News Tuesday, DECEMBER 01th, 1998

Hello and welcome to RP. I'm VT and here's the news. First the headlines.

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

Pig row

The European Commission has agreed to another round of consultations with the Czech cabinet about the issue of pigmeat imports, after the Czech side promised to postpone an increase of the preferential import tariffs. This is the outcome of a meeting between Czech agriculture minister Jan Fencl and EU commissionaire Franz Fischler. Czech farmers claim that imports of subsidized pork from the EU have pushed down prices and caused them losses. The government therefore decided to increase the preferential customs duties on pork imported from the EU.

Cabinet halts privatisation of health facilities

The cabinet has decided to stop the privatisation of health facilities until the end of April 1999. Health Minister Ivan David said that the Ministry had lost control over the ownership structure of health facilities and wanted to assess the current situation. He assured journalists that the cabinet's step did not mean that privatisation would not continue.

CSSD wants to return all church property

The ruling Social Democratic party agrees with full restitution of church property, but not in this election term. The Social Democratic Party's commission for churches and religious communities also invited representatives of the churches concerned to cooperate. The commission said that three officials were invited: spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference Daniel Herman, pro-dean of the Evangelical Theological College Jakub Trojan, and chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities Tomas Kraus.

Lower house to discuss tax bills

After a four-day break, the lower house of the Czech parliament continues its session today. The Chamber is expected to vote on amendments to tax laws which would increase the consumer tax rates and shorten the depreciation periods. The lower house will also discuss a new draft of a law on lotteries. The current one bans foreign subjects from organizing lotteries in the Czech Republic, and has been found to be in violation of the EU association agreement.

Roithova sacked from Vinohrady University Hospital

Health Minister Ivan David has dismissed the head of Prague's Vinohrady University Hospital, Zuzana Roithova, effective immediately. Roithova has five days to submit all documents relating to her tenure at Vinohrady to the Health Ministry. Roithova, a former health minister who was recently elected a senator for the right-wing four-party coalition, told CTK that she had not received any explanation from the ministry as to why she had been dismissed.

Czech Army helicopter unit to remain in Bosnia

A Czech helicopter unit will remain part of the multinational SFOR peacekeeping force in Bosnia-Herzegovina, despite a recent series of accidents, Czech Air Force commander Ladislav Klima told reporters. Klima made the announcement following a meeting with Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy and Czech Army chief of staff Jiri Sedivy. After the crash of an Mi-17 helicopter in Western Bosnia in October, there is now only one aircraft of this type active in the Czech Air Force. Another Mi- 17 is currently being repaired and will be ready to fly to Bosnia in January 1999.

Zeman rejects rumours about UDV

Premier Milos Zeman has rejected rumours that the government wants to close the Bureau for Investigation and Documentation of Communist Crimes. Zeman said that since the body was established, it had achieved almost nothing and added that the government actually wanted it to start working properly. In Zeman's opinion, it is incredible that traitors and those involved in the so-called normalisation period of the 1970's are still free. Zeman rejected claims by Civic Democrat MP Marek Benda, son of former head of the office Vaclav Benda, that the Interior Ministry was planning to close the Bureau for Investigation and Documentation of Communist Crimes.

Plzensky Prazdroj increases prices as of Dec 1, 1998

The biggest Czech brewery, Pilsner Urquell, has announced an increase in beer prices as of December 1st, an average of 7-8 percent. Among the main reasons cited by the brewery for the price hike were an increase in input costs, and lower prices in comparison with competition.

Czech weather forecast

And finally, a quick look at the weather. We are expecting a mostly cloudy day with occasional snow showers. The highest daytime temperatures should not exceed one degree Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.