News Tuesday, DECEMBER 08th, 1998

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.

Lastovecka out of game

The Supreme court has ruled that the election of Civic Democratic Senator Dagmar Lastovecka is invalid. Lastovecka was one of the Civic Democratic Party's candidates for the post of Senate chairman. President Vaclav Havel now will have to call an additional Senate election in the Brno constituency. The Civic Democrats' main rival, the Social Democrats, had filed a complaint against Lastovecka's election, saying that during a moratorium on election campaigning before the vote, she was featured in some media, including the LIDOVE NOVINY newspaper and public TV.

Shall we see a skinhead exodus?

The cabinet has decided to adopt tighter measures against racism and xenophobia. Premier Milos Zeman said this after he and cabinet members met with president Havel. Zeman repeated his demand that the neo-nazi skinhead movement be outlawed. Zeman said the planned measures included the intelligence service closely monitoring activities of skinhead organisations, an establishment of a special police unit, and making the work of state attorneys and the courts more effective.

No apology to Zilk

Former Vienna mayor Helmut Zilk arrives in the Czech Republic today to meet with president Havel. Havel is expected to clarify the affair that stemmed from an accusation that Zilk was a former Czech communist StB secret police collaborator. Helmut Zilk was to receive the Order of the White Lion, a high Czech distinction, but upon allegations of his collaboration with the StB, president Havel excluded him from the list of those to be honoured. The allegations were investigated by an interior ministry commission and found to be groundless. President Havel however does not intend to apologise to Zilk.

Pork row contd.

Representatives of the Czech agriculture ministry have not come to terms with the European Commission on solving the issue of imports of subsidized pork. After another round of technical consultations on Monday, the two sides only clarified differences in statistical data about imports of pork into the Czech Republic. The Czech deputy agriculture minister Tomas Zidek, who represents the Czech side, said the Commission seemed to understand the Czech situation better after the consultations. Now, the issue has to be discussed by representatives of all EU member states in a committee for pigmeat, which is entitled to lower or completely abolish subsidies on pork exported to the Czech Republic.

US delegation in Prague because of NATO

A delegation from the United States House of Representatives National Security Committee arrives in Prague today for talks with top Czech military officials. One of the main topics on the agenda will be the Czech Republic's readiness to join NATO. The delegation is to meet with deputy defence minister Petr Tax, Czech army chief of staff Jiri Sedivy, and members of the Czech parliament.

Latest statistics

According to data provided by the Czech Statistical Office, the consumer price index in November dropped 0.2 percent as compared to the previous month. The year-on-year inflation rate was down to 7.5 percent from 8.2 in October. Analysts view this development as positive for the economy because it provides room for the Central Bank to further cut the interest rates.

Household incomes down

Household incomes in real terms are lower than they were nine years ago. The Czech statistical office has announced that in 1998, real incomes accounted to less than 97 percent of the level of 1989. Although the average household income has tripled since the Velvet revolution, the consumer price index has risen by almost 330 percent over that period.

Sporitelna CEO deputy removed

The Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Ceska Sporitelna, Kamil Ziegler, has been removed from office. According to the troubled savings bank's spokesman, Pavel Jirousek, Ziegler was responsible for Sporitelna's credit policy. Mr. Ziegler, however, will remain on the bank's board. Ceska Sporitelna is now in a bad situation because of capital inadequacy, and is expecting a loss of over 10 billion crowns at the end of the year.

New UDV director to make personnel changes

The new director of the Bureau for the Investigation of Communist Crimes, Irenej Kratochvil, is planning personnel changes. He said that he would remove all those who are responsible for the current situation of the bureau and who damaged its reputation. Although he did not name anyone, it is widely expected that the current spokesman of the bureau, Tomas Hornof, will lose his job. Mr. Hornof has had differences of opinion with the new interior minister, Vaclav Grulich.

Czech industry goes environmentally friendly

The Czech Republic will need to invest heavily in environmental protection before it joins the European Union, according to Environment minister Milos Kuzvart, Mr. Kuzvart said on Monday, at an environmental business forum held in Prague, that most of an estimated 40 billion crowns will be targeted for low-interest loans to enterprises that need to invest in environmentally friendly technologies. According to the ministry of industry and trade, Czech industry is currently in a worse situation than Britain was before it entered the EU, and it cost that country two percent of industrial turnover to adapt to European standards.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather. We are expecting a mostly cloudy day, afternoon highs should range from 6 to 2 degrees Celsius below zero.

And that's the end of the news.