News Wednesday, JUNE 02th, 1999

Radio Prague E-news Date: June 2nd, 1999

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm DL and we begin as usual with a look at the main news stories this hour :

Agriculture minister Jan Fencl has no sympathy with protesting farmers, advising them to make a greater effort to help themselves

Health minister Ivan David has faced severe criticism in Parliament

Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan has denied allegations of past involvement in drugs smuggling

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

Fencl tells farmers to help themselves

Agriculture minister Jan Fencl has slammed farmers for their demands on the government during Tuesday's protest action on the Old Town Square, saying they were being unrealistic and irrational and advising them to make a greater effort towards helping themselves. The agriculture minister said there was no point in farmers holding out their palms on the Old Town Square since there would be no extra funds for the agriculture sector for this year and the ministry was doing its best on the given budget. Some eight thousand Czech farmers gathered in Prague's Old Town Square on Tuesday to demonstrate against the decline in agrarian production, unfair competition from government subsidized EU markets, customs fraud, loopholes in the legal system and high domestic and foreign debt. They demanded that the government at least set a minimum price on sensitive commodities, use state funds to buy up a certain amount of the excess produce and do more to curb cheap EU imports .

Health minister's performance found lacking Health minister Ivan David faced severe criticism in Parliament on Tuesday when the Lower House rejected his proposed law on public health care. The health minister was blamed for growing problems in the health sector and quizzed with regard to suspicious practices at the organ transplant centre in Ostrava. The health minister's attempt at defense failed miserably, and although the thumbs down verdict of the Lower House does not commit the premier to remove him from office David's position has been seriously weakened .

US senator meets with top officials Visiting US Senator Richard Lugar on Tuesday met with Premier Milos Zeman and the Speaker of the Lower House Vaclav Klaus. They discussed the situation in Kosovo, the Czech Republic's economic problems and the workings of the opposition agreement which allowed the Social Democrats to set up a minority government. Security on the continent was also a prominent topic and the US Senator, who is known to be an advocate of NATO expansion, stressed the importance of maintaining the alliance's open door policy.

Kavan says : we will make it The Czech Republic is confident that it will achieve its goal of joining the European Union in the year 2003, but has to be more efficient in harmonizing its laws with EU legislation, Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan said at a press briefing in Prague on Tuesday. Kavan was responding to an article in Tuesday' s Mlada Fronta Dnes which quoted an unnamed EU official as saying that Prague was falling behind and in danger of missing its target. We are aware that there have been delays, especially in the process of achieving compatibility with EU laws . We have to work harder, but I don't think that at the present time there is a serious threat of the country's dropping from the first wave, the Czech foreign minister stressed.

KBC makes a bid for Slovakia's shares in CSOB The Belgium KBC bank which has just acquired a 66% state owned share in Ceskoslovenska Obchodni Banka from the Czech government is seeking to buy Slovakia's state share in the institution as well. This according to Slovak National Bank governor Vladimir Masar, who told the ctk news agency that such a deal would be in line with the consolidation agreement and that he expected negotiations to take place at an early date. The KBC has reportedly offered to buy Slovakia's 24.13% share for 14. 64 billion crowns. Ceskoslovenska Obchodni Banka is the country's fourth largest bank and unlike the two other banks –Komercni and Ceska Sporitelna –which are to be privatized is not burdened by losses . The two German banks which made bids for the shares on Tuesday expressed disappointment over their failure to win the tender.

Kavan says he did not smuggle drugs Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan has denied allegations of past involvement in drugs smuggling. Responding to an article in Respekt magazine which claimed the Kavan had been arrested for possession of heroin twenty two years ago and released after claiming he had been framed, the foreign ministry issued a statement saying that the report was not based on the truth. It said Kavan had been detained for questioning by Belgian border police twenty two years ago when helping a woman with a baby carriage with one of her suit-cases . It turned out that the woman was smuggling marihuana hidden in the baby carriage. Kavan said that once the truth was established he had been released with an apology.

Prague 1 needs more funds to fight crime The mayor of Prague 1 Jan Burgermeister says he intends to ask the interior ministry for a 2.9 million crown subsidy to fight crime . The money would be used in particular to fight drug peddling, car thefts and pick pocketing which plague the city center. The plan which the mayor unveiled to the press includes installing cameras all over Prague 1 and deploying more police patrols ,especially during the evening and night hours. They should be in every street, alley or park ready to help the public and keep an eye on private and public property, Burgermeister said. The public would certainly welcome such a move but it is not clear whether the finance-strapped interior ministry will be able to spare the funds.

Gregr to boost ties with Egypt A Czech delegation headed by trade and industry minister Miroslav Gregr has arrived in Egypt for a four day visit aimed at boosting bilateral economic ties. The level of trade between the two countries was estimated at 105 million dollars in 1998 and the two sides reportedly aim to increase this figure by 20% every year. Leading Czech exports to Egypt are cars, heavy machinery, power stations and medical equipment. We import predominantly cotton, fabrics and aluminum. The two sides are expected to form a joint association of businessmen during the visit.

Finally, a look at the weather: Wednesday should be another very warm day with temp between 25 and 29 degs C. although we are told to expect scattered showers and possibly thunderstorms in the late afternoon. Nighttime lows between 16 and 12 degs. Thursday's temps have been forecast at between 23 and 27 degs, Friday's should be slightly lower -between 21 and 25 degs.