News Tuesday, JULY 13th, 1999

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.

Legal harmonisation to speed up

The Social Democrat cabinet and the opposition Civic Democratic Party have found a way of speeding up the process of harmonising Czech legislation with EU standards. Deputy Premier Egon Lansky told reporters after a meeting with European Commission ambassador to Prague Ramir Cibrian that the process can be cut from nine months to nine weeks due to new rules of procedure of the lower house of Czech Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies. According to Lansky, there are about 2,700 EU laws still to be adopted, which it would be impossible to accomplish in time going at the current pace.

Czech Romany family granted asylum in France

A four-member Romany family from the Czech Republic was granted asylum in France for political reasons, the family's attorney Christine Martineau told reporters. The family of Oskar Eros, aged 34, was granted asylum after staying in France for nearly two years. Eros was one of the Czech Romanies who was forced to return from Britain in 1997 after unsuccessfully seeking asylum there. The family received a ten-year residence permit including social benefits for one year and language lessons. Another decision on the family's refugee status will be made in ten years.About 40 Romanies arrived in the French port of Calais after being ordered to leave Britain in 1997. Seventeen returned to Britain after lengthy negotiations and eight applied for asylum in France.

Unemployment still on the rise

The registered unemployment rate in the Czech Republic reached 8.4 percent in June, according to the data provided by the Labour and Social Affairs ministry. This represents an increase of 0.3 percent from the previous month. In the same period last year, the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent. The highest number of jobless people traditionally live in North Bohemia and North Moravia, where unemployment stands at around seventeen percent. Experts attribute the rise mainly to graduates entering the labour market. Both independent analysts and government officials expect the unemployment rate to exceed ten percent at the end of this year.

Slovenia qualifies for NATO

Slovenia has good economic and geographical preconditions for joining NATO in the second wave of enlargement, according to Czech Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy. On his visit to Slovenia, minister Vetchy discussed NATO enlargement with Slovenian President Milan Kucan, Foreign Ministry state secretary Ernest Petric and defenceminister Franci Demsar. Another topic of discussion was the process of military transformation in Slovenia and the Czech Republic. Both armies are facing reorganisation and structural changes, including gradual professionalisation, to accommodate themselves to NATO standards. Minister Vetchy also said that the Czech Republic will support Slovenia in its bid to join the North Atlantic Alliance.

Party popularity - poll

If general elections were held today, the main opposition Civic Democratic Party would clearly win. According to the latest opinion poll conducted by the Sofres-Factum agency, 23 percent of Czechs favour the Civic Democrats of Vaclav Klaus. The popularity of the ruling Social Democrats has been decreasing and the number of its supporters has dropped to 16 percent. According to observers, disappointed Social Democrat voters have been opting for the Communists who now enjoy 13-percent support. They are followed by the Freedom Union and Christian Democrats both with around ten percent.

CPI low

The consumer price index in June rose by 0.2 percent month-on- month, and the year-on-year figure was 2.2 percent. The Czech Statistical Office announced that the increase was driven mainly by the rising prices of foodstuffs, beverages and tobacco products.

Mobile operator - tender

The Czech Telecommunication Bureau has announced the conditions of a public tender for the third mobile telephone operator in the DCS 1800 MHz band. The conditions are available at the Czech Telecommunication Bureau's website and include for example the so- called national roaming and a guarantee that another subject will not be allowed to operate in the 1800 MHz band for at least nine months. Contenders must present their bids by August 17 and the winner must pay one billion crowns for being granted the licence.

Heavy winds - damage

Heavy gales in Western Bohemia last week caused damage of over 30 million crowns. Ceska Pojistovna insurance company said that the damage was done mainly to the agriculture sector and individual property. Winds with speeds of nearly 200 kph blew off roofs, knocked down electricity wires and de-rooted trees.

Czech weather report

And finally, a quick look at the weather. We are expecting a partially cloudy day with scattered showers, afternoon highs should range from 23 to 27 degrees Celsius. And a brief outlook for Wednesday and Thursday: it should be mostly cloudy with showers and thunderstorms, with highest daytime temperatures around 25 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.