News Wednesday, DECEMBER 23rd, 1998

Radio Prague E-news Date: December 23rd, 1998

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

Interest rates drop

In a move engineered to boost economic growth the Czech National Bank has further lowered its key interest rates . Following a meeting of its board of directors on Tuesday, the bank announced it was lowering its two week repo rate by one percent to nine and a half percent. It also cut the discount and lombard rates by 2,5%. Analysts say the move is not unexpected and was made in reaction to the recently published economic figures. A further drop in interest rates is expected early next year.


The Speaker of the Lower House and Civic Democratic Party leader Vaclav Klaus has welcomed the bank's decision and called on the government to speed up the privatization of the remaining state owned banks. According to Vaclav Klaus this latter step is a basic pre- requisite for the country's economic recovery. In a statement published by the ctk newsagency Klaus pledged to do everything in his power as Speaker of the Lower House to assist the process of economic growth. He has also called for another round of top level talks on the country's economic problems. The last was attended by himself, prime minister Zeman, the governor of the Czech National Bank Josef Tosovsky and trade union leader Richard Falbr.

RFE - security

According to minister without portfolio Jaroslav Basta, the Cabinet may urge Radio Free Europe to consider re-locating its services to Iran and Iraq to a higher security site. Basta told the ctk the Cabinet had several appropriate sites belonging to the interior and defense ministries which Radio Free Europe might be asked to consider. The decision would naturally be theirs alone, he added. Radio Free Europe spokesperson Sonia Winter told the ctk newsagency the government had not contacted the service via official channels and the station itself had no immediate plans to move any of its services. Radio Free Europe's headquarters are at the top end of Wenceslas Square, right in the centre of Prague, but the station's management says all security needs have been met.

Havel - health holiday

In the wake of speculation over a possible resignation , President Havel and the First Lady flew to the Canary Islands Tuesday for what doctors have described as a health holiday. The presidential couple will spend three weeks at the La Mareta royal residence on Lanzarotte as guests of Spanish king Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia. The speculation here in Prague was sparked by President Havel himself who responded to flagging popularity in opinion polls by telling the press that he would most certainly not remain in office against the will of the nation.

Cabinet session

According to the ctk newsagency, one of the points on today's Cabinet agenda is a communist proposal for the abolition of the so called screening law. The law bans individuals who collaborated with the former communist secret service from holding high state posts and is valid until the year 2,000. The communist party has been trying to get it abolished for some time now, but political analysts predict that neither the Social Democrat Cabinet not Parliament would vote in favour of its abolition.

Shattuck - Kavan

US ambassador to Prague John Shattuck has met with Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan in order to brief him about the outcome of operation Desert Fox. According to the US ambassador it may prove difficult to renew the control mission of the UNSCOM inspection team as promptly as would be desirable. He further confirmed US readiness to renew military action if it should prove necessary to do so.

According to Czech foreign ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil ambassador Shattuck likewise expressed appreciation of the Czech government's stand in this crisis.

Tigrid leaves Prague Castle

Pavel Tigrid, one of the President's chief advisors is leaving the post at the end of the year, at his own request. According to the president's spokesman, Ladislav Spacek, Tigrid did an excellent job in advising the President on Czech-German relations and contributed significantly to the implementation of the Czech-German reconciliation agreement. We have now moved on and mr. Tigrid finds he needs more time to work in the Coordination Council of the Czech-German Forum, where he is co-chairman, Spacek said. The President has agreed to release him and personally thanked him for his work.

And finally a look at the weather

Wednesday will bring partly cloudy to overcast skies with day temps between minus 2 and plus 2 degs. Nighttime lows minus 3 to minus 7 degs.