News Tuesday, AUGUST 10th, 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.

Government may decide on introduction of visas for Russians

The government may decide to introduce entry visas for Russians and nationals of some other eastern states by the end of this year, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan told Frekvence 1 radio station. Kavan admitted that by the end of the year, the government may reach an agreement on a timetable of steps leading to the introduction of visa requirements for Russia and possibly some other states of the former Soviet Union. He added that the issue was highly delicate, as the Czech Republic must fulfill the EU's Schengen agreements - that means that it has to introduce these visas. On the other hand, the Czech Republic has important economic interests in the region and the imposition of visas will be reciprocated, minister Kavan pointed out.

Advertisement for sale of KB published

The government has published an advertisement seeking a strategic partner for Komercni banka, one of the two remaining state-onwed banks in the Czech Republic. The advertisement was published today in the FINANCIAL TIMES and the Czech business daily HOSPODARSKE NOVINY. The advertisment, signed by Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik and the chairman of the National Property Fund executive committee Michal Hruby, calls for international investors to express their interest in acquiring a strategic share of Komercni banka's base capital. The state holds a 48.7-percent stake in the bank. Last week, the government decided to clean up Komercni banka's loan portfolio.

Unemployment record high

The number of jobless in the Czech Republic has again reached a record high. In July, unemployment reached 8.8 percent, up from 8.4 percent in June. The unexpectedly high increase is due to seasonal factors, such as the influx of school graduates to the labour market, but also due to the bad situation in industry. While school graduates did not wait till September as usual but registered themselves at labour offices at the beginning of summer, many companies have been forced to lay off some employees due to a decrease in production. Analysts expect unemployment to reach 10 percent by the end of the year.

Number of courtrooms to rise as part of judiciary reform

The planned reform of the Czech justice system will include an increase in the number of courtrooms, Justice Minister Otakar Motejl told reporters. However, the number of judges is unlikely to rise significantly as part of the planned reform. The goal is to provide every judge with his or her own courtroom in the field of criminal law. In the field of commercial and civil law, every judge should share a room with only one colleague, minister Motejl said. The Justice Ministry plans to erect new law courts in the future, he added. In some courts in the Czech Republic, a judge has a courtroom at his or her disposal only once in a week. Motejl stressed that such situation is not sustainable, because the length of court proceedings must not depend on the availability of courtrooms.

Inflation record low

The Czech Republic has recorded the lowest ever inflation rate. The Consumer Price Index in July rose by 0.8 percent from June and year-on-year inflation was 1.1 percent. The so-called net inflation rate remained at the same level as in the previous month and the year-on-year change was -0.5 percent. The Czech Statistical Office said that the 1.1 percent year-on-year inflation is the lowest figure since 1990. It was due to a consolidation of the price level in the second half of 1998, and less administrative interventions in January and July this year.

FinMin wants to postpone lifting of price regulation

The Finance Ministry wants to postpone the lifting of energy price regulation until the beginning of next year. According to ministry spokesman Libor Vacek, the reasons are technical rather than political. The price of electricity for households was to be increased as of October 1st, but the ministries of trade and industry and finance were not able to reach an agreement. The state has been gradually lifting the price ceiling on electricity for households and regulation should be completely removed by the year 2002. This policy is forcing energy producers to charge companies higher prices to compensate for the regulated price for individuals.

Czechs more satisfied with NATO

The number of Czech citizens satisfied with their country's membership in NATO has risen by five percent over the past month to 50 percent. This according to a recent opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research. 39 percent of those asked were negative about the Czech membership of the Alliance, which is two percent less than in June. The Institute attributes the increasing satisfaction with the end of the military conflict in Kosovo.

Government reshuffle in Russia not to influence relations

The latest government reshuffle in Russia is not expected to influence Czech-Russian diplomatic relations, Monika Pajerova of the Czech foreign ministry told Radio Prague. She added that the ministry was following the situation closely. President Yeltsin removed prime minister Sergey Stepashin on Monday after just three months in office and replaced him with the director of the Federal Security Service Vladimir Putin.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. On Tuesday, weather in the Czech Republic will be influenced by a band of low pressure. We are expecting a mostly cloudy day with scattered showers and the chance of thunderstorms, afternoon highs should range from 23 to 27 degrees Celsius. And a brief outlook for Wednesday and Thursday: a cold front will be moving across Central Europe, bringing cloudy and rainy weather. The highest daytime temperatures should hover around 20 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.