News Tuesday, JULY 20th, 1999

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm Nick Carey and this is the news. First, a look at the headlines.

Those were the headlines, now the news in more detail:

Kavan warns against isolating Serbia

In a speech given at the European Conference, which was held in Brussels on Monday, the Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan called on the foreign ministers from twenty seven countries who attended the conference to end the ban on flights between Yugoslavia and the European Union. The ban, in Kavan's opinion, will isolate Serbia. Isolation has always led to increased nationalism and dictatorial measures, Kavan said. According to the Foreign Minister, the EU member states, the Balkan states and candidates for EU membership should unify their efforts to stabilise the Balkans. They should not only help the Kosovo Albanians repair their homes, but also support democratic processes in Yugoslavia as a whole.

Interior Ministry official allegedly prepared to deport dissidents

According to the spokesman of the Office for Documentation and Investigation of Communist Crimes, Tomas Hornof, a high placed official in the Interior Ministry planned an operation in 1989 that would have led to the deportation of up to ten thousand dissidents. The official, Major Zdenedk Vasicek, was in the preparation stages of the operation, called Norbert, whereby ten thousand people who were considered a threat to the socialist regime would have been isolated and then deported. The Velvet Revolution intervened, and the operation was never carried out. The most scandalous part of this affair, according to Tomas Hornoff, is that Vasicek is still working in the Interior Ministry in the security division. No criminal charges have ever been brought against the planners of Operation Norbert.

Klaus denies Communist popularity due to opposition agreement

The leader of the opposition centre-right Civic Democratic Party, Vaclav Klaus, has denied that the recent rise in popularity of the Communist Party, which has put them second place in the opinion polls, has been caused by the opposition agreement between the ruling Social Democrats and his party. This has been caused, according to Klaus, by the poor results of the Social Democrat government. The Social Democrats, Klaus said, had persuaded Communist voters to go over to their party before the elections last year with promises to improve the state of affairs in the country. Once their promises proved false, the voters returned to the Communist Party. There was no alternative to the opposition agreement, and blaming it for the Communists' popularity is sheer stupidity, Klaus concluded.

State will help find strategic partner for Skoda Plzen

The cornerstone of the government's plan to help the ailing company Skoda Plzen will be finding a strategic partner for the company to prevent unemployment, keep the company's production programme going and maintaining its research and development facilities. After meeting representatives of the French company Alstom, Prime Minister Zeman stated that while the government will help Skoda Plzen, it cannot be expected to do so alone. There is currently a standstill agreement in place on the company, which means that creditors will not file bankruptcy until the situation is resolved. Part of the plan to save the company may involve breaking it up into its separate divisions.

Government and Civic Democrats deny meeting to discuss budget deficit

Members of the ruling Social Democratic Party and the opposition Civic Democratic Party have denied a claim made by the deputy chairman of the Freedom Union, Karel Kuhnl, that on the basis of the opposition agreement between the two parties they have been meeting to discuss a budget deficit for the year 2000 that would come to a total of one hundred billion crowns. Kuhnl also believes that the official total for the deficit will be thirty billion, and that the rest of the deficit will be hidden in the beginning. The vice chairman of the Social Democrat parliamentary club, Bohuslav Sobotka, stated that he is not aware of any meetings, and that such a large deficit would be unacceptable anyway. The Civic Democrat chairman of the parliamentary budget committee, Vlastimil Tlusty, said that he knows nothing about any meetings, or about any such figure. Government vice chairman Vladimir Spidla said that Kuhnl's claims were nonsense.

Health Minister David brings charges against former minister

The Minister of Health, Ivan David, has filed charges against the former Health Minister Jan Strasky of the opposition Civic Democratic Party. The ministry now faces debts arising from a contract wrongly signed by Strasky, as it has nothing to do with the dealings of the Ministry of Health. What is more, David claims that the contract also offered government support for the privately owned company with which the contract was signed, which is against the law. Minister David wants state representatives to ascertain Strasky's level of responsibility in the affair, in which the former minister apparently illegally signed a contract with the company Scientia Medica to publish textbooks for medical schools.

German opposition calls for end of Benes decrees

The German CDU and CSU opposition parties put forward a resolution on Friday to the German parliament calling for the dissolution of the Benes decrees, which were made following the Second World War and dealt with the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans from former Czechoslovakia. The resolution calls on the Czechs to renounce the expulsion and calls on the German government to request that the Czech Republic dissolve the Benes decrees. This follows a European Parliament motion from April 15th and an Austrian parliament resolution from May 19th that has a condition for the Czech Republic's future membership of the European Union that the country must dissolve laws connected to the expulsion of certain ethnic groups from former Czechoslovakia. The German resolution is designed to show solidarity for the exiled Sudeten Germans.

Vetchy calls for national co-ordination centre for NATO troop movements

The Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy has called for the setting up of a national co-ordination centre for the management and co-ordination of the movement of NATO troops moving through the Czech Republic. This will involve not only, for instance, troop movements linked to recent events in Yugoslavia, but the also demand for closer co-operation between the armies of the alliance. The centre would make all such troop movements across the country easier.

Highway transport companies call for resignation of Minister Peltram

Highway transport companies, represented by the association CESMAD BOHEMIA, are calling for the immediate resignation of Transport and Communications Minister Antonin Peltram. The reason for this, according to the association, is that his unprofessional approach is damaging the industry. The association's spokesman, Martin Sprynar said that this also affects the economy as a whole and individual Czechs. One of the most unpopular measures introduced is increased tax for trucks, and that the money from this is being used on railways instead of on roads.

Havel to meet with Zeman, Svoboda and Mertlik

President Vaclav Havel will meet with Prime Minister Milos Zeman, Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda and government vice chairman Pavel Mertlik separately this morning. Presidential spokesman Vladimir Spidla said yesterday that the meetings were being held on Zeman's request. This follows intense media speculation that Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda will have to resign over allegations that he damaged creditor's interests as a co-manager of the bankrupt company Liberta.. Government vice chairman Pavel Mertlik is apparently tipped to replace him. Prime Minister Milos Zeman, who stated on Friday that Svoboda should resign following the announcement that criminal charges had been filed against him, said yesterday that it is possible that he may announce cabinet changes after the meetings with President Havel.


The forecast for today is for sunny skies throughout the day. High temperatures during the day should reach 32 degrees centigrade.

And that was the news.