Hello and a warm welcome to Radio Prague. I'm David Vaughan. First the headlines.
The new government of Josef Tosovsky is to present its policy programme to parliament this afternoon. The programme will then form the basis of a vote of confidence to be held either this evening or on Wednesday. Today's session of parliament is to be attended by President Havel. The Czech crown strengthened slightly on Monday, after the opposition Social Democrats recommended over the weekend that their members of parliament vote in favour of the new government in this week's vote of confidence. However Social Democrat support is not guaranteed, as the leaders of two of the parties represented in the government, the Civic Democratic Alliance, and the newly formed Freedom Union, have said that they are not happy with the Social Democrats' conditions for supporting the government.
The Czech and German Foreign Ministers have ended weeks of delicate talks by naming the committee to administer the two countries' joint Fund for the Future. The fund's administration is a sensitive issue because one of the fund's tasks will be to provide support to Czech survivors of Nazi concentration camps. In the course of talks many on the Czech side had expressed reservations about including Sudeten German representatives on the committee. But in the end it was announced that the board will include two Sudeten Germans, the former leader of the Bavarian Social Democrats, Volkmar Gabert, and the chairman of the Bavarian parliament, Johann Bohm.
The British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, has said in Brussels that the European Union is to begin accession talks with the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus on the 31st of March. Speaking at a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers that launched Britain's six-month presidency of the Union, he said that the former Iron Curtain should not be replaced by what he called a "velvet" curtain between the wealthy countries of the EU and the poorer countries on its eastern borders. The initial decision to launch talks with the six front-runners for membership was taken at last month's EU summit in Luxembourg, but Monday's meeting saw the first mention of a specific date.
In the course the meeting the Danish Foreign Minister, Niels Helveg Petersen, stressed that EU expansion should be properly structured and coordinated, in order to guarantee European stability. He pointed to the importance of examining the degree to which the legal systems of candidate countries are compatible with EU standards. And the Austrian Foreign Minister, Wolfgang Schussel, expressed concern about the impact of EU expansion on the Union's current border regions, where an increasingly mobile labour force from the east could have an impact on unemployment. He called on the EU to offer financial help to lessen this impact, which will mainly effect Austria and Germany.
The Social Democrat Senator, Jan Kavan, who refused to undergo a breath test after crashing his car into a number of other vehicles in an accident last week, is coming under increasing pressure from within his party to explain his behaviour. His local party organisation in the town of Prostejov has added its voice to that of the Senate itself, in asking for a full explanation. At the time of the incident police said that they could smell alcohol on the Senator's breath, but Mr Kavan took advantage of his parliamentary immunity, in refusing to cooperate.
And I'll end with a quick look at the weather... The cold weather is set to remain with us, with temperatures unlikely to rise above freezing in the course of the next few days, and nighttime temperatures as low as minus 12 degrees Celsius. In the mountains we can expect even daytime temperatures to remain at about minus 5.
And that's the end of the news.
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