News Tuesday, FEBRUARY 22nd, 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.

Govt delegation visits France

A Czech government delegation headed by prime minister Milos Zeman is continuing a visit to France with talks with French state representatives. The talks should focus on the transformation and expansion of the European Union as well as attracting French investors to the Czech Republic. France will take over the EU presidency in July. Together with Germany, France is considered to be the driving force behind European integration.

Former rebel minister considers a come-back

The former foreign minister Josef Zieleniec is considering a return to politics. Zieleniec stood at the breakdown of one of the former governments of prime minister Vaclav Klaus and the division of the Civic Democratic Party. Zieleniec admitted that he might appear on the candidate list of the Freedom Union party for the Senate elections in the Prague constituency.

Czech, Greek foreign ministers to discuss Balkan reconstruction

Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan is meeting his Greek counterpart George Papandreou. The two are expected to sign a memorandum of cooperation for the reconstruction of the Balkans within the framework of the Stability Pact in the region. The Czech Republic and Greece unsuccesfully came up with a peace initiative during the Kosovo conflict.

Kwasnievski visits the Czech Republic

Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski arrived in Prague today to pay a brief visit to the Czech Republic. Kwasniewski is to meet Czech president Vaclav Havel and other high-ranking state officials to discuss European integration and closer relations between countries associated in the Visegrad group, that is Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

WEU-NATO exercise reveals problems on Czech side

The ongoing first joint staff exercise of the West European Union and NATO, CMX/CRISEX 2000, has revealed some problems on the Czech side. Czech Ambassador to NATO Karel Kovanda told reporters that there were problems with communication and connection between the Western European Union and the Czech delegation at NATO, and between the delegation and Prague. Kovanda earlier described the exercise as the most important one that the Czech Republic had attended during its one-year membership of NATO.

Salaries of state officials to be frozen for two years

The government has approved a proposal to freeze the salaries of the country's high-ranking state officials, members of parliament, judges and some other civil servants for two years. The plan was presented by the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Vladimir Spidla. Currently, the salaries of state officials are derived from wages in the public sector while Spidla argues that they should be calculated from the national average.

Czech government to buy National Building in NY

The Czech government has decided to buy the National Building in New York for a symbolic one USD. At the same time, the government will provide more than 6 million USD for reconstruction of the building which is to host the Czech Centre, offices of some investment and trade organisations as well as a museum devoted to composer Antonin Dvorak.

Czech least religious in C-E Europe

Only one fifth of Czechs are convinced that religion plays an important role in human life. This is the smallest number of all Central and East European countries. A recent international opinion poll conducted by the Austrian Fessel-GfK agency suggests that only 18 percent of Czechs believe that religion is important, while the figure is 37 percent in Hungary, almost 50 percent in Slovakia and 76 percent in Poland.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. The weather in Central Europe on Tuesday will be influenced by a high-pressure area from the West. We are expecting a partially cloudy to cloudy day, afternoon highs should hover around zero. The next two days should be much the same, cloudy or partially cloudy with scattered showers, with the highest daytime temperatures slightly above zero.

And that's the end of the news.