News Wednesday, SEPTEMBER 15th, 1999

Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. I'm Dita Asiedu, first let's take a look at the main headlines of the day:

You are tuned to Radio Prague. Those were the headlines, now let's take a look at the news in full:

Cabinet / EU / Lansky

The Czech government on Wednesday is preparing to discuss the country's preparations for becoming a member of the European Union. This comes after Future EU Commissioner Gunter Verheugan said in Strasburg that the Union should set a date for the entry of all states tipped to enter in the first wave, which would include the Czech Republic. He dismissed recent speculation in the international media that Prague would not be in this group and said the European Union would not differentiate between countries. There has been some concern that a European Commission report due to be released in October, is expected to be very critical of the Czech Republic.

On Tuesday, Czech Deputy Premier Egon Lansky confirmed after a visit to Berlin, that the Czech Republic remains firmly in the first group slated for membership. He also rejected proposals that he should leave office if the expected report is very critical, saying he would only resign if asked to do so by Premier Milos Zeman.

Interest rates / GDP / Views

Czech Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik and Chairman of Parliament Vaclav Klaus agreed on Tuesday evening that there is room for a cut in interest rates. Mertlik said that with regard to the rise in the Gross Domestic Product during the last quarter, interest rates could be slashed by one percent. Leader of the Civic Democratic Party and Chairman of Parliament, Vaclav Klaus said interest rates must be cut, since they are too high and proving a heavy burden for companies and the banking sector.

Although the Czech statistical office said on Wednesday that the Czech Republic's Gross Domestic Product has increased over the last quarter, right wing economists and experts from the Christian democratic party have expressed reservations. They say that the importance of a 0.3 percent increase should not be overestimated. Czech Premier Milos Zeman on the other hand has been unable to conceal his delight and told journalists on Wednesday that this is a clear signal that the country is finally coming out of an economic recession. Speaking to the Czech Press Agency, CTK, Mr Zeman said that compared to the first quarter, the GDP has risen by 3.6 percent. "This is an unusually high increase" he said, adding that it is proof that his party is keeping its pre-election promises to rejuvenate the economy. Deputy Chairman of the Christian democrats Miroslav Kalousek in the meantime has warned that this is not a statistic confined solely to the Czech Republic, since neighbouring countries are also undergoing a growth spurt and dismissed theories that it is the result of government policies. A Civic Democratic party official also noted that the increase was interesting but said that the government should really wait to see whether or not the trend will continue into the next quarter. Jiri Svarc, President of the Liberal Institute, said on Wednesday, that a rise in foreign trade is the reason for the increase and said this could again show promising figures in the next quarter, depending of course on the exchange rate.

Bank / Computer / Information

Prague police are investigating a curious case of information leakage, after adverts appeared on the internet last week, offering information on current accounts held at the Ceska Sporitelna Bank. Last Friday a service turned up on the internet, promising information about account owners and the movement of money in their accounts at the bank. A police spokeswoman said on Wednesday that it is still too early to say whether or not the Police have come up with anything. A prominent Prague based lawyer has in the meantime, said that releasing this kind of information on the internet is against the law. He said the culprit, faces a sentence of up to five years in jail and a fine of one million Czech crowns.

Parliament / Havel / Advocacy

The Czech Parliament on Wednesday outvoted President Vaclav Havel by approving an amendment to the law on advocacy. 173 voted for the law, which was already approved once in July and 14 voted against. Two months ago, Havel vetoed the amendment, saying it shows preferential treatment for those who enter the legal profession. Under the new amendment, the legal chamber may strike lawyers off the lists if they do not practice law for four or more years. This does not apply to MP's or senators. When he returned the amendment to Parliament, President Havel said it discriminates against some, in favour of others.

Kuzvart / Critical / Prague

Czech environment minister Milos Kuzvart criticised on Wednesday the government's recently approved controversial plan outlining the future of Prague's infrastructure. He said the plans for developing the transport network within the capital were unsuitable and would harm the atmosphere in the city center. He told journalists that the plans were not approved by his ministry and warned that the effect on the quality of air in the targeted areas was not taken into account at all. According to Milos Kuzvart, the government broke the law by ignoring proposals and comments put forward by the people of Prague.

CSSD / Unpopular / Reasons

Social democrat MP and Chairman of the Party's Prague Organisation Karel Splichal said on Wednesday that the party's drop in popularity among the electorate may be explained by the party's unclear stand on several issues. Speaking to journalists he said that the construction of the controversial Nuclear Power station Temelin was one of the topics which has seen the Social Democrats fall to third place in opinion polls, behind the Civic Democratic Party and the Communists. He admitted that politicians held lengthy debates in the media on the topic of Temelin, while the cabinet waited for an outcome and said that the government needs to show the public that it makes decisions and takes action.

Havel / Latvia / Award

Czech President Vaclav Havel was awarded on Wednesday, a Latvian High state distinction by the Latvian ambassador to Prague Aiji Odin. She later told reporters that Vaclav Havel received his award for his work on deepening ties between Latvia and the Czech Republic. She told the President that during the Soviet era, his literary works had kept up morale among Latvians and thanked him for Czech support for Latvian attempts to enter Euroatlantic structures.

And we end as usual with a brief look at the weather:

A ridge of low pressure moving over central Europe, means the hot weather we've been having for the last week is soon set to come to an end. The sunshine will last throughout Wednesday, however, with temperatures during the day reaching 28 degrees Celsius, dropping overnight to 12 degrees Celsius.

I'm Dita Asiedu and that's the end of the news.