News Wednesday, JUNE 23rd, 1999

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

Moravia fears fresh floods

Police and emergency crews are on full alert in north-eastern Moravia which is threatened by fresh floods after several days of heavy rain. Fifteen homes are reported to have been flooded and their inhabitants are awaiting possible evacuation at any moment. The main road between Ostrava and Havirov is also reported to be underwater and police are re-routing traffic. The number of road accidents has risen sharply these past few days mostly caused by cars skidding on wet roads and poor visibility. Most towns and villages in the area are on second grade flood alert with villagers filling bags of sand and moving their possessions to higher storeys. Moravia has been flooded for two successive years and people dread the possibility of more destruction to homes only recently repaired. Fresh reports say parts of southern Moravia are also in trouble with firemen and emergency crews pumping water from cellars, removing uprooted trees and looking to the safety of elderly inhabitants in particular.

Ban of flight training removed

The Czech military has removed a ban on flight training following last week's accident in which two army pilots were killed. The ban is to remain in place only at the respective airbase in Caslavy until the cause of the crash has been ascertained . Two MIG 21 fighter jets collided when returning from a training flight last Thursday. Two pilots did not survive the crash even though they managed to eject, one sustained light injuries. Witnesses claim the pilots' parachutes failed to open but the military has not confirmed this version. An investigation is still underway.

GDP decline

According to the National Statistics Office the Czech Republic suffered a 4.5% drop in its GDP in the first quarter of 1999. Economic analysts are attributing the downturn to insufficient investments in the country. It is the second straight quarterly GDP drop, as the fourth quarter of 1998 showed a 4.1 percent decline. Overall in 1998 the GDP showed a 2.7% rise.

Air controllers strike warning off

Czech air controllers called off a strike warning on Tuesday after the government agreed to temporarily suspend the director of their state-owned air traffic control company. Dispatchers had demanded Materna's sacking claiming the management was implementing an inadequate new radar system and forcing employees to work excessive overtime. The ministry will reportedly ask the Brussels-based European air traffic control body, Eurocontrol , to assess the new radar system as well as staffing issues.

EU unhappy over Czech-Slovak customs union

In the latest round of accession talks between the Czech Republic and the EU, EU commissioner Hans van den Broek praised progress made in the past six months saying that despite negative publicity in recent weeks the Czech Republic was not on the list of problem applicants. He pointed out though that while the nuclear power plant being built in southern Bohemia did not present a problem in the eyes of EU officials, the Czech Republic's customs union with Slovakia was regarded as a serious hurdle. For the time being the Czech Republic does not wish to terminate this agreement with its Eastern neighbour and according to foreign minister Jan Kavan another attempt to reach a compromise with the EU is to be made in several weeks' time.

Public has no praise for Cabinet

An opinion survey published by the STEM agency shows that there is growing dissatisfaction with the Social Democrats cabinet. While in September of last year over 51% respondents professed to be satisfied with the way the Social Democrats were running the country the number of their supporters has now dropped to a mere 25%. In this latest survey 58% Czechs said the government was not making an effort to resolve the country's mounting problems, three fifth of respondents claim that the present political leadership is not on a morally higher plane that the former communist top brass and half of those questioned said that they were no more competent than their communist predecessors. A spokesman for the agency said that although the findings are shocking, previous right wing governments had fared little better in similar surveys.

NATO conference

A conference entitled the Czech Republic in NATO was held in the Czech Senate on Tuesday. NATO representatives and leading Czech politicians discussed the present-day role of NATO, assessing its policy in the Yugoslav conflict and debating a long-term strategy for the next millenium.

Havel visit

President Vaclav Havel is to visit neighbouring Austria on June 26th where he will take part in a conference devoted to the 10th anniversary of the fall of communism in central and eastern Europe. He is to meet briefly with Chancellor Viktor Klima and foreign minister Wolfgang Schussel to discuss the situation is Kosovo , which he is expected to visit within a matter of days, European integration and, not least, nuclear power. The Czech President will also award the head of the Jewish Documentation Centre Simon Wiesenthal the highest Czech state distinction the Order of the White Lion.

Utrecht wants to help Brno

The Dutch city of Utrecht has donated a gift of 100.000 crowns to the city of Brno to be used to encourage multi-cultural coexistence. Utrecht and Brno have engaged in a twining or sister towns project these past ten years and the Dutch city authorities have expressed the desire to assist the Moravian metropolis in resolving its Romany related problems. The town's mayor said it was yet to be decided how the money should best be used.

Elton John's concert postponed

The agency which organized Elton John's planned concert in Prague , scheduled for June 30th, has announced that at the singer's request the concert has had to be postponed. The agency has however assured all fans that tickets remain valid and it should be able to announce a new date for the concert within the next few days.

Finally, a look at the weather : Wednesday is expected to be another cold day with cloudy skies and temps between 14 and 18 degs C. For Moravia, where people are praying for the rain to cease the news is not very encouraging since the report predicts overcast skies and scattered showers.