News Friday, OCTOBER 02th, 1998

Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. I'm Pauline Newman, first we start with a look at the main headlines of the day:

You are tuned to Radio Prague. Those were the headlines, now let's take a look at the news in full:

Ministers / Meeting

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy, met on Thursday with their Polish counterparts in the north Bohemian town of Liberec.

The four discussed preparations for entry to NATO, both countries are in the first wave of states which will enter the alliance next April. They also talked about equipping their armies and the post- election situation in Germany and Slovakia.

Later the Polish side told reporters that they consider Czech - Polish relations as being on a very good footing and stressed that military co-operation between the two countries is "very intensive". All four politicians told journalists that they are convinced the Czech Republic and Poland will join NATO early next year.

At the close of the meeting, the four ministers signed a contract on classified information. Czech Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy said this would facilitate closer co-operation between the two countries.

This meeting comes after the new Czech Social Democrat government came under considerable fire in the press, that it wants to concentrate foreign policy more on its eastern neighbours than its western partners.

Havel / Germany

Czech President Vaclav Havel says he is not expecting any dramatic changes in Czech - German relations after the elections last weekend, which saw opposition leader Gerhard Schroeder top the polls.

Speaking before he attends a national holiday celebration in Hannover, Germany on Saturday, the Czech President praised the work carried out after the fall of the Berlin wall by former Chancellor Helmut Kohl and called him a "good friend".

Havel is set to meet with Mr Schroeder on Saturday, before he gives his speech on the unifying and dividing tendencies in Europe.

Cabinet / Accusation

The Czech Social democrat cabinet says it is convinced that a deficit budget is the only way out of the country's current financial dire straits. According to the text of the government's draft budget for next year, the Czech Republic is in a deep economic crisis thanks to the restrictive policies of the previous government and the Czech National Bank.

In the introductory text to the draft, which Parliament received on Thursday, the government made it clear that it hold former cabinets responsible for having chosen short term solutions, deepening the eventual deficit on the budget instead of looking for a systematic, responsible answer to the crisis.

The draft budget for next year, with a deficit amounting to almost 27 billion crowns has come under of plenty of fire from opposition parties in Parliament, who are refusing to give it their support and approval.

Romanies / Integration

The Czech government also announced on Thursday, that it is preparing a long term plan aimed at the integration of Romanies into Czech society.

A government spokesman told journalists that the inter ministerial commission for Romany affairs, is to come up with a plan by March of next year. Observers say that closer co-operation between Romanies and Czech authorities over the last few years, has brought many issues to the fore.

Government officials also said on Thursday, that the integration of Romanies into Czech society, will require a more open approach on both sides as well as co-operation with international committees which will give their help and advice.

It is thought that one of the main starting points will be the high level of unemployment and illiteracy among Romanies.

NATO / Opinion

According to the results of a survey released by the Institute for the Research of Public Opinion, 55% of people asked, are in favour of NATO membership. A quarter of those, said membership is of great significance, while 23% said they do not think the public would take too much notice.

The Institute pointed out that as always, those in favour of NATO membership were people with higher education and supporters of the right wing ODS party or the Freedom Union. In contrast, only 10 percent of people who voted communist in the last elections, saw NATO membership in a positive light.

The idea of NATO membership, has been an issue that governments over the last few years in Prague have had to tackle very sensitively, since relatively few Czechs in the mid-nineties were aware of the pros and cons. While cabinets made it one of their foreign policy goals, the Foreign ministry also began campaigns to inform the public and make people aware of the importance of the alliance.

Kovac / Prague

Former Slovak President Michael Kovac arrived in Prague on Thursday, where he met with Czech President Vaclav Havel. Kovac was in the Czech Republic for a one day visit at the invitation of the Bohemiae Foundation.

On Thursday afternoon, he gave a speech at Charles University on the subject of Europe.

Michael Kovac and the Czech President are old friends, they last met in January at a Central European Presidential summit. The next summit takes place soon, on the 12th October in Vienna, but since the place of President is vacant in Bratislava, Slovakia is unlikely to be represented in Austria.

Hrabal / Club

The town of Nymburk east of Prague, is set to become the venue for the Bohumil Hrabal reader's club. A member of the committee told CTK press agency on Thursday that the club will not only celebrate the writer himself, but also help put the town of Nymburk "on the map", so to speak, since it was often the source of Hrabal's literary inspiration.

The spokesman said that anybody who is a fan of Hrabal's books, may join the club, where members will have access to reports, literature and new stage versions of his books.

Bohumil Hrabal, who died last year, has often been referred to as one of the giants of Czech literature, having written books such as "I served the King of England" and "Closely observed trains".

And we end as usual with a brief look at the weather:

Friday will see temperatures ranging from 13 degrees celsius during the day to 7 degrees overnight. Clouds will be cloudy, and overcast with the possibility of rain during the day.

I'm Pauline Newman and that's the end of the news.