Daily news summary News Thursday, DECEMBER 23rd, 1999

23-12-1999

You'll receive Radio Prague news again after Christmas holiday on Monday, December 27.

Radio Prague E-news Date: 23 Dec 1999 Written/read by: Libor Kubik

CZECH-AUTO-STRIKE

Trade Unions in the Czech automobile factory Skoda Mlada Boleslav are threatening to take labour action after they failed to reach an agreement with the management concerning wage increases and pay for extra hours.

Skoda's management is only offering a one-percent wage increase for next year and says it cannot rule out massive layoffs in the near future.

Our correspondent says the production of Skoda's latest model, the Fabia, is endangered after workers refused to report for extra volunary shifts, leaving many Fabias uninished.

Skoda Mlada Boleslav is part of the German car-manufacturing group Volkswagen.

CZECH-GOVT-HOLIDAY

The Czech government has agreed to make November 17 a national holiday recalling the "Velvet Revolution" that ended four decades of Communist rule.

The date marks a 1989 police crackdown on a peaceful student demonstration. It sparked mass protests in Prague and other cities that within weeks brought down the government of what was then Czechoslovakia.

The new holiday, announced on Wednesday by a cabinet spokesman, is expected to be approved by parliament and signed into law by Vaclav Havel, the anticommunist playwright who is in his last term as president.

November 17 is already marked unofficially as the anniversary of the revolution, and is also commemorated for a violent crackdown on students protesting in 1939 against the closure of Czech universities by occupying German forces.

CZECH-POLITICS-ELECTION

A coalition of four opposition right-of-centre parties hinted on Wednesday they might contest the next parliamentary election on a single ticket.

The hints came a few days after one polling agency reported that the four-party coalition would win in the elections if all its members contested them together.

The coalition consists of the Freedom Union, the Christian Democrats and two non-parliamentary parties -- the Civic Democratic Alliance and the Democratic Union. A spokesman for the coalition said regional party leaders had been instructed to meet and discuss this option on a local level

The STEM polling agency reported that the coalition would win over 24 percent of the vote if the elections were held today.

CZECH-PARTY-POLITICS

The Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats begged to differ on Wednesday in their predictions concerning the future fate of the so-called "Opposition Agreement" -- the power- sharing pact that enabled the Social Democrats to form a minority cabinet after inconclusive elections in 1998.

Christian Democrat chairman Jan Kasal said he expects the main-opposition Civic Democrats to abrogate the pact, while the Freedom Union's Vaclav Krasa anticipates no dramatic changes on the political scene.

Civic Democrat leader Vaclav Klaus has recently criticised the Social Democrat's style of government. They reacted by calling for reconciliation talks between both parties. These are scheduled early next month.

CZECH-COMMUNIST-VIETNAM

The Czech Communist Party's parliamentary leader Vojtech Filip said on Wednesday he was seeking an apology from two right-wing legislators who alleged last week that his business trip to Vietnam two years ago had been involuntarily financed by taxpayers.

Filip gave Senator Michael Zantovsky and Civic Democrat MP Jan Zahradil 30 days to apologise or face legal action.

Filip and his party's vice chairman Miroslav Ransdorf visited Vietnam in 1997 to arrange a contract on Czech-built locomotives. They denied reports that they had received kickbacks.

Senator Zantovsky said in a discussion programme on private TV Nova a few days ago that Filip as a member of parliament was using taxpayer money to maintain his political contacts and to travel abroad.

The locomotive deal was finalised during Prime Minister Milos Zeman's visit to Vietnam last week.

CZECH-GOVT-LABOUR

The Czech government on Wednesday passed a bill on amending the country's Labour Code to make it fully compatible with EU standards.

The requirements embodied in the European Social Charter and other relevant standards include a ban on sexual harassment, equal opportunities for both sexes, and equal remuneration for the work performed.

The new Czech Labour Code would also introduce longer annual paid leaves and reduce the number of overtime hours allowed monthly.

CZECH-GOVT-NGO

The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday expressed satisfaction with the assistance it is getting from various non-governmental organisations in safeguarding humanitarian aid programmes in many parts of the world.

The ministry said cooperation with NGO's had greatly improved over the past year. A ministry source said the Czech Republic was currently preparing to dispatch emergency relief aid to the flood-stricken Venezuela and to the victims of the war in Chechnya.

Chief among the Czech nonprofit organisations are the People in Need foundation, attached to Czech Public TV, the Czech Catholic Charity and the Adventist relief organisation ADRA.

CZECH-SOCCER

Football -- and the Czech Republic finished second in FIFA's Team of the Year contest in Zurich on Wednesday. Brazil are the winners, as the awards goes to the team which tops FIFA's rankings in December.

The Czech Republic lost just once this year.

CZECH-WEATHER

And we end as usual with a brief weather report.

Thursday will be a cold day here in the Czech Republic, with early morning lows between 8 and 12 degrees below zero, and daytime highs between -4 and zero Celsius.

Christmas should be a little warmer, with nighttime lows between one and five degrees below freezing and daytime highs just around zero. We expect sleet and other unseasonable weather conditions.

I am Libor Kubik and that's the end of the news.

23-12-1999