Daily news summary News Thursday, JANUARY 28th, 1999

28-01-1999

Good morning from Radio Prague. I am Libor Kubik in Studio 23 and here's the news.

SPYMASTER SACKED

Government has fired the boss of the Czech secret service BIS, Karel Vulterin, citing serious shortcomings in his work but refusing to elaborate.

Government Spokesman Libor Roucek said after a late-night cabinet session that a replacement must be found by the end of March.

The service was taken over on an interim basis by Jaroslav Jira, the agency's top economic executive.

The opposition believes that the sacking is the result of many months of indiscriminate pressure on the BIS from the incumbent Social Democrat administration.

BRITAIN-CZECH-HITLER

Britain knew of Adolf Hitler's plans to invade Czechoslovakia in 1939 at least six months before the Nazi occupation of the Czech Lands on March 15. This according to the British MI5 files which were declassified in London on Wednesday.

The files seem to suggest that Press Attache Jona Ustinov of the German embassy in London briefed Britain about Berlin's plans as early as in August 1938.

During the next month, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, together with officials from France, Germany and Italy, signed the Munich Agreements under which Germany annexed large parts of the Czechoslovak borderland, populated mostly by ethnic Germans.

Prime Minister Chamberlain said then that the Munich Agreements would secure peace in Europe.

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS UK

Britain has praised the Czech government's efforts to improve the situation of the country's Roma community and said it is not planning to reimpose the visa requirement on travellers from the Czech Republic.

Junior Home Office Minister Mike O'Brien said after talks with Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan in London on Wednesday that the Czech authorities were successfully solving the problem of Roma asylum seekers in Britain. He said that Prague's effort to put things right was quite serious, beyond criticism, and certainly not hampering the Czech journey into the European Community.

During his recent visit to the Czech Republic, Junior Home Office Minister Mark O'Brien warned Prague that London will shortly adopt tough new legislation to prevent the abuse of Britain's liberal asylum policy.

The British Home Office has said that last year alone, 450 Czech Romanies applied for asylum in Britain. This number does not include family members and dependants of the asylum seekers.

HAVEL-LEADERS-CONSULTATIONS

Czech President Vaclav Havel held more consultations on Wednesday with leaders of selected political parties. His spokesman Ladislav Spacek said the aim was to map the situation on the Czech political scene.

However, the president has no plans to meet with the leaders of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, which earned him criticism from the Communists who say Havel has backed down on his promise to be the president of all Czechs.

A recent public survey has shown that the Communists would collect almost 14 percent of the vote if parliamentary elections were held today.

POLITICS-FRUSTRATION-POLL

Czechs are becoming increasingly disappointed by the political situation in their country. A poll released on Wednesday showed that the number of those rather satisfied has fallen to a dismal 21 percent -- a two percentage point slump on December's figures.

Three quarters of those polled by the state-funded IVVM agency said they were extremely disappointed.

But another poll, by the STEM agency, indicates that up to 60 percent of Czechs would go to the polls if elections were held now.

CZECH-ECONOMIC REVITALISATION-MINISTER

Vice Premier Pavel Mertlik said on Wednesday that the process of revitalising Czech industries, which is now being outlined by economic ministers, must acquire international legitimacy.

Mertlik said in an interview to the CTK news agency that the Czech Republic must be able to explain to the European Union and the world financial community that it is a transforming economy.

He said that unless this happens the revitalisation programme is doomed and the Czech Republic will face legal action from potential foreign competitors of domestic industrial firms.

The revitalisation programme is aimed at introducing conditions for the effective privatisation of companies formally denationalized through the early nineties' voucher scheme. Many of them are facing acute problems in the tough new economic environment.

CZECH-FLU-EPIDEMIC

The flu epidemic which has spread across the Czech Republic is showing no signs of abating. Many hospitals remain closed to visitors and some schools have sent pupils to unscheduled holidays.

However, all schools in Prague are functioning normally thus far.

COLUMBIA-QUAKE-AID

The Czech Red Cross and Catholic Charity announced plans on Wednesday to organise emergency aid to the victims of Monday's devastating earthquake in western Colombia.

The Czech Catholic Charity will shortly ask the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to authorise a public fund-raising effort to help ease the plight of those affected.

The death toll caused by the tremor, measuring six on the Richter Scale, is not known yet. But the Colombian Redd Cross fears that at least 2,000 people may have been killed. More than a quarter of a million victims have lost shelter.

CZECH-WEATHER

Now a quick look at the weather. Thursday will be another wet and cold day in the Czech Republic, with daytime temperatures between two degrees Celsius below and two above freezing point.

At the start of the weekend, we expect a cold air intrusion from the northwest. The skies will be cloudy and we should brace ourselves for more rain and snow.

Nighttime lows will be well below zero Celsius and up to minus 12 in some areas. Daytime highs between four degrees below and zero Celsius on Friday, and even colder, up to minus eight, on Saturday.

And that's the end of the news.

28-01-1999