News Tuesday, APRIL 27th, 1999

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.

Havel criticizes government because of Kosovo

President Havel has criticized the government for its stance concerning the NATO operation in Yugoslavia. He said the government's announcement that it would not allow Czech troops to participate in a possible ground operation in Yugoslavia, tarnished the international image of the Czech Republic. From the point of view of the future of the Czech Republic, Havel said he considered it very embarrasing to hear the Czech Republic state it will not take part even before a ground operation is approved and the Czech Republic is invited to participate.

Havel was reacting to premier Milos Zeman who had said that the whole cabinet was strongly opposed to the idea of sending Czech troops to a possible NATO ground operation in Yugoslavia. Zeman, who on Monday attended a Parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe in Strassbourg, said that the Czech government saw no reason for Czech ground forces taking part in a possible military operation and that it favoured a political solution.

Information about NATO convoys to be kept secret

The foreign and defence ministries have agreed not to provide information in advance about transports of military material through the Czech Republic. They said that in order to ensure a smooth passage of NATO convoys, they would provide information afterwards, not beforehand.

The foreign ministry also said that it had not received any request from NATO for transit of military equipment through the Czech Republic and has no information that any such transit will take place over the next few days. The Czech Railways also denied it had any notification of any such transit from NATO. However, according to unofficial information obtained by the CTK news agency, Czech railways have already planned possible routes for NATO military transits but for security reasons, these routes are being kept secret.

NATO summit conclusions weak - Klaus

The speaker of the Czech Chamber of Deputies Vaclav Klaus considers the conclusion of the NATO summit in Washington concerning the Kosovo conflict rather wishy-washy. The weekend summit decided to intensify air strikes on Yugoslavia and impose an oil embargo on the country in order to make President Slobodan Milosevic comply with Brussels' conditions. Klaus said that such an opinion could have been voiced by a meeting of deputy foreign ministers of NATO member countries. "The outcome is relatively meagre for a summit held after fifty years of NATO's existence," Klaus told reporters. Vaclav Klaus, head of the senior opposition Civic Democratic Party and Czech ex-premier, is known for his sceptical view of the NATO action in Yugoslavia. He attended the NATO summit, though not as a member of the official Czech delegation.

KDU-CSL unwilling to cooperate with Social Democrats - Holan

The opposition Christian Democrats are not willing to closely cooperate with the ruling Social Democrats because of their minority government's poor performance and its lax preparations for European integration. Christian Democrat deputy leader Vilem Holan stressed that the Social Democrats' policy was based on different principles than Christian Democratic ideas, but he added that cooperation with the main opposition Civic Democratic Party would also bring the Christian Democrats great problems. Holan criticised the right-of-center Civic Democrats for their negative stance towards the Czech Republic's entry to the European Union and NATO and for their inability to define precisely the values to which they adhered to.

Finance ministry admits deeper economic decline

The finance ministry has published a revised economic outlook for this year. It admits that the state budget deficit could reach 40 billion crowns this year, instead of the planned 31 billion. The overall public-sector deficit should reach nearly 4 percent of GDP. However, some analysts predict that the state budget deficit in 1999 could reach as much as 80 to 90 billion Czech crowns. The ministry has also revised its GDP growth figure for 1999 from -0.2 percent to -0.8 percent, its unemployment prediction from 9.5 percent to almost 11, and the expected inflation rate from 5 percent to 3.6 percent. Minister Svoboda also said that there is room for an interest-rate cut to as low as 6 percent.

Dreyer: EU criteria top priority

The Czech Republic must regard the EU accession criteria as a top priority. This according to Ralph Dreyer, a high official of the European delegation to the Czech Republic. Dreyer said on Monday in Prague that the Czech Republic had not accelerated its preparations, and warned that the country may not be able to compensate for all shortcomings in time. Dreyer stressed that one of the main problems was poor restructuralisation which is a result of the unsuccessful privatisation process. Another area where the Czech Republic is lagging behind is harmonisation of its legislation and adoption of the Acquis. He further criticized the Czech legal system for being slow in dealing with bankruptcy cases and providing inadequate protection for creditors.

Zeman's cabinet losing credibility

The Czech Social Democratic cabinet is losing credibility in the eyes of the public. According to the latest opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research, only 31 percent of those asked saw the minority government as credible - 13 percent less than in September. In March, 66 percent of poll respondents said they distrusted the cabinet, while a month earlier, it was 60 percent. On the other hand, the credibility of the other state bodies remains almost unchanged.

Czech weather report

And finally, a brief look at the weather. We are expecting a mostly cloudy day with scattered showers, afternoon highs should range from 15 to 19 degrees Celsius. Wednesday and Thursday should also be rather cloudy with occasional shower, and highest daytime temperatures up to 20 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.