News Wednesday, JANUARY 20th, 1999

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

Cyprus - talks

Bilateral relations and EU expansion topped the agenda of talks between visiting Cypriot foreign minister Ioannakis Cassoulides and Czech top officials. After talks with his Czech counterpart Jan Kavan, Cassoulides said Cyprus did not want to complicate the East European states' entry to the European Union and expressed interest in cooperating closely with countries on the fast track for membership. The Cypriot foreign minister expressed the hope that his divided island would be unified well ahead of the next enlargement of the European Union, which Cyprus hopes will occur around 2003. He added that outlooks for early EU admission would provide the necessary impetus for a peaceful solution to Cyprus' problems.

Spidla - government

Deputy premier Vladimir Spidla has said that talk of a minority government with the Christian Democrats is premature. We are not at present seriously considering such an alliance, Spidla said of the Social Democrat leadership. Speculation regarding a new minority government arose after the opposition Christian Democratic Party helped the governing Social Democrats push through their state budget proposal for 1999, and prime minister Zeman spoke of "closer cooperation in the future". Government spokesman Libor Roucek said the media had misinterpreted the statement . The Premier spoke of close cooperation between two parliamentary parties, that was all there was to it, Roucek said. Meanwhile, the Christian Democrats who have been flirting with the idea of partaking in government, have admitted that the time is not yet ripe for such action.

Quad coalition debates agreement

Meanwhile, in direct consequence to the Christian Democrats' vote on the 1999 budget, the quad coalition , a loose alliance of 4 small right of centre opposition parties - the Christian Democrats included, are now debating an agreement which would bind them closer together. According to the head of the democratic Union Ratibor Majzlik the agreement would not mean a loss of party sovereignty, and individual party members would still be free to vote as they chose. It is merely a commitment to consult each other on matters of importance, Majzlik said. Provided the parties are willing, the agreement should be signed on January 27th.

Uhl - peace mission

The government's human rights commissioner Petr Uhl is to travel to Usti nad Labem today to try and convince the locals against building a wall which would separate a Romany settlement from that of its neighbours. Uhl's mission comes in reaction to angry protests from the local community over the governments attempts to prevent the wall being built and demands that, unless the wall was constructed, the state should give them a good price for their houses for they would wish to move out. The government will await the outcome of these talks before taking further action, government spokesman Libor Roucek told the ctk, adding, we are hoping for a compromise acceptable to both sides.


President Vaclav Havel visited the Upper Chamber of Parliament on Tuesday for an informative meeting with senators. According to the Speaker of the Senate Libuse Benesova said the meeting was cordial and informative, and helped establish a framework for future contacts between the Upper Chamber and the Head of State. The debate focused on the role of the Senate, and Benesova said later she was sorry there had not been enough time to discuss means of raising the Senate's prestige in the eyes of the public.

Palach - homage

Czech top officials on Tuesday paid homage to the memory of Jan Palach laying wreaths at his memorial stone at the upper end of Wenceslas Square . Thirty years ago the student became a national hero after immolating himself in protest at the Soviet-led invasion that crushed the short lived Prague Spring reforms. He lived for three short days before succumbing to his injuries, and even though in great pain managed to send a message to Czechs telling them why he had set himself aflame and urging them to fight the oppressors on whatever level and with whatever strength they had. January 19th is the anniversary of Palach's death.

Pedophiles - warning

British authorities have warned that the Czech Republic, Romania, Portugal and Spain have recently become popular destinations for British pedophiles. Inspector Chris Gould said the number of pedophiles seeking cheaper and less dangerous sexual pleasures abroad had risen by twenty percent over the past year and there had been growing incidents of child abuse among youngsters sent to live in British families in order to improve their language skills. Police have warned both exchange-agencies and parents to be more cautious and aware.


Morning fog should give way to partly cloudy skies and day temps between 0 and 6 degs C. There should be no significant change in the coming days either with nighttime lows dipping to minus 4 degs, day temps forecast at between O and 4, for Thursday and Friday.