News Wednesday, MARCH 03th, 1999

President Havel in France

President Vaclav Havel continues his 3-day official visit to France. After talks with his Czech counterpart in Paris on Tuesday evening, French president Jacques Chirac said he fully supported the Czech Republic's integration into the European Union and that his country was willing to provide assistance in all fields. Chirac has also confirmed that EU enlargement is French foreign policy's priority. According to Vaclav Havel, France has always played a key role in the European developments and after WW II it stood at the birth of the European integration process. Both presidents have agreed on a common vision of Europe, where solidarity among people prevails and the continent develops to benefit all. Wednesday's programme of the Czech president includes lunch with premier Lionel Jospin, and Mr.Havel will also address the French Senate and meet with Czech compatriots living in France.

Civic democrats - debate on governmental report

Opposition Civic Democratic Party MPs intend to initiate a discussion on the recently issued report on the state of Czech society at the upcoming meeting of the House of Deputies' leadership. Chairman of the Civic Democratic parliamentary party, Vlastimil Tlusty said that the Civic democrats will seek support from the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union. Tlusty noted that the report, elaborated by the Social Democrat cabinet, does not reflect the true state of affairs in the country and that he absolutely disagrees with a statement made by Social democrat deputy Stanislav Gross, that the past 10 years were worse than the previous 40 years of communist rule.

Czech banking sector - privatization

Addressing a conference on the preparations of the Czech banking sector for EU membership, held on Tuesday in Prague, the European Commission's envoy to the Czech Republic, Ramiro Cibriani, said banks in the Czech Republic must be privatized as soon as possible. He described their privatization as a task that our country has to fulfill to become EU compatible. Cibriani said the privatization is not only important for the Czech economy, but for the banks themselves, too, as in the future they will have to become competitive in the international environment.

Foreign investors - privatization of banks

Foreign investors have appealed to the Czech government to speedily privatize the banking sector in the country. After a meeting with deputy premier Pavel Mertlik in London they did not show much understanding for the Czech cabinet's programme envisaging revitalization of the Czech industry, either. "We want deeds, not words," the investors told Mertlik, adding that the privatization of the Czech banking sector should be the cabinet's absolute priority.

Czech trade exchange with EU

The Czech Republic successfully started its trade exchange with the European Union this year, with a surplus amounting to 3,6 billion crowns. Czech exports have increased by 2,5 percent when compared with the first two months of last year, while imports have dropped by nearly 7 percent. The most significant Czech export commodities are machinery and industrial products.

River levels go up

The levels of Czech rivers have been on the rise due to thawing snow. It is widely expected that this trend will continue until Friday. As daytime highs are expected to be above the freezing point, the thaw is going to continue, the Czech hydrometeorological institute has informed the CTK news agency. In the Sumperk and Hradec Kralove regions, the second degree of flood alert has been declared.

And finally a brief look at the events we expect today:

president Havel will meet in Paris with French premier Lionel Jospin and address the French senate

and the parliamentary club for defence and security will discuss the situation in Kosovo and preparations of the Czech army for possible participation in the peace mission in this troubled region.

I'm Alena Skodova and that's the end of the news.