News Tuesday, JUNE 01th, 1999
Hello and a very warm welcome to you all from Radio Prague. I am Libor Kubik, and we start as usual with a look at the main news stories today. First the headlines.
The newly elected chairman of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union Jan Kasal said on Monday he did not think a minority government with the Social Democrats would enjoy little support in parliament and would not make much sense.
Kasal, who was elected last weekend, told journalists that in his view, the serving Social Democrat cabinet has no chance to lead the country from its present crisis.
Mr. Kasal said that rather than a from grand coalition of the Social and Civic Democrats, the country could benefit from a more broadly based government, which would help it save its face in the international arena.
Czech President Vaclav Havel's health is improving steadily. His doctors said on Monday that he had been taken off antibiotics and allowed to leave his bed more often.
Havel is convalescing at the presidential chateau in Lany west of Prague after being released from a Prague hospital on Friday. He spent one week in hospital suffering from bronchitis.
His official schedule is to be resumed on Saturday. But his spokesman Ladislav Spacek refused to confirm whether Havel will attend the inauguration of Slovakia's newly elected President Rudolf Schuster, planned for mid-June.
Spacek said President Havel was pleased to hear that Slovakia now has a democratically oriented head of state, who is both pro-European and pro-NATO. He expressed hope that Havel and Schuster will meet in the near future.
The Czech government has gone ahead with a programme to reduce unemployment. It has allocated more than half a million crowns to create new jobs, especially in the worst-affected regions of northern Moravia and North Bohemia.
Two hundred million crowns is to be spent on programmes to encourage investment, and new jobs should be created in several newly established industrial zones.
The cabinet voted overwhelmingly on Monday to re-impose the visa requirement on citizens of Ukraine and to tighten immigration controls.
In economic news, the Czech government decided on Monday to sell the 66-percent state share of the Ceskoslovenska Obchodni Bank to the Belgian bank KBC. Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda told correspondents that the Belgian bidder would acquire the majority share for the price of over 40 billion crowns.
Despite the Czech Republic's economic problems, the country's companies boosted their pre- tax profits by 30 percent last year. This according to Monday's report by the Czech Statistics Office.
It said that companies' pre-tax earnings reached almost 74 billion crowns, or well over two billion U.S. dollars. Analysts have said that factors in the improvement are a strong currency combined with low oil prices.
The analysts have said that further profits growth may be in store for this year. Large-sized companies like the carmaker Skoda and the Northern Bohemian coal mines are boosting their profits after cutting their payrolls.
The Czech nonprofit foundation People in Need is sending seven more truckloads of humanitarian aid to Kosovo refugees in camps and families in Albania and Macedonia.
The aid is financed from the proceeds of the SOS Kosovo fundraising effort, which Radio Prague has helped to publicise. To date, the foundation, attached to Czech Television, has raised more than 45 million crowns' worth of finances and material aid.
The aid to be delivered to the Balkans comprises canned and nonperishable foods, cooking oil, soap, shampoo, toothpaste and other essential items.
In addition to material assistance, the foundation is also dispatching volunteer aid workers to the refugee camps.
Meanwhile, Yugoslavia on Monday confirmed its acceptance of the principles laid down by the big power Group of Eight countries. Czech Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy said in Prague it was a welcome step provided Belgrade really means its offer seriously.
The Yugoslav state news agency Tanjug said this move should enable the transfer of the resolution of the crisis from the military to the political sphere.
The United States and Britain reacted cautiously, saying it was not clear all the G8 demands had been accepted by Belgrade.
Deputy Supreme Allied Forces Commander in Europe, Rupert Smith, arrives in Prague on Tuesday evening for two days of talks on the Kosovo crisis.
Smith, who was commander of the UNPROFOR mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, is to meet Czech Army Chief of Staff Jiri Sedivy and other officials.
The government in Prague has indicated that Czech soldiers should take part in the planned KFOR peacekeeping mission in Kosovo but said the size of their participation would depend on the country's economic situation.
And finally, the weather report:
Tuesday will be a mild day with only sporadic showers and daytime maxima between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius.
On Wednesday and Thursday we expect a further intrusion of warm air from the south. Daytime temperatures from 24 to 28 degrees, night-time lows 10-14 Celsius.
I am Libor Kubik and that's the end of the news.