fell to 9.5 percent in March. This comes as a surprise because analysts expected a mild increase. The number of jobless people now stands at just under half a million. The lowest unemployment rate - around 3 percent - was in the capital Prague and surrounding regions, while several heavily industrialised Northern regions report unemployment of around 20 percent. The positive development is due to a slight economic recovery and seasonal jobs in agriculture and construction. Experts expect the unemployment rate to start rising again in the second half of the year.

Head of WEU military staff visits Czech Republic

The head of the Western European Union military staff, Jean Maria Viriot, and the Czech army chief-of-staff Jiri Sedivy met to discuss the possible position of the Czech army within Western European Union forces. The Czech Republic is a member of NATO but not the Western European Union. The Western European Union decided in March to transform itself into a European security and defence assembly.

Supplementary pension insurance approved

The new system will enable employers to sign up for pension insurance funds to which both employers and employees will contribute. The funds will then be used as a supplement to compulsory old-age pension insurance organised by the state. Although the funds will be established by companies and firms, they will be independent. The labour and social affairs minister Vladimir Spidla has been charged with producing a bill on employee pension funds and submitting it by the end of this year.

Y-on-y Czech inflation gets closer to 4 pct

Year-on-year Czech inflation in March accelerated to 3.8 percent from 3.7 in the previous month. The so-called net inflation stagnated. The Czech Statistical Office attributed the development to a steep rise in fuel prices which was partly compensated for by a decrease in the categories of food, beverages, clothing and leisure. According to Czech National Bank board member, Miroslav Hrncir, the results testify to a stabilisation of the inflation rate at a low level, which is a positive trend.

President pardons heroin smuggler

Czech president Vaclav Havel has pardoned a national of Cameroon who had served a three-year prison sentence for smuggling heroin from the Czech Republic. The man was to be expelled from the country. According to the presidential office, the man deserved the pardon since while in prison he had put his trust in God and changed his values and also because his life would be in danger if he were forced to return to Cameroon. He was arrested three years ago when he tried to smuggle half a kilogram of heroin out of the Czech Republic on an international express train. The man has already served the full prison sentence.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. Weather in the Czech Republic on Tuesday will be influenced by a low-pressure area. We are expecting a partially cloudy to cloudy day with scattered showers, especially in Eastern parts of the country. Afternoon highs should range from 11 to 15 degrees Celsius. And a brief outlook for the next two days: it should be cloudy with occasional showers, with highest daytme temperatures around 15 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.