Those were the main points, and now the news in more detail:
Deputies of the lower house of the Czech parliament have approved a second draft budget for 1999, after they failed to approve the first one last month. 113 deputies voted in favour of the budget, 82 voted against it. The new draft envisages a deficit amounting to 31 billion crowns, with 574 billion expected from revenues and 605 billion crowns worth of expenditures. As expected, the cabinet has met a demand by the House of Deputies and submitted a list of expenditures designed to boost economic growth. Huge financial means will be targeted for transport infrastructure and support of agriculture. In its revenue sector, the second draft does not count on income from laws and amendments which have not yet been approved by the Chamber of Deputies.
At its late night session on Wednesday, the cabinet approved a first measure designed to protect the Czech domestic food market against imports of cheap pork from the European Union. Agriculture Minister Jan Fencl told journalists that his cabinet would introduce a 40,9 percent customs duty for some categories of pork instead of the original 15 percent. The Czech cabinet also planned to introduce import quotas on EU pork of up to 4000 tons as of January 1999. As Fencl noted, though, all future steps taken by the government have yet to be discussed with the European Union.
Chairman of the German Bundestag, Wolfgang Thierse, was on a one-day official visit to the Czech Republic on Wednesday. Mr.Thierse, the first politician from former East Germany to hold such a high position, had talks with his Czech counterpart Vaclav Klaus, president Vaclav Havel, premier Milos Zeman and Foreign Minister Jan Kavan. Thierse said that relations between Prague and Bonn must be oriented toward the future, and described the Czech-German declaration as a significant document which has - from the political point of view - opened the door to the creation of good neighbourly relations between the two nations. Both governments are working on projects envisaging cooperation between both countries' parliaments.
President Vaclav Havel received the top representatives of the upper chamber of the Czech parliament - the Senate - at Prague castle on Wednesday. Senators whose mandate ended after last weekend's senatorial elections were also present, and the president thanked them for their work. After the elections, the Senate will see fifteen new faces, while twelve senators have received enough votes to stay in their posts for the next election period.
Mediators from the Civic democratic party and the Union for Prague have met at Prague's town hall, conducting talks on forming a possible coalition following last weekend's local elections. The meeting failed to produce any result, though. Following these developments, ODS's Jan Koukal announced that he will not run for the post of Prague's Mayor. However, under an agreement signed between the ruling Social democrats and the opposition Civic democrats, the post of the Mayor of Prague will be held by a member of the Civic democratic party. For the next four years, the Prague town hall will be ruled by a grand coalition of Social democrats and the ODS, as agreed late on Wednesday after a meeting of representaives of these two strongest political parties.
And finally a quick look at the weather: It will be mostly overcast, with occasional drizzle, and daytime highs between minus 2 and plus 2 degrees Celsius.
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