News Monday, JULY 20th, 1998

Radio Prague E News Written / Read by: Pauline Newman Date: 20.7.98

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

Those were the headlines, now let's take a look at the news in full:

New Government / Reactions

On Saturday, the central executive committee of the Czech Social Democrat party, overwhelmingly approved the new minority cabinet presented by Premier Milos Zeman.

Zeman's cabinet comprises four deputy Premiers and 15 ministers, including Justice Minister Otakar Motejl, a sixty-five year old independent politician. There are however no women in the government. President Vaclav Havel will swear in the new cabinet on Wednesday.

Zeman officially presented his cabinet line-up to the party executive body after being named the new Czech Premier on Friday by President Havel.

Reactions to Zeman's government have been varied. President Vaclav Havel has refused to make any statements for the press, saying it is nobody's business what he thinks but his own. He says he wishes to be loyal to the government and give his support if at least some of the worthwhile proposals on the Social Democrat programme are to be carried out.

The Civic Democratic Party, the ODS, which came to an agreement with Zeman, enabling him to set up a government has given its stamp of approval to the government, but very reluctantly. A party spokesman expressed doubts over the nominations of Jan Kavan and Vaclav Grulich as Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Interior respectively. Both are thought to have been involved in various scandals.

Christian Democrat leader Josef Lux, for his part has expressed surprise that there are no women in the government. Other than that he refused to make any comment.

Freedom Union officials made a statement on Saturday, expressing their disbelief that Jan Kavan and Vaclav Grulich were about to become members of the next government. The Freedom Union said Jan Kavan, who is suspected of having denounced dissidents while living abroad during the communist regime is not a good choice for Foreign Minister. His nomination was referred to as "unfortunate".

Kavan / Grulich

Future Interior Minister Jan Kavan told journalists on Sunday that he is not planning any far reaching changes at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He said he wants to see key positions occupied by qualified specialists.

Kavan did say however that the next Social Democrat government would sort out many problems hindering Czech - German relations.

Future Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich said that he is planning extensive changes to the Interior Ministry.

He criticised the fact that two highly placed police officials recently quit their posts and need replacing. He added that new police personnel will have to be carefully screened.

Funeral / Havlova

The father of Dagmar Havlova, President Havel's second wife is being buried this afternoon in the Moravian town of Brno.

The President's father-in-law died aged 79, on Wednesday after a long illness. He was a composer and taught English and German.

Defence Ministry / NATO

Future Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy told journalists on Saturday that as far as he is concerned, the Czech Republic's main security priority will be NATO membership. He added that complete integration would be a long term process, which could take up to ten years.

Although Vetchy outlined a few plans he has in mind for the Czech armed forces, such as improving the legislation, strategy, and structure of the army, he said he needs to become familiar with all aspects of the Czech defence system.

Vladimir Vetchy, also said that he intends to bring some Social Democrat specialists in to the Ministry to help him in his task.

The Czech Republic is one of three former Warsaw pact countries slated to enter NATO next April. Only four states of the 16 member alliance have yet to ratify the Czech Republic's integration.

Refugees / Conference

A conference on European Union membership and asylum policies came to a close in Prague on Sunday. The two day meeting organised by the European Council for Refugees was attended by specialists from non -governmental organisations from all eastern and western Europe.

Discussions focused on how Central and Eastern European countries should seek to make their policies towards refugees compatible with those of the EU. Czech representatives said at the start of the conference that they would like to see an improvement in relations between Czechs and refugees living on Czech soil.

The Director of the Organisation for the help of Refugees, said on Sunday that countries of eastern and central Europe must adopt EU measures and policies regarding refugees.

Havel / USA

The White House has announced that Czech President Vaclav Havel will pay a state visit to the United States in September.

A statement released to the press stated that the visit will recognise President Havel for his extraordinary contributions to the development of democracy and human rights in central and eastern Europe and throughout the world". The statement added that the visit will also celebrate the Czech Republic's anticipated membership in NATO and the deepening of Czech - American ties as allies.

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

A warm front moving over the Czech Republic, means hot weather is on the way. Skies should clear up as the day progresses, with temperatures peaking at about 28 degrees celsius. It will be slightly cooler during the night, at 16 degrees, with scattered showers.

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