News Friday, OCTOBER 29th, 1999

Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. I'm Dita Asiedu, 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:

Lansky to go

Czech Premier Milos Zeman announced on Thursday after talks with President Vaclav Havel that deputy Premier Egon Lansky will quit his post in the Czech government. Zeman said he spoke to Lansky on Wednesday who agreed that as soon as he leaves hospital he will hand in his resignation. Lansky has been in a Prague hospital for the last four weeks undergoing treatment for painful varicose veins. Egon Lansky has been in charge of preparing the Czech Republic for European Union membership. After the Union recently released a scathing report of the Czech Republic, there was much speculation that Lansky would be asked to step down from office. Milos Zeman said on Thursday that Lansky's reason for resigning is his poor health. Observers say the European Union report and a banking scandal are without a doubt connected to the resignation. There has been much criticism of Egon Lansky in the Czech media after it was revealed that he had opened a bank account in Austria under dubious circumstances. Milos Zeman did say on Thursday that someone in the cabinet would resume Lansky's duties regarding European Union integration, however, he declined to elaborate on the reasons for Lansky's resignation, in remarks carried on Czech Radio, saying the deputy Premier would discuss his reasons for leaving, when he officially hands in his resignation to President Havel in mid- November. Civic Democratic Party Chairman Vaclav Klaus was quick to comment, saying Lansky is certainly resigning for reasons other than his health. A member of the Freedom Union said that Lansky should have left long ago and expressed his outrage that the deputy Premier had resigned himself instead of being dismissed. Chairwoman of Parliament Libuse Benesova for her part told journalists as soon as the news broke that Lansky should not be the only minister to resign. She commented that Health minister Ivan David's position in the government is becoming increasingly untenable.

Zeman's vision of the country's political future

Following his meeting with Czech President Vaclav Havel on Thursday, Czech Premier Milos Zeman said if the opposition Civic Democratic Party withdraws from the present opposition agreement, he will try and set up a centre-left coalition with other parliamentary parties. The opposition agreement is a power sharing deal, which has enabled a minority Social Democrat government to rule with the support of the Civic Democratic Party after last year's inconclusive elections. Milos Zeman's latest idea comes after opposition leader Vaclav Klaus recently called for a broad coalition with the exception of the communists to find a way out of the country's political problems. Zeman told journalists after his meeting with the Czech President that the situation will be clearer after the Civic Democratic Party holds its December congress, where the future of the opposition agreement will be one of the main points on the agenda. The Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats, are the two parties, which would in theory participate in Zeman's government. The Christian Democrats were quick to react on Thursday evening, saying if the opposition agreement is scrapped, the party would be willing to negotiate with Zeman's Social Democrat party. A member of the party said that although he could not guarantee it, he was fairly sure the Freedom Union would also take part in the talks. Milos Zeman attacked Civic Democratic Party leader Vaclav Klaus, on Thursday evening, saying the ODS only wanted to share in Social Democrat successes after creating an economic crisis in the country. Speaking at an evening of celebrations marking the anniversary of the creation of the First Czechoslovak Republic, Milos Zeman stressed that the government is "working at bringing the country out of its problems, in spite of constant criticism from those who caused the problems themselves". President Havel for his part indicated that he is more interested in who will fill ministerial positions rather than the party they belong to.

Havel on the anniversary

Vaclav Havel and Prague politicians commemorated the anniversary of the Creation of the First Independent Czechoslovak Republic, by placing flowers at the statue of St Wencelsas in the Prague city centre. Some 300 passersby applauded the President when he arrived and left. Later in the day after meeting with Premier Milos Zeman, Havel assured foreign diplomats at Prague castle, that the Czech Republic intends to continue according to the principles of the 1989 Velvet Revolution. He said that in spite of current political problems, the country will stick to the ideals which led to the overthrow of communism ten years ago. President Vaclav Havel gave an interview for Radio Free Europe, in which he said he is not perturbed by the growing popularity of the communist party. He rejected suggestions that there could ever be a repetition of the communist success of February 1948. As far as Czech-German ties are concerned, Vaclav Havel said problems will fade until they vanish completely which should happen when the Czech Republic enters the European Union. In the evening, Prague castle was the venue for an evening of celebrations, marking this important day in the Czech calendar. The President awarded 26 people with state orders of the highest distinction.

Police arrest dozens

Dozens of anarchists and skinheads demonstrating in Prague on Thursday on the anniversary of the creation of the First Republic are facing charges of vandalism and spreading fascism by Prague police. Police were present, demonstrators were asked to show their identity papers and the head of police operations, said later that the police had behaved professionally and satisfactorily. At the same time in other parts of Prague, several hundred people gathered to protest against fascism and racial hatred, carrying slogans calling for an end to capitalism and right wing extremism.

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

We are expecting a foggy start to the day on Friday with the possibility of rain in some parts of Moravia. Daytime temperatures will peak at 16 degrees Celsius, dropping during the night to 3 degrees Celsius.

I'm Dsita Asiedu and that's the end of the news.