News Tuesday, JANUARY 18th, 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.

Christian Democrats call for discussion on direct presidential elections

The opposition Christian Democratic Party has called for a nation-wide discussion on direct presidential elections in the Czech Republic. Party leader Jan Kasal told journalists that the discussions should start immediately, in order to adopt possible changes before the next presidential election. Kasal argued that since the position of president is privileged, the country's highest representative should be elected directly by the people. Kasal expressed his concern that in the future presidents will only be selected on a political basis by members of parliament and the outcome might not necessarily correspond with the will of the people. The next presidential elections in the Czech Republic are scheduled to take place early in 2003.

Govt to abolish visas for Egyptians

The Czech government has proposed that a mutual entry visa regime with Egypt be abolished. The new agreement would exempt holders of diplomatic and special passports from visa requirements. Egypt is the Czech Republic's most important trading partner of all the Arab nations. The cabinet decided to lift the visa duty shortly before Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan's visit to Egypt.

Four people prosecuted for protest against Chechen war

Four young people are being prosecuted by the police for protesting against the war in Chechnya. The youngsters daubed the entrance to the Russian consulate in Brno with red paint. The accused themselves do not feel that they have done anything wrong. "In view of the things which are being done by the Russians in Chechnya, all such protests can be considered justified," one of the four young people told journalists.

Czech population to drop under 10 million by 2030

The Czech population has been decreasing for some time now, and it is likely to drop below 10 million again in the next 30 years. The Czech Statistical Office has drawn up a prognosis predicting that the number of inhabitants in the Czech Republic's will drop to 9.7 million by the year 2030. At the end of 1998, the Czech republic had 10,290,000 inhabitants. The decreasing Czech population is caused by a low birth rate.

Half of Czechs are non-smokers

One half of Czechs are non-smokers and have never smoked, one-fifth has given up the habit and one-third still smoke, according to a survey conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research. Twenty-one percent of those polled smoke regularly, 12 percent only occasionally. The percentage of smokers and non-smokers has remained stable since 1996. The lowest number of smokers are among women and people from North Moravia, while most smokers are recruited from amongst people aged between 30 and 45, residents of East Bohemia and people with low standards of living.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. We are expecting a mostly cloudy day with scattered showers, afternoon highs should range from 2 to 6 degrees Celsius. And a brief outlook for the next two days: it should be also cloudy with snow showers, with highest daytime temperatures between 2 degrees Celsius below zero and 2 above.

And that's the end of the news.