Daily news summary News Tuesday, JULY 27th, 1999

27-07-1999

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm Nick Carey and this is the news. First, a look at the headlines.

Those were the headlines, now the news in more detail:

Not enough evidence against former Finance Minister

The chief state prosecutor Karel Bruckler has stated that he does not believe that there is enough evidence for charges against former Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda and his co-manager and former deputy minister Barbora Snopkova to go to trial. Bruckler reviewed the investigator's report concerning allegations that Svoboda and Snopkova damaged creditors' interests during their time as managers of the now bankrupt Liberta pram manufacturer, and sent his legal opinion that there was insufficient evidence to the Central Bohemian chief prosecutor. If charges are dropped against Svoboda, this will cause extreme embarrassment to Prime Minister Milos Zeman, who had Svoboda removed from his position as Finance Minister last week. His only reason for this was the fact that charges had been filed against Svoboda by the police in connection with Liberta.

Record losses for Skoda Plzen

According to a highly placed unofficial source at Skoda Plzen, the losses incurred by the ailing engineering concern for 1998 could reach over five billion Czech Crowns, outstripping the company's record losses of 4.2 billion Crowns for 1997. The general director the company, Jiri Hlavica, admitted that the result for 1998 will be worse than for 1997, but declined to give the exact total. These large losses, however, according to Hlavica, will not force the company to file bankruptcy. The losses were apparently caused by the necessity to create reserves to cover loss making purchases that the company made in the past few years, such as truck manufacturer Liaz.

US Embassy warns US citizens to be on the alert

The US Embassy has warned American citizens in Prague to be on the alert and be careful of their own personal safety. This follows an anonymous threat of terrorist actions which was received on Friday. Security has been increased at the US Embassy and other American institutions around Prague, including the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty building at the top of Wenceslas Square. According to unofficial sources, the threat was aimed particularly at Radio Free Europe, which began broadcasts to Iran and Iraq last year. The police have declined to release any specific information about the threat, or about the security measures they are taking. Despite increased security, the American Embassy is continuing to provide services to US citizens and is operating its visa service normally. Radio Free Europe is also continuing to broadcast its programmes as usual. The station's spokeswoman Sonia Winter expressed its gratitude to Czech officials for their protection.

Police attack supermarket demonstrators

A demonstration against the construction of a Billa supermarket in the North Bohemian town yesterday was broken up violently by the police. Sixty demonstrators apparently lay down in the road to prevent trucks from reaching the site where the supermarket will be built. The police then attacked, and according to the spokesman of the protest committee, Petr Kurka, beat several of the protestors quite brutally. The protest committee is considering filing charges against individual police officers. The police have responded by saying that the protestors were warned of possible police action in advance. A petition has already been handed to the authorities with over two thousand signatures, but this has been ignored, say the protestors. They plan to continue using their bodies as human shields for the remainder of this week.

Grulich estimates that Kosovar refugees will return home in September

Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich estimates that the return of the refugees to Kosovo who were brought to the Czech Republic from Macedonia during the NATO bombing campaign should begin in September. According to Minister Grulich, the government will discuss the issue in a meeting on Wednesday. The refugees will be returned home by plane, as it will be easier to undertake from the administrative point of view, and will ensure that all of the refugees arrive home safely. The minister believes that at least seventy five percent of the refugees will want to return home, and the rest will have to apply for political asylum in the Czech Republic in the same way the refugees from other countries do. The minister declined to comment on a fight that occurred between refugees from a camp near Olomcou and local residents, as he was on holiday when the incident occurred.

Growth in preference for Communists is a warning

Senate vice chairman Premysl Sobotka of the Civic Democratic Party has stated the current increase in preference for the Communist Party is a bad sign and a warning to the other parties. In his opinion, this growth is a reaction to the current mood in Czech society. He believes that the Communists are offering voters ever more simple solutions to their problems, and warned that the Communist Party has never changed its goals, ideology and its desire to nationalise all property. Sobotka also warned that the latest opinion polls, which put the Communists in second place after the Civic Democrats with 18 percent, should not be considered as an election result.

Fifty percent of population unhappy with resolution of the situation in Kosovo

According to a new opinion poll carried out by the IVVM public opinion institute, fifty percent of Czechs are unhappy with the way the recent crisis in Kosovo was resolved. The number of people who disagree with NATO's actions in the province has risen to sixty two percent. The majority of people, though, are satisfied with the United Nations' role in the conflict. The younger generations are the most satisfied with the way the conflict was handled, and citizens over the age of sixty are the most unhappy.

Czechs negotiating for Eurobonds in London

Representatives of the Czech Republic are currently negotiating a plan with investors in London to issue Czech state bonds on the international markets. The issue would be worth three hundred million Euros, and payment would be due in seven to ten years. According to bankers who are not interested in the deal, the interest rate will be about one percent higher than for German government bonds. According to a manager from Morgan Stanley, it is too early to tell the result, as the Czech Republic does not seem to be in too much of a hurry to get onto the international bond markets.

Third mobile operator will have to be operational by June 2000

The successful candidate in the public tender for obtaining the Czech Republic's third mobile phone network license will have to have its network up and running by June 2000. This information is part of the conditions that were released by the Czech Telecommunications Office last week. In order to obtain a full list of conditions, applicants have to pay a participation fee of two hundred million Czech Crowns. The decisive criteria for selecting the operator will be the speed at which it can set up its network, its rates policy, and the quality of the network, which is determined, for instance, by the number of incomplete calls. The network will have to cover sixty percent of the population by next summer, and eighty percent by the end of 2001. Full, binding offers will have to be provided by August 17th and the winner will be announced by the end of September.

Unclear when flights to Belgrade will resume

It is still unclear when flights between Prague and Belgrade will resume, despite the fact that the European Union stated last week that it intends to gradually remove the sanctions against Serbia. Employees of Czech Airlines claim that the first flight could take place as early as next week. Official statements have, however, been more cautious. The public relations department of Czech Airlines has stated that flights could theoretically resume next week, but that this depends on negotiations with the Foreign Ministry and the behaviour of other European states. The Foreign Ministry has so far declined to comment, as it is waiting for Brussels to lead the way, and does not expect any major changes in sanctions to take place until September. Czech Airlines halted flights to Belgrade in March due to the NATO air strikes on Serbia.

Seven companies apply for Revitalisation Programme

Seven Czech companies have applied to take part in the Social Democrat government's revitalisation programme, which is aimed at saving some of the country's largest ailing companies from bankruptcy. The applications have been handed to the administrator of the Revitalisation Agency, which is a daughter company of the state-owned Konsolidacni Banka. The administrator will have the final word in choosing the companies that will be incorporated in the programme and the measures that will be taken to save them. Negotiations are to follow with the individual companies concerning the level of government support and the final selection will be known during the course of the autumn. The director of Konsolidacni Banka, Kamil Ziegler, said that the most important work for the agency still lies ahead.

Czech children adopted by German families

And on a warmer note, some of the unwanted children of Czech prostitutes working on the international E-55 highway have been adopted by German families. There have been increasing requests from Germany to adopt these children, many of whom are believed to be the children of German customers the prostitutes. According to the mayor of Teplice where the children are housed, these children would not be welcome in Czech families. The ones adopted so far are believed to be settling in well.

Weather

The forecast for today is partially cloudy skies, with occasional showers in places. High temperatures should reach 25 degrees centigrade.

And that was the news.

27-07-1999