News Wednesday, JANUARY 05th, 2000

Hello and a very warm welcome to the program. I'm Pauline Newman with a bulletin of news. First we start with a look at the main headlines of the day:

You are tuned to Radio Prague. Those were the headlines, now let's take a look at the main news of the day:

Opposition agreement / Deepening

Controversy continues around possible plans between the ruling Social Democrats and the opposition Civic Democrat party to deepen the opposition agreement when they meet on Friday. While deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said on Tuesday that it is possible the power sharing agreement will be amended making it even stronger, several top Social Democrat officials have voiced their doubts. Deputy Chairwoman of the party Petra Buzkova, and another highly placed member said on Tuesday that the current document, which has often come under harsh criticism from opposition politicians and President Vaclav Havel, achieved its aim of stabilizing the political situation and does not need any adjustments.

While Vladimir Spidla said that the party will listen to any proposals forwarded by the Civic Democrats, Opposition leader Vaclav Klaus has finally ruled out the possibility of being able to form a broad coalition, or a grouping of all non communist parliament parties.

Opinion on opposition agreement

Senators from the opposition parties, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union also said on Tuesday evening, that the opposition agreement is likely to be altered in some way. They commented that the Civic democrats will now strike a bargain with Zeman's party, supporting the budget in return for more ministerial seats.

In the meantime, experts say failed Civic Democrat attempts to form this broad coalition have now enabled the party to push for a closer power sharing deal. Political expert Jiri Pehe said the Civic Democrats never seriously wanted a broad coalition, adding that it was just a ploy to introduce a better deal for the party which would give it more power. Pehe echoed the opinion among senators of the opposition, insisting that Klaus' party will now fully support the budget and other key laws in return for more political influence.

Cabinet prepares to help Jewish survivors

The Czech government is set to discuss two laws on Wednesday which should help survivors of the Nazi holocaust. The first law proposes that various properties currently belonging to the state should be returned to the Federation of Jewish Communities. The second law deals with the restitution of agricultural land which formerly belonged to Jewish families. According to Social democrat Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky, both laws are intended to compensate people for injustices they suffered during and after the war. The government will now decide upon the finer details, such as which properties will be returned and how the transactions will be carried out.

Rychetsky, who is in charge of a commission dealing with compensation for victims of the holocaust, recently gave an example of property which needs to be returned. He pointed out that there are dozens of paintings in the National Gallery, which were confiscated from Jews during the Second world war and which should be returned to their rightful owners or handed over to the Jewish Museum in Prague.

The government will also debate a key law on Wednesday, which aims to protect workers and ensure their payment in case their employer goes bankrupt. The cabinet has said in the past, that it would like to see these workers receiving at least some of their wages from job centers. Ministers are also expected to discuss a law on the protection of the environment and a new law on broadcasting, banning all television and radio programs which incite racial hatred.

Y2K experts slam Klaus and Zeman

Czech computer companies which have been dealing with problems associated with the millennium bug, said on Tuesday that dismissive remarks on the phenomenon, by Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and leader of the opposition Vaclav Klaus, are "flippant and disrespectful". Experts spent Tuesday expressing their outrage that Klaus and Zeman said on Sunday, that any computer related problems were mere "humbug". Many co-ordinators said that just the mere fact that nothing had gone wrong, was because teams had been tackling the problem months in advance. This comes as the European Commission said on Tuesday that the millennium bug appeared to have been largely conquered, but warned that a combination of small faults could still cause problems in the months to come.

Slovaks and CSA

The Slovak Foreign Ministry on Tuesday distanced itself from recent controversial comments made by its Secretary of State, in which he said sanctions should be imposed against the Czech Airline company (CSA) for taking Slovak Roma to Finland where they applied for asylum. This comes as 73 Roma left Slovakia for Helsinki on New Year's Eve. 170 Roma have left Slovakia for Finland since November when Helsinki cancelled its visa requirement.

A Czech Airline Director based in Slovakia said it would be absurd to discriminate against Roma passengers. The Slovak Secretary of State has been quick to defend himself, saying it was a "gross misunderstanding".

Havel relaxing at spa

President Vaclav Havel who is undergoing treatment at an east Bohemian spa, spent Tuesday, meeting with specialists and deciding on a rehabilitation program. A spokesman said later on that Havel is planning to sleep for longer in the mornings, go for walks in the park with his wife, take the waters and relax in the evening. The President who arrived at the spa on Monday, will stick to the program for the next two weeks. Upon his arrival, Havel said he was visiting the spa in order to regain his strength and take a break from politics.

Gold for Czech junior hockey team

The Czech under twenties ice hockey team became Champions of the world on Tuesday in Sweden. The Czech team beat Russia in the finals 2:1 after 20 minutes extra time and a penalty shoot out. This is the first time the Czech junior team has won the world championships.

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

We are in for a slightly warmer day on Wednesday, with daytime temperatures ranging from 2 to 6 degrees Celsius. Skies will be overcast, with the possibility of some rain and snow in the mountains. It will be cooler overnight as temperatures drop to -1 degrees Celsius.

I'm Pauline Newman and that's the end of the news.