News Wednesday, JULY 14th, 1999

Hello and a very warm welcome to Radio Prague. I´m Rob Cameron, first a look at the news headlines.

Those were the headlines, now for the news in more detail.

Railway union claims govt wants to sell Czech Railways to Deutsche Bahn

The leader of the country´s largest railway workers´ union Jaromir Dusek has insisted that the government is planning to sell the state-owned Czech Railways to Germany´s Deutsche Bahn. Mr Dusek claims he received a visit recently from members of a German consultancy firm, who asked him for his reaction to the possible 100 percent sale of Czech Railways to Deutsche Bahn. One of the members of the consultancy firm has confirmed the meeting took place, but declined to give details. The Czech Transport Minister Antonin Peltram has denied the claims. Mr Peltram said that talks with the head of Deutsche Bahn on Tuesday had centred on Deutsche Bahn´s experience of privatisation and that the sale of Czech Railways had not been discussed. The Czech government has announced the country´s rail network is to undergo what it terms large-scale restructuring.

Chamber of Deputies rejects referenda bill

The lower house of the Czech Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, has rejected a bill on referenda. The bill, which was proposed by the opposition Christian Democrats, fell six votes short of the required 120. The bill was supported by the governing Social Democrats, but opposed by the right-wing opposition Civic Democrats and the Freedom Union. The Czech Constitution includes the institution of referendum, but says a law must be passed to allow referenda to be held.

Roma in Most warn of possible mass exodus

Representatives of the Roma or gypsy community in the Most area of North Bohemia have warned of a possible mass exodus of Romanies from the region. The representatives say local Roma can no longer tolerate almost daily attacks by skinheads. There are some 10,000 Romanies living in the Most region, which suffers from high unemployment and poor social conditions. The representatives say more than twenty families have already left the area, and that more will leave if conditions fail to improve. The warning came as a four-member Roma family was granted asylum in France, after being turned away by the authorities in Great Britain. Roma in the Czech Republic say they are subject to regular violent attacks by neo-Nazi skinheads as well as sweeping racial discrimination by the Czech authorities. The authorities say the several thousand Czech Roma who have sought asylum abroad in recent years are mostly economic migrants.

Vasaryova says thanks but no thanks to Czech president offer

One of the unsuccessful candidates for May´s presidential elections in Slovakia, Magda Vasaryova, has turned down calls for her to stand for president of the Czech Republic, when the post is vacated by the current president Vaclav Havel in three years´ time. Mrs Vasaryova, a former diplomat and successful actress, thanked the Czech Republic´s Civic Democratic Alliance for recommending her as the next Czech president, but said she wanted to devote her energy to the development of Slovak society. Mrs Vasaryova failed to enter the second round of May´s presidential elections in Slovakia, and the post eventually went to the government´s candidate Rudolf Schuster.

New poll confirms support for Social Democrats falling

A new opinion poll has confirmed a sharp fall in support for the ruling Social Democrats. The poll, conducted by the Sofres-Factum agency, showed support for the ruling party at just 16 percent, confirming the results of a poll carried out recently by a rival polling agency. Sofres-Factum said the Social Democrats´ main rival, the right-wing Civic Democrats, would emerge as the strongest party if elections were held tomorrow. The agency put the Civic Democrats on 23 percent. Support for the Communist Party remains strong at 13 percent.

Law Faculty refuses to comment on exam paper scandal

Charles University´s Law Faculty has refused to comment on speculation that faculty staff were involved in selling exam papers to students. Allegations that exam papers were sold to students for 100,000 crowns each surfaced last month, and the case has since been handed over to the police for investigation. The head of the law faculty told reporters he would not comment on the allegations until the investigation was complete.

Government to speed up adoption of EU laws

The government has unveiled plans to speed up the adoption of new legislation in preparation for EU membership. The deputy prime minister Egon Lansky told reporters after meeting the EU's envoy to Prague Ramiro Cibrian on Monday that if approved by parliament the measures would allow EU-related legislation to be approved after just one reading instead of the normal three. Brussels has singled out Prague for falling behind on harmonising thousands of Czech laws with EU legislation.


And finally a quick look at Wednesday´s weather. We´re expecting a mostly cloudy day here in the Czech Republic with scattered showers and storms in places. Daytime temperatures will reach a maximum of 25 degrees Celsius, falling to around 15 degrees at night.

And that´s the end of the news.