News Tuesday, FEBRUARY 01th, 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.

Germany turns back dozens of Romanies

German customs have refused to let a group of Roma cross the German border from the Czech Republic. Some 70 Slovak Romanies were travelling on a regular bus route from Prague to Amsterdam but half of them were turned back by German customs officials. The customs officials said they were acting in accordance with the Schengen Treaty which requires travellers to have a required sum of money per person and day. Czech customs said that this was the latest in a number of cases recently when German customs officials sent back a large group of Romanies after being allowed to cross the Czech side of the border with no dificulties.

Havel got flu

President Vaclav Havel has caught the flu and was taken to hospital on Tuesday. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek told reporters that the president is undergoing medical checks to determine optimum treatment. Havel has been suffering from repeated respiratory diseases in the past years, including several bouts of pneumonia. President Havel was originally to meet representatives of an alliance of four right-of-centre opposition parties on Tuesday to discuss the latest developments on the Czech political scene.

Freedom Union wants to raise retirement age

The right-of-centre Freedom Union party wants to raise the retirement age for men and childless women to 65. It hopes to gain support from the two other right-of-centre parties, the Civic Democrats and Christian Democrats. The minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Vladimir Spidla opposes the plan. However, both experts and politicians across the political spectrum agree that the Czech pension system requires thorough reform. Otherwise it is inevitably heading towards a collapse because of the gradual ageing of the population.

Czech Republic has no ambassador to Moscow

The Czech Republic will have no ambassador in Moscow for the next few weeks. The current ambassador, Lubos Dobrovsky, recently stepped down because of a dispute with the Foreign Ministry and officially leaves the post on February 3rd. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Foreign Minister Jan Kavan had already selected Dobrovsky's successor but he declined to disclose his name, in accordance with the usual diplomatic procedure. There is speculation that the post could be taken by Prague's ambassador to Belgrade, Ivan Busniak.

Havel to visit European Parliament

Czech president Vaclav Havel is to visit the European Parliament in Strasburg in late February. He is to deliver a speech on European integration in the new millennium. This is president Havel's second appearance before the European Parliament. Last year, he presented his idea of a constitution for the European Union and a second chamber of the European Parliament. This year, Havel's address should concern EU internal reforms.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. We're expecting a partially cloudy to cloudy day with scattered showers, afternoon highs should range from 5 to 9 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.