Those were the headlines, now the news in more detail:
The Lower House of Parliament has approved the state budget for the year 2000. The budget, with a state income of five hundred and ninety two billion Czech Crowns, and spending of six hundred and twenty seven billion Czech Crowns, or twenty billion dollars, will have a deficit of thirty five billion Czech Crowns. This was the government's third budget proposal. The previous two had been rejected, and the opposition Civic Democrats agreed to support the latest version only if Prime Minister Milos Zeman agreed to a major cabinet reshuffle. The prime minister has announced that he will provide the names of the ministers who will be replaced within forty eight hours, and the changes should take place within a few weeks. The approved budget will replace the provisional budget that has been in place since the beginning of the year.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has decided against the Czech Republic in the case of the Rakona soap factory. The court decided that the Constitutional Court in the Czech Republic had breached article six of the European Human Rights Agreement, which concerns due process. The Rakona soap factory was sold to the company Procter & Gamble in the early 1990s, but the family of the former owner Frantisek Otto, from whom the factory was taken in the 1940s, claimed that the factory should have been returned to them. The Constitutional Court decided against the family in 1996, who then took the issue to the European Court of Human Rights. The court has decided to award the family more than ten million Czech Crowns in damages, or roughly three hundred thousand dollars. The family had asked for three billion Czech Crowns, which is roughly ninety million dollars. The court did not call into question the privatisation process for the factory. The decision has been welcomed by Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky, who said that this was confirmation that citizens of the Czech Republic can rely on the rule of law in Europe.
The Lower House of Parliament has decided to maintain the monopoly of the Czech Republic's main telecommunications provider, Cesky Telecom, until the end of 2002. This means the monopoly will end six months earlier than the government's original proposal, which was criticised the EU, which said that the chapter of legislation on telecommunications for EU accession might have to be reopened if the monopoly was extended until this time. Representatives of private telecommunications companies in the Czech Republic have criticised the measure, saying that this will prolong the current state of affairs, which means that consumers will not have the right to choose their providers, and that prices will remain high. The measure now has to pass through the Senate.
The Lower House of Parliament has approved a law that will help workers whose employers have failed to pay their salaries. The law was approved by a large majority, and will enable workers to obtain compensation from the government within three months. The conditions for receiving compensation are that bankruptcy must already have been declared in the company where they work, and they are entitled to receive one-and-a-half times the national average salary. The law will now have to be debated in the Senate.
President Vaclav Havel has signed a law on measures against Afghanistan. This law, which has been approved in both houses of Parliament, is in reaction to the actions of the ruling Taliban movement in Afghanistan, which is facing international isolation over claims that it supports terrorists. The sanctions that will be applied to Afghanistan include freezing foreign assets and cancelling flight connections to Afghanistan. The government will have the right to decide on the extent of the sanctions and for how long they should be applied.
The weather over the weekend should be slightly chilly, with overcast skies and scattered snow showers. Temperatures during the day should range between two and six degrees centigrade. Temperatures during the night should be around zero degrees centigrade. I'm Nick Carey, and that's the end of the news.
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