A single new European currency, the euro, comes into effect in many EU countries on January 4, initially to function in parallel with their national currencies.
Although still only an associate member of the EU, the Czech Republic is making preparations for the move. Ceskoslovenska Obchodni, one of the country's principal banks, will start issuing modified exchange rate charts as of next Monday, which include coefficients of the new monetary unit's exchange rate to the national currencies.
The bank's spokesman Jan Stolar said in Prague on Sunday that several hundred clients had availed themselves of the opportunity to open ECU accounts with conversion to the euro.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has questioned the need for his country to speedily comply with EU standards so it could become a member by the year 2003.
Kavan said in an interview to Monday's press that a delayed entry could see the Czech Republic better prepared for membership.
He drew the example of Greece where he said local industries were virtually eliminated after it became a member of the European Union.
Hundreds of thousands of crowns have been collected by charities throughout the Czech Republic this Christmas.
In Brno alone, a fundraiser on behalf of a project for asylum homes for abandoned children, sponsored by the Red Cross, yielded more than 14,000 crowns on Boxing Day, bringing the total sum, collected since late November, to over 700,000 crowns.
In the western Bohemian city of Plzen, tens of thousands of crowns have been collected under a huge Christmas tree for the purchase of a thermal cycler -- a sophisticated device to diagnose leukaemia and bone marrow cancer.
The SOS Kosovo collection, which Radio Prague helped to promote in its daily broadcasts for Prague's English-speaking community, has also been very successful.
Meanwhile, heavy fighting, involving large calibre mortars and heavy machine-gun fire, broke out again in northern Kosovo on Sunday, further puncturing a shaky truce already violated last week with clashes in the same region.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe has said that worsening violence in Kosovo jeopardises its truce verification mission in the troubled Serbian province.
In an open letter to Prime Minister Milos Zeman, leading Czech culture figures demand the sacking of Social Democrat Health Minister Ivan David over the way he fired the chief of Prague's large Vinohrady Hospital, Senator Zuzana Roithova.
The letter, signed by seven artists including writer Ludvik Vaculik, holds David responsible for firing Roithova without a reason, in spite of a petition in her favour, signed by a majority of the hospital's employees.
Ms Roithova, a member of the centre-right Freedom Union party, became senator for Prague's 10th district after an election battle last month with her rival Milan Kondr of the main opposition ODS.
A Social Democrat contender finished a poor third in Roithova's election district.
Vintners in Moravska Nova Ves near the southern Moravian town of Breclav at the weekend dedicated their new wine to their patron saint, John Baptist.
Legend has it that enemies wanted to kill Saint John with poison- laced wine. However, the fearless saint blessed the cup with the sign of the cross and escaped unscathed.
Nova Ves parish priest Stanislav Kovar told the CTK news agency that, according to the legend, those who taste of good wine on St. John's Day will stay immune to snake poison all year round.
There are around 400 vintners in the village, who grow and produce around 20 varieties of wine.
Ninety-four hardened swimmers took a dip on Boxing Day in the cold waters of the river Vltava in Prague. The traditional Christmas Swimming Party was watched by enthusiastic crowds from both banks of the river.
The temperature of the river was one Celsius above freezing, the air was a notch warmer at two degrees. Many of the swimmers complained that the water was perhaps too warm to give them proper refreshment.
The rest of us, who prefer cosy warm pubs, are grappling with a viral infection that has spread over the past few days from the norther Bohemian areas to Prague. Doctors were very busy during Christmas coping with the spreading epidemic.
They say it is a viral infection which requires antibiotics. But it is not the flu yet, they say.
Large areas of East Bohemia and Moravia are covered with ice as the result of a let-up followed by snow showers and drizzle.
Roads in the mountain areas are largely unfit for driving in spite of the use of advanced road-management technologies.
Czech authorities have issued a warning to motorists to limit their excursions to favourite skiing resorts, although the snow conditions there are still perfect.
Talking about the weather, warmer southwestern air will continue to pour into the Czech Republic on Monday, bringing along more precipitations, fogs and daytime temperatures in Bohemia between six and nine degrees Celsius, and between three and six above freezing in Moravia and Silesia.
A warm air intrusion from the southwest will continue on Tuesday and Wednesday, again with scattered showers and thick fogs in the morning.
We expect nighttime lows between minus four and zero Celsius on Tuesday, and between three above and one below on Wednesday. Daytime highs from three to seven degrees Celsius.
The sun rises at 07:58 on Tuesday, and sets six minutes after four p.m.
I am Libor Kubik and that's the end of the news.
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