And now the news in more detail...
The Czech government has welcomed the peace treaty signed by NATO and Yugoslav generals on Wednesday. Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said that the deal reflected many of the points that the Greeks and Czechs recently proposed to the Security Council. In Kavan's opinion, future negotiations with Yugoslavia will include the return of a small force of Serbs to the border with Kosovo, and greater autonomy for Kosovo within Yugoslavia.
Czech President Vaclav Havel has expressed his support for the government's efforts to speed up the process of bringing Czech legislation into line with European Union standards. The Czech parliament on Wednesday rejected a government plan proposing that the cabinet be given temporary powers to approve necessary legislative changes without parliamentary approval. The proposal would have given parliament a veto right, that could be applied within 30 days, after new legal forms had been accepted by the government. Havel said that he agreed with the government's approach, but that a better way of moving forward will have to be found.
The Czech Republic has become the first team in Europe to qualify for the Euro 2000 football championships after their 3-2 victory over Scotland. The Czechs looked in trouble after the Scots went 2-0 in the sixty third minute, but they came back to win with goals from Repka, Kuka, and Koller. The Czechs have now won seven straight games, and are absolutely guaranteed a place in the championships.
In an opinion poll carried out by the agency Sofres-Factum, the opposition Civic Democratic Party, with 24 percent, as opposed to 22 percent in April, has extended its lead over the ruling Social Democrat Party to eight points. The Social Democrats, whose popularity has slipped 3 points to 16 percent are now only just over 2 points ahead of the Communist Party, which is gaining ground at the government's expense.
The new general director Czech Radio has become Vaclav Kasik, the former head of the private radio station Radio Alfa. Czech Radio's board of directors named him to fill the post for the next six years. Kasik will replace Vlastimil Jezek, whose term as director will come to an end on June 30th. The new director of the only Czech public radio station was chosen by the board out of a total of five applicants.
5,000 litres of an unknown oil-based substance have leaked into the River Ohre near to the town of Bezdekov in North Bohemia. This was caused when heavy rain loosened vent of a cistern that was formally used for fermenting hops. Firemen enclosed the oil spill on the river with an underwater barrier, and fitted two pipes on the riverbank for removing polluted water and earth. According to the police, the damage this has cause cannot yet be calculated, but there are no signs of any fish or birds in the area. A police inspector qualified the incident as an environmental hazard.
The Confederation of Political Prisoners has called on all democratically elected Czech politicians to keep alive Vaclav Benda's vision of a democratic society and complete his life's work. Senator Vaclav Benda died last week of an unspecified illness after five weeks in hospital. Confederation chairman Stanislav Drobny said that the members of the confederation are convinced that the Czech Republic has lost one of its leading democratic and anti-communist politicians. Benda's death prevented him from carrying out his ideas of reconciling the country with its past and removing the remaining Communists from public life. He died at a time when the Communist Party is gaining in the polls and is once again becoming a political force to be reckoned with, Drobny added. On a related note, the Senate had a minute of silence for Senator Benda, and his seat was marked with a burning candle and a wreath.
Employees of the beleaguered Czech company CKD dopravni systemy, which manufactures trams and trains, have finally received their paycheck for March. The unions represented at the factory are also providing the company's workers with an interest free loan of 3000 Czech Crowns that will be returned once the workers are paid through to May. Leading union representatives are to meet with CKD's new supervisory board next week to come to an agreement on further wage payments. If a strategic partner is to be found for the company, which is facing bankruptcy, then there should be no tensions between the workforce and management, said leading trade unionist Ladislav Binko. It is not yet known when the company will resume production, but this could be within ten days.
Within 14 days, Prime Minister Milos Zeman's cabinet will provide parliament with a detailed outline of the results of its work, by each individual ministry, over the last ten months. Zeman informed parliament of this during a debate of the government's report on the state of the nation. The document will only contain the most important items to date. He added that the government will provide parliament with a information on proposed laws the government wants to pass, so that he can prove that his government is not inactive. This came as a reaction to measure passed in parliament calling on the government not to worsen the situation in the country by its actions.
The Czech Defence Ministry is to begin fighting a war against signing overpriced contracts. According to Defence Ministry adviser Jaroslav Stefec, the ministry will no longer simply stand back and watch as certain companies pump the defence budget for all it's worth. Stefec claims that in may cases the army is losing money on contracts, and a team of economists has been investigating for a long time how money is leaking from the defence budget and where it is ending up. This team suspects that many contracts are being signed with former army officers and that many of them are significantly padded. Many other, necessary contracts, will suffer because of this.
Three million Czech Crowns worth of illegal cigarettes, seized by the police in Horni Hranicna, West Bohemia, have been stolen from the local police station. The police are investigating forensic evidence found at the scene. As the building where the cigarettes were kept is under twenty four hours surveillance, investigators are not ruling out the possibility that the local police may have been involved in the theft.
The forecast for today is partially cloudy skies with a possibility of rain showers later on. That was the news.
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