Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm AS and we start as usual with the news. First the headlines:
Central European Initiative Met in Karlovy Vary
Representatives of the 16 Central European Initiative states gathered in the town of Karlovy Vary on Thursday to discuss developments in the Balkans and possible economic aid for the region. The officials, including nine foreign ministers, have endorsed the European Union's Pact of Stability, which has already found support in the United States. According to the Central European Initiative , the development of democracy in Yugoslavia is a necessary condition for the preservation of peace and stability in Southeastern Europe. The CEI has also issued a document condemning the "mass killing" of mostly civilian Kosovo inhabitants and appealed to all parties involved to fully collaborate with the International Court for former Yugoslavia. The participants in the Karlovy Vary meeting have also had words of praise for Albania and Macedonia, especially for helping Kosovo refugees. The CEI also stressed that the international community must help secure Kosovars' safe return home.
Czech president Vaclav Havel is in Budapest on a working visit to Hungary. Hungary is the Czech president's first stop-over on his 4 day tour which will also include Austria, Albania and possibly Kosovo. On Thursday, president Havel received the Open Society award from George Soros, the American millionaire of Hungarian descent and founder of the Central European University in Budapest. On Friday, president Havel is holding talks with his Hungarian counterpart Arpad Goencz and premier Viktor Orban. The political talks in Hungary concern further cooperation between the states associated in the Visegrad Four - which are Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Austria - developments in Central Europe in light of the entry to the European Union of some countries in the region, and also the situation in Kosovo. In Albania, the Czech president plans to visit the Czech military field hospital and a refugee camp. In Kosovo, president Havel wants to find-out whether NATO aistrikes have met their goals and created conditions for the restoration of a multi-ethnic Kosovo society. However, Havel, the first NATO country head of state to visit Kosovo, has not received an official invitation.
After finishing preparations for deployment in Kosovo as part of the KFOR peace-keeping force, a send-off parade for the Czech sixth reconnassaince unit was held outside the military barracks in the Moravian town of Prostejov. The parade was attended by Czech Defence minister Vladimir Vetchy and other army officials from Prostejov and Pardubice, where the majority of unit members come from. The Czech reconnaissance unit,comprised of 126 soldiers will - according to Foreign minister Jan Kavan - set off next Monday and become part of KFOR four days later. This will be the third Czech commitment in peace-keeping missions in the Balkans : a mechanized batallion and a helicopter fleet are deployed in Bosnia, a military field hospital and an unarmed transport plane are in Albania.
In Prague a contract on the sale of a 66 percent state owned stake in Ceskoslovenska Obchodni Banka to the Belgian KBC bank for 40 billion Czech crowns was signed on Thursday. The sale of CSOB is the biggest in the history of Czech privatization. The revenue will be divided among the Finance Ministry, the National Property Fund and the Czech National Bank. The treasury will receive 12 billion crowns directly, which will help lower the state budget deficit.The new owner promised to maintain the bank's character and not make significant changes in the composition of its management.
Costs pertaining to the Czech Republic's future accession to the European Union and those supporting the regional policy will be among the priorities in the expenditure chapter of the state budget for the year 2000. Finance minister Ivo Svoboda told this to journalists after a seminar held by the Czech cabinet on Thursday evening. Deputy premier in charge of economic matters, Pavel Mertlik said that total budget expenditures would not increase dramatically. "The deficit might reach some 30 billion crowns," said Mertlik.
And finally a brief look at the weather: a high-pressure area is moving into the Czech Republic, and we expect occasional rainshowers and daytime highs between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius.
I'm AS and that's the end of the news.
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