These are the main points and now the news in more detail.
Leader of the main opposition Civic Democratic Party, Vaclav Klaus, has invited his counterpart from the junior opposition Christian Democrats, Jan Kasal, to talks on further developments on the political scene. Klaus wrote in a letter to Kasal that he is convinced the recent significant changes on the Czech political scene need to be discussed and that this is the right time. Kasal has accepted the invitation. Two weeks ago, Klaus initiated talks on forming a super grand coalition of all non-communist parties in the parliament.
A member of parliament for the opposition right-of-centre Freedom Union has left the party. Marie Machata said the party was unable to put together reasonable policies, produced only empty phrases and entered meaningless arguments with other parties. She added that she was considering joining the National Social Party which is not represented in Parliament. The decision comes at a time when the Freedom Union is negotiating with other right-of-centre parties on the possibility of forming a majority government. The three potential partners had a narrow majority of 102 seats in the 200-seat legislature, but with Machata's departure and Christian Democrat Josef Lux's long-term illness, they are left with 100 seats only.
83 percent of Czechs are dissatisfied with the current political situation, according to the latest opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research. Only fourteen percent of the poll respondents said they were satisfied with the political situation. People criticize mainly the inability of politicians to reach a consensus in important issues, to work together and overcome mutual conflicts.
The Czech Republic ranks 39th on the list of 99 nations reviewed in terms of corruption. The list was compiled by the anti-corruption organisation Transparency International. According to the study, corruption is virtually non-existent in Denmark, Finland and Sweden, while Cameroon occupies the bottom position. On a 10-point scale, the Czech Republic scored 4.6, sliding down from 4.8 points a year ago.
The Czech National Bank has cut all three key interest rates. The two-week repo rate now stands at 5.5 percent, down from 5.75, the discount and Lombard rates were cut equally by half a percent to 5 percent and 7.5 percent respectively.
Economic experts expected this move, especially with regard to the Czech National Bank's fear of undershooting the inflation target in the year 2000. Other factors are the strengthening of the exchange rate and pressure from the government.
Several members of parliament across the political spectrum have come up with a draft law which would enable police and courts to prosecute the propagation of fascist and communist ideology. The joint proposal comes from the benches of the Civic Democratic Party, Freedom Union and Social Democratic Party which together have 155 votes in the 200-member lower house. If passed, the new law would make it possible for courts to sentence those who publicly promote racial, religious or class hatred to a maximum of eight years in prison and three years for those who openly sympathise with these ideas. The authors of the draft argue that all these ideologies share common ground and should therefore be treated equally.
A survey conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research suggests that support for the Czech Republic's accession to the European Union has stabilised. 57 percent of respondents said they were for their country's accession to the EU, while 25 percent were against. Support for membership is larger among people with higher education and among those who sympathise with right-of-centre political parties. On the other hand, the poll suggests that people with low living standards and supporters of the Communist party are mostly against the Czech EU membership.
At its session today, the government is dealing with the European Commission's report on the Czech Republic's preparedness for accession. The report which was published two weeks ago, criticised a slow pace of preparations, especially in adopting, implementing and enforcing the acqui, and public sector reform.
The Czech National Bank expects the Consumer Price Index at the end of this year to stand between 2.0 and 2.6 percent. Net inflation is projected to reach 0.8 to 1.6 percent. For the next year, the Central Bank foresees annual inflation at around four percent and net inflation around 2 percent.
And finally, a brief look at the weather. On Wednesday, a high pressure area will continue to spread over central Europe from the West. We are expecting a partially cloudy day with scattered showers especially in North-Western parts of the country. Afternoon highs should range from 9 to 13 degrees Celsius. Thursday and Friday should also be partially cloudy, but in some areas morning fogs or low cloud formations may occur which will persist until afternoon hours. The highest daytime temperatures should range from 10 to 14 degrees Celsius.
And that's the end of the news.
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