News Tuesday, MAY 18th, 1999

Radio Prague E-News, 18 May 1999, Vladimir Tax

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.

Transport, finance, trade most lagging behind EU preparations

Many sectors are seriously lagging behind in preparation for EU membership. Deputy Premier in charge of EU integration Egon Lansky told journalists that the most serious shortcoming were in the Transport, Finance, and Trade and Industry sectors. Lansky said that some ministries were lagging behind both in the legislative and executive spheres, and added that the main problem in legislation was posed by the shortage of skilled staff.

Czechs, Greeks postpone Kosovo plan

The Czech Republic and Greece have postponed the decision to reveal details of their initiative to resolve the Kosovo crisis. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan told journalists that the plan would be revealed in several days, as the two countries are still trying to obtain the backing of the majority of NATO members and the G8 group. Kavan said that the initiative should not express the attitudes of two governments, but it should be vital in searching for a the most feasible peace solution.

Cabinet provides one million crowns for monument in Lety

The Czech government has decided to allocate one million Czech crowns to the town of Pisek, south Bohemia, for the completion of a memorial at the site of a former Nazi concentration camp for Romanies in Lety. Currently, the site is occupied by a pig farm. The Nazis used to send Czech Romanies to the Lety camp before transporting them to death camps. Romany groups condemn the presence of the pig farm on the site as a disgrace. However a plan put forward by government human rights commissioner Petr Uhl, involving the pulling down of the pig farm, was turned down as too expensive a few weeks ago by the government.

Kosovo refugees flee Czech humanitarian centres to Germany

Fifteen of the Kosovo refugees who were granted the status of temporary refugee and provided with shelter in a humanitarian centre, have tried to illegally cross the Czech-German border in Northern Bohemia. Police chief Milan Babicik said that five of the refugees had been returned by Germany, and ten were detained by the Czech border police. The detained have been returned to humanitarian centres. Refugees face no sanctions for attempting to cross the border illegally, even in the case of repeated attempts.

Govt economic strategy for EU accession approved

At its session on Monday the cabinet approved a medium-term economic strategy for accession to the EU with the keywords being "competition-growth-employment-solidarity". The strategy will be used as a basis for a document to be worked out in cooperation with the European Commission. The main aim of the strategy is to improve the Czech industry's ability to compete on Western markets. Higher exports should start economic growth 2 to 3 percent higher than in the EU.

Klaus meets Ruml for pre-coalition talks

Senior opposition Civic Democratic Party leader Vaclav Klaus met with Freedom Union chairman Jan Ruml on Monday. They informed each other on their parties positions on the latest political developments. They told each other that their parties were interested in starting talks on a solution to solve the current government crisis. However, they refused to be more specific, as both the parties are waiting for the outcome of the Christian Democratic Party's national congress which is due to take place in two weeks.

ODS would win elections - poll

The ruling Social Democratic Party is losing popularity. According to the latest opinion poll conducted by the Sofres- Factum agency, if general elections were held in April, the Social Democrats would have received 22.5 percent of the vote, two percent less than in the previous month. The senior opposition Civic Democratic Party would clearly win with over 27 percent of the vote. The approval ratings of the other three political parties represented in parliament have also risen. The Communists would receive 16 percent, the Freedom Union 11 and the Christian Democrats also almost 11 percent of the vote.

India interested in Czech weapons

India is interested in Czech military material, such as the modernized tank T-72, this according to the head of the Czech Senate foreign affairs committee Michael Zantovsky after a meeting with the Indian chief of staff Ved Prakash Malik. On the other hand, according to Zantovsky, the Czech army are interested in an Indian project to manufacture light helicopters. The two officials also discussed nuclear tests carried out recently by India and Pakistan. Zantovsky told Malik that the Czech Republic was against nuclear proliferation. However, India still has reservations about the NATO operation in Yugoslavia.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. We are expecting a mostly clear day, afternoon highs should range from 16 to 20 degrees Celsius. And a brief outlook for Wednesday and Thursday - it should be much the same, partially cloudy with highest daytime temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.