The ruling Czech Social Democratic Party has elected a new leadership at the party's weekend congress in Prague. Prime Minister Milos Zeman, who has led the party for eight years, resigned as party leader and was replaced by Vladimir Spidla, deputy premier and labour and social affairs minister. Mr Zeman however remains Prime Minister. The congress also elected 5 new deputy leaders. Mr Spidla has been elected for a two-year term and he has committed himself to lead the Social Democratic Party to another victory in the 2002 parliamentary elections. As far as the party's policies are concerned, Mr. Spidla sees the Czech Republic's membership of the European Union as the primary goal.
The Czech government is to adopt a new law against air pollution. The new law will be in harmony with EU legislation and reflects international agreements and obligations, including the UN Kyoto Protocol on climate change, according to which the Czech Republic must reduce emissions of the most harmful pollutants by 8 percent by the year 2012. The new law also introduces a new system of sanctions against polluters, based on the rule "polluter pays". It will also introduce barriers for imports and exports of dangerous substances to deliver on the Czech Republic's commitment ensuing from The Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer.
Finance minister Pavel Metrlik has said he wants to change the government's decision on privatisation of the country's electricity and gas companies. After lengthy disputes between the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the government agreed last October to sell off the largest electricity producer CEZ and main gas importer Transgas, together with respective regional distribution companies. The decision was criticised by both independent analysts and foreign investors. The finance minister still insists that distribution companies be sold separately and he hopes to reverse the decision. According to estimates, the government could sell the electricity and gas companies for a total of 380 billion Czech crowns or around 10 billion USD.
The Czech and German justice ministers, Jaroslav Bures and Herta Däubler-Gmelin, have agreed to join forces to fight child prostitution in the border regions. They said the solution was to establish special teams of state attorneys in these regions who would cooperate across the border to fight child prostitution. Mrs. Däubler-Gmelin said she was worried about the role of Germany in the spread of child prostitution. Mr. Bures pointed out that cooperation will now proceed from theoretical talks to practical measures.
The Albanian president Rexhep Meidani arrives in Prague on Monday. This is the first ever official visit of an Albanian president to the Czech Republic. Official relations between the Czech Republic and Albania cooled in the 1960's but improved again after the fall of Communist regimes in both countries. Mutual trade between the two countries fluctuated in the past decade due to economic instability in Albania. However, there has been a stable growth in exchange of goods recently.
And finally, the weather forecast. We are expecting a partially cloudy day with scattered showers, with afternoon highs ranging from 7 to 11 degrees Celsius. Tuesday and Wednesday should be cloudy with occasional showers and the highest daytime temperatures around ten degrees Celsius.
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