Those were the headlines, now the news in more detail:
Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy is due to meet his Slovenian counterpart Franci Demsar and Slovenian president Milan Kucan in Ljubljana today to discuss further NATO expansion and the Czech Republic's experiences gained from joining the alliance in March this year. Vetchy arrived in Slovenia on Saturday as part of a five-day tour of Bosnia Herzegovina, Slovenia and Croatia. Slovenia, along with Rumania, is one of the leading favourites for the next wave of NATO expansion. Vetchy will leave Ljubljana tomorrow for the last leg of his trip in Croatia.
The Czech part of the KFOR peace keeping forces began patrolling their section of the Serbian-Kosovo border this morning. The reconnaissance units will patrol the high mountainous terrain of the area in small groups, and the border will be kept under twenty four hour surveillance. The Czech soldiers, who operate in a British sector and fall under British command, are also to note down the so far uncontrolled movements of people across the border, monitor smuggling activities and efforts to stir up ethnic violence. Due to its altitude and seclusion, the area the Czech unit will operate in is apparently one of the least controlled areas in the province.
Five Roma from the Czech Republic have applied for political asylum in Finland. The five Roma, who are all women and children, flew to Helinski from Prague on Finnish Airlines, and their claim for asylum is being verified. Finnish authorities are now concerned that there may be an influx of Czech Roma into the country, following a wave of Slovak Roma applying for asylum over the past few weeks. Finland has now introduced visa requirements for Slovakia, but there are still no restrictions for holders of Czech passports.
Finance Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil has urged Czech businessmen who are interested in participating in renewal work in the Balkans to start working out business plans and to make contacts with businesses from the European Union. They should also look for opportunities in individual towns and regions in Yugoslavia. Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has apparently obtained offers from Norway, Italy and Greece for joint ventures. Due to a lack of funds and competitiveness in the Czech Republic, joint ventures are one of the ways that Czech companies can participate in renewal.
This year's Crystal Globe, the prize for the best film at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, has been won by the Israeli film Jana's Friends, the debut film of director Arik Kaplun. The jury selected this out of sixteen films in the running for the prize. The special jury prize, which those participating in the film festival can also vote for, was awarded to the Swedish-Danish film Love is Love, directed by Lukas Moodysson. Alexander Rogozkin won the prize for best director, for his film Crossing the Border.
The lower house of Czech parliament approved a bill on Friday allowing Czechs who emigrated during the Communist regime to apply for Czech citizenship. The Communist Party and the majority of the deputies from the opposition Civic Democratic Party voted against the bill. The new law would apply to Czechs who fled the country between February 1948 when the Communists came to power, and March 1990. It would also make it easier for Slovaks who continued to live in the Czech Republic after the split of Czechoslovakia at the end of 1992 to obtain Czech citizenship. The bill was criticised by some members of the opposition. Civic Democratic deputy Jiri Payne that the measure would allow hundreds of thousands of Sudeten Germans who left Czechoslovakia after 1948 to return. Government deputies accused him of scaremongering.
The president of Argentina, Carlos Menem, has cancelled a two-day state visit to the Czech Republic that was due to take place from July thirteenth to the fifteenth. The news was announced on Friday by President Vaclav Havel's office. No reason was provided to for the cancellation. Argentine officials were not available for comment on Friday.
In an open letter sent on Friday to journalists Prime Minister Milos Zeman has called on them for better relations, and the letter also contained an offer for an open meeting. This comes as a response to an open letter from journalists, in which they protested his claims against them. The prime minister's claims included statements that journalists were unprofessional and that one journalist in particular had written a paid article in favour of the Temelin nuclear power plant. In his letter, Zeman says that he believes there are two conditions for better relations between the media and the government: first, differentiating between objective news and subjective commentaries, and second providing correct information including the right for people to react to incorrect reports. The prime minister then offered journalists an open meeting to discuss how best to move forward.
In a new opinion poll carried out by the STEM agency, almost fifty percent of Czechs believe that the opposition agreement made between the ruling Social Democrats and the Civic Democrats is meaningless. The agreement means that the centre-right Civic Democrats support the minority centre-left government in certain issues and will not support as vote of no confidence in the government. Sixty three percent of those asked think that the agreement is an attempt to get rid of the smaller parliamentary parties. Over fifty percent of Czechs asked, however, consider that the opposition agreement was the most workable solution available after the 1998 general elections left the Social Democrats as the largest party in parliament, but far short of a majority.
Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Mertlik has claimed that disputes with the Minister of Trade and Industry, Miroslav Gregr, have delayed the government's revitalisation programme, which has been created to save some of the Czech Republic's largest ailing companies. If it weren't for these disputes, which are over the running of the programme, Mertlik claims, then the process of revitalisation could already have been underway at this point.
The Czech Republic's prison service has stated that Czech prisons are suffering from overcrowding. The current level of people service serving prison sentences exceeds the country's prison capacity by twenty percent. The situation is at its worst in the prison in Brno, where the current level of prisoners is double the facility's official capacity.
The forecast for today is cloudy to overcast skies with a possibility of rain showers and thunder storms later on. And that was the news.
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