News Wednesday, JULY 26th, 2000

Protesters to camp at Strahov stadium

Prague City Hall has agreed to rent the country's largest athletic stadium, Strahov, to serve as accommodation for anti-globalisation activists who are expected to arrive in Prague in September to protest against the IMF/World Bank annual meeting. The Ministry of Interior will rent the stadium for one month and will hire a private company to set up a camp there for protesters. Prague Mayor Jan Kasl said that the decision did not mean the City Council approved of the planned protests, explaining that the solution was the best in terms of public safety. The stadium can accommodate up to 15,000 people. The government commissioner for the IMF/World Bank session, Zdenek Hruby, described the decision as reasonable and said it could significantly reduce the risk of conflict.

Numbers of Roma asylum seekers in UK decrease

The number of Czech Roma families seeking asylum in Britain decreased again in June. Only 35 Czech Roma families applied for asylum in Britain last month, compared to 70 in May. The gradual decrease has been attributed to the stricter asylum policy adopted recently by the British authorities. Another significant factor was a recent decision by the House of Lords which ruled that Roma people could not be granted asylum if the state concerned offered them protection from racist attacks.

Foreign trade gap widens

The Czech foreign trade deficit widened to almost 300 million USD in June. For the same period of 1999, the passive balance was only 70 million. The Czech Statistics Office said the main cause of the development was higher imports of crude oil. The value of these imports was double than that in June 1999. The unfavourable development has been partly compensated for by an increase in exports of products with added value, mainly to EU countries.

Right-wing MP's criticise "social engineering", communists agree

Opposition politicans have criticised the latest proposals by Labour and Social Affairs Minister Vladimir Spidla concerning reform of the social welfare system. Right-wing opposition MP's disapprove of minister Spidla's plan to introduce benefits for all families with children. They say this would be a waste of money because higher-income families do not need such support. The only opposition party that would welcome an introduction of this and other non-addressed social benefits is the Communist Party. The communists claim that the falling birth rate in the Czech Republic is becoming an urgent political problem, and that it is necessary to encourage families to have more children.

Roma congress starts in Prague

Delegates have arrived in Prague for the International Romani Union's fifth world congress, the first in ten years, Delegates from 39 countries around the world began talks which will focus on improving living standards, defending human rights and streamlining the work of the organisation, which claims to be the most representative organisation for millions of Roma people around the world. The group says there are between 12 and 15 million Roma living in Europe, with millions more scattered around the globe. The congress will draft positions on questions such as restitution for Roma Holocaust victims, aid programmes, and standardising the Romani language in an official dictionary.

TV presenter accused of fraud

The popular Czech TV presenter Ondrej Gina and his wife have been charged with fraud, the CTK news agency reported. The first Czech TV presenter of Roma origin allegedly covered up his income from regular employment in Prague and asked for social welfare in his home town of Rokycany. According to a police spokesman, Mr Gina is accused of defrauding the state of less than 40 thousand Czech crowns, or around one thousand USD.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. We are expecting a partially cloudy day with scattered showers. Afternoon highs should range from 21 to 25 degrees Celsius. The next two days should be much the same, rather cloudy with occasional showers or thunderstorms, with the highest daytime temperatures up to 25 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.