News Wednesday, AUGUST 04th, 1999

Finance Ministry / Budget

A spokesman for the new Czech Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik said on Tuesday, that the proposal for next year's budget will contain a deficit of almost forty billion Czech crowns. Although the Social Democrat minister has not released any more details, Vaclav Klaus, leader of the strongest opposition party, has been quick to comment. He said on Tuesday evening, that he would not be surprised if the deficit turned out to be even larger. Mr Klaus indicated last week that even a deficit of thirty billion crowns would be acceptable. The budget proposal will now be sent round the various mninistries, who by the end of August will add their figures. The government is expected to start discussing the budget at the start of September.

Senate / Exiles

Chairman of the Senate's Commission for Czechs living abroad, Milan Spacek said on Tuesday, that the law passed last week, enabling these exiles to obtain citizenship will relate to about 30 000 people. He said that along with the moral satisfaction of once again being able to call themselves Czech, these people will also be able to buy property in the Czech Republic. The proposal for the law still has to be approved by President Vaclav Havel. Mr Spacek expressed his disappointment that Premier Milos Zeman does not want to discuss the restitution of property to people who were forced to flee their homes during the last regime, adding that some compensation should be made. Senator Michal Zantovsky has, in the meantime, criticised Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich, saying he tricked senators last week, by promising the upper house of Parliament that once the law has been passed, the topic of restitution will be next on the agenda. Mr Zantovsky expressed his outrage that the day after the Senate approved the law, Premier Zeman announced that restitution is out of the question. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Michal Zantovsky said Vaclav Grulich lied to serve the government's purposes.

The Supreme Inspection office says evidence has come to light, suggesting that the Ministry of Trade and Industry broke the law last year, when declaring its expenditures for the state budget. The office made the allegations on Tuesday afternoon, when it revealed that the Ministry kept an unspecified 23 million Czech crowns hidden in reserve. According to a report, released to CTK press agency, the ministry subsequently handed over incorrect information to the Finance Ministry when the state budget was being calculated. There has as yet, been no official comment from the Trade and Industry ministry.

Senate / Meeting

The Senate is preparing to discuss on Wednesday, new plans for improving the Czech army, which aim to improve the country's defence system. At what will be the ninth session of the upper house of the Czech Parliament, Senators are also expected to discuss the European Social Charter, which sets out some of the norms for social standards of EU member states. Joining the EU is one of the Czech government's top foreign policy goals.

Impulse 99 / Sponsors

The signatories of Impulse 99, the new initiative aimed at promoting dialogue between political parties and the public, are refusing to reveal who their sponsors are. A spokesman for the organisation said on Tuesday, that in the west, similar movements do not make this information public either. According to some Czech newspapers this already puts Impulse 99 in the same boat as the political parties it has criticised.

Drugs / Colombia

A Czech man involved in organising an international drug smuggling ring was handed over to the Prague police on Tuesday afternoon following his extradition from Colombia. Vaclav Novotny-Urban, a drugs baron, has been a wanted man in the Czech Republic for two years. He faces charges of having produced and exported 60 kilos of cocaine, with a street value of 350 million Czech crowns. He is now in prison awaiting trial. He faces a sentence of up to fifteen years in jail. Novotny who possesses Colombian citizenship announced upon his arrival at the airport that he is innocent and capable of proving this fact. The Czech police believe that Novotny was approached by a third party, who proposed that he organised the drug trade. Authorities are still trying to discover who is behind the operation.

And we end as usual with a quick look at the weather:

Thursday will see the end of the hot, sunny weather we had all last week. Although temperatures during the day will peak at about 30 degrees celsius, dropping overnight to 10, there could be thunderstorms towards the evening.