News Friday, SEPTEMBER 11th, 1998

Radio Prague E News Written / Read by: Pauline Newman Date: 11.9.98

Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. First let's take a look at the main headlines of the day:

You are tuned to Radio Prague. I'm Pauline Newman, those were the headlines, now the news in more detail...

Czech / NATO

Czech pledges to increase defence spending have been thrown into doubt as the new Social democrat cabinet struggles to meet campaign promises and demands for a tight budget.

Canadian Defence Minister Art Eggleton, said on Thursday in Prague that he believes the Czech army will receive enough money from the state budget next year. Speaking after talks with Vladimir Vetchy, his Czech counterpart, Art Eggleton indirectly indicated that in spite of budgetary difficulties, the Prague government should provide the armed forces with enough money to ensure NATO membership.

The Czech Republic is widely expected to become a member of NATO next April, when the alliance celebrates its fiftieth birthday.

Although in the past, the Prague government has promised to increase army expenditure by 0.1% of the GDP each year, the new cabinet says it lacks the sufficient funds. Vladimir Vetchy indicated on Thursday that the level of Czech defence spending in the 1999 draft budget due later this month, was still an open question.

Art Eggleton said that in order to alleviate the situation, Canada would extend help to the Czech army, by starting a five year training scheme for Czech officers, helping them among other things to learn English and French.

CEFTA / Summit

The seven Prime Ministers of the CEFTA states, or the Central European Free Trade Agreement are meeting in Prague on Friday.

This two day annual summit will see the heads of government weighing up everything the organisation has achieved since it met in Slovenia last year.

Observers say the liberalisation of various mutual trade agreements is not working and that CEFTA also intends to discontinue loosening agricultural trade restrictions.

The meeting will be attended by the Prime Ministers of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland and Rumania.

At the same time, over the next two days, the four Prime Ministers of Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and the Czech Republic will hold talks on European Union membership. Some observers have said in the past that the desire of these states to enter the EU has weakened their interest in CEFTA itself.

Prague Castle / Audit

Prague Castle has criticised several findings made by the Supreme Auditing Institute.

This comes after the organisation recently revealed that funds amounting to almost 15 million crowns had been misappropriated between 1996 and 1997.

On Thursday Prague Castle released a statement referring to some of the findings as inaccurate and misleading. It acknowledged however, that the Institute was correct about some issues, including travel expenses of almost 100 000 crowns which were paid out to the President.

Klaus / Moscow

Chairman of the Czech Parliament and leader of the ODS party, Vaclav Klaus is attending the second meeting of the Carnegie Economic Reform Network in Moscow this Friday.

The meeting is expected to focus on political and economic reforms taking place in countries of Central and Eastern Europe as well as in states of the old Soviet Union.

The former Czech Premier is also set to meet with high ranking Russian official and politicians while in Moscow.

The conference is taking place at a time when Russia is undergoing a political and economic crisis, which has seen the rouble fall and the government step down.

Vaclav Klaus however commented last week, that the situation is not as serious as it appears and that it is being over-dramatised.

Havel / USA

Czech President Vaclav Havel who left hospital at the end of last month after intestinal surgery, has been pronounced fit and well enough to visit the United States.

Vaclav Havel's personal physician Ilja Kotik said on Thursday that the President is fully recovered after his operation and that tests show the infection has disappeared.

President Havel is set to fly to America early next week for a state visit.

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

It looks as though autumn has finally caught up with us here, because Friday will see the beginning of the cooler weather forecasters have been predicting all week.

Temperatures during the day will range from 17 to 20 degrees celsius, accompanied by rain, cloudy skies and the possibility of storms towards the evening. It will be even cooler over the weekend, with temperatures dropping to as low as seven degrees celsius in some parts of the country.

I'm Pauline Newman and that's all from the newsroom this hour.