News Tuesday, MARCH 28th, 2000

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Hello, this is Radio Prague. I'm Vladimir Tax and we begin with the news headlines.

These are the main points and now the news in more detail.

Kavan has no signals of changes in Russia's foreign policy

The Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has said he has received no signals of changes in Russia's foreign policy in connection with Vladimir Putin's victory in the presidential election. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov suggested such changes but gave no details. The Czech Foreign Ministry said Putin's election would enliven democratic reforms in Russia and accelerate its integration with international structures. The Czech Foreign Ministry also said it hoped Moscow would soon find a peaceful solution to the situation in Chechnya.

EU criticise Czech border protection

European Union officials have criticised the Czech Republic and Hungary for failing to tighten their respective borders against an influx of crime into the bloc. EU officials said that reports on the two countries showed they had made progress on some justice and home affairs issues since they entered membership talks two years ago. However, an official was quoted as saying that their external borders were full of holes and open to widespread trafficking because the countries concentrated too much on checking paperwork rather than people and vehicles crossing the border. Besides, he said, not enough staff had been provided to carry out checks at the borders and equipment was outdated. The EU said that the candidates must make their border controls watertight to prevent them from being used as easy crossing points into the bloc for organised crime gangs, drugs, people, smuggled cars and arms.

Motejl to stay

Justice minister Otakar Motejl is to remain in office. Motejl had considered resigning his post, but said on Monday that he changed his mind and will not leave the cabinet, because he wants to complete justice system reforms in the Czech Republic. Motejl denied speculation that he was extremely annoyed by the slow progress of reforms, especially because of the difficult passage of new legislation through Parliament.

Havel congratulates Putin, calls for end of Chechen war

Czech president Vaclav Havel has congratulated Vladimir Putin on his victory in the Russian presidential elections. In the election held over the weekend, Putin received more than fifty percent of the vote. Havel wished Putin and Russian people good luck in political and economic reforms. He stressed that the building of democracy, a civic society, respect for human rights, the rule of law and economic development are the factors that can strengthen Russia's international standing. Havel urged Russia to end the war in Chechnya as the first step in this direction. In president Havel's view, Russia is an important player in both European and world politics and shares responsibility for global developments.

Zeman visits Norway

Prime Minister Milos Zeman is currently on an official visit to Norway. Zeman met Norwegian high ranking officials, including Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, to discuss political and economic issues, including EU enlargement, co-operation within NATO and trade and investment. Stoltenberg confirmed that his country strongly supports EU enlargement, although Norwegians rejected EU entry in a referendum. One of the main areas of discussion were investment opportunities that are open to Norwegian investors in the Czech Republic. Zeman highlighted the investment incentives that the Czech government introduced last year to attract foreign investors - these include tax holidays, an exemption from customs duties for modern technology imports and subsidies for re-training local employees. Zeman will continue his North-European tour with a visit to Finland.

Saudi Arabia plans opening embassy in Prague

Saudi Arabia is planning to opening an embassy in Prague, Saudi Arabian deputy foreign minister Nizar Madani told reporters after meeting his Czech counterpart, Hynek Kmonicek. Saudi Arabia does not have an embassy in Central and Eastern Europe and sees opening one in Prague as one of its priorities. However, there are still some technical and administrative problems. Prague opened its embassy in Riad in 1996. During their meeting on Monday, the two deputy ministers discussed support for economic and trade relations. Mutual trade between the two countries amounted to 23 million USD in 1999.

Prague hosts European Banking and Financial Forum

The seventh European Banking and Financial Forum begins today in Prague. Leading economists, politicians, representatives of international institutions and other experts will discuss issues connected with the euro one year after it was introduced, the role of foreign investment in the economic transformation, bank privatisation and other issues.

Ceske Budejovice has a planet named after it

The South Bohemian city of Ceske Budejovice, home of the original Budweiser beer, now has a new claim to fame with the discovery of a minor planet by the town's Klet Observatory. The planet has been named "(11134) Ceske Budejovice". Budejovice's mayor has now received documents and photographs with approval from the International Astronomical Union for the name. The minor planet was spotted in 1996 from the Klet Observatory. It is believed to be about four to nine kilometres in diameter. It is located within one of the main clusters of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter and its distance from Earth is estimated at between 300 and 400 million kilometres.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. On Tuesday, the weather in the Czech Republic will be influenced by a low pressure area. We are expecting a cloudy to overcast day with rain, and possibly snow showers at higher altitudes. Afternoon highs should range from 6 to 10 degrees Celsius. The next two days should be much the same, cloudy with showers, with temperatures between 6 and 10 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.