News Monday, SEPTEMBER 13th, 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:

EU / Money / Romanies

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on Sunday, that the European Union could provide the Czech Republic with funds which would be used to implement various programmes aimed at better integrating the country's Romany population. He explained his proposal saying that the issue of Romany migration is not just an internal problem of the Czech Republic, but one which affects the whole of Europe. Mr Kavan said that there are some seven million Romanies living in Europe today, and that their reasons for migration are economic rather than a fear of racial discrimination.

He mentioned that later on this week he would discuss the issue with his British counterpart and ask for financial help as far as educating and integrating Romanies into the Czech Republic is concerned. This comes after Toronto last year imposed a visa restriction on Czechs after thousands of Romanies left the Czech Republic, for Canada. According to Kavan, Great Britain could soon go ahead and introduce the same measure, figures show that during August, 283 Romanies arrived in England with the intention of staying.

Zeman / Support / ODS CSSD

Czech Premier Milos Zeman said on Sunday, that his party had absolutely no intention of abolishing the opposition agreement signed last year with the Civic Democratic Party after inconclusive election results. Speaking on a live televised debate Mr Zeman who is also head of the Social Democrat party, said the agreement promoted stability on the Czech political scene and will enable changes to be made to the electoral system. This comes after deputy Chairman of the Civic democratic Party Miroslav Macek expressed doubts about the agreement following the defeat of the two parties in the recent by-election to the Czech Senate. Both candidates lost to the independent Vaclav Fischer, this means that the parties lost their majority in the senate, needed if they are to implement changes to the constitution. Mr Macek said last week, that the opposition agreement need not be upheld, if the Social Democrats postpone the planned changes. Other members of the party have also voiced fears that the controversial agreement has damaged the Civic Democratic Party in the eyes of the voters. Under the terms of the agreement, the Civic Democratic Party agreed to tolerate a minority Social Democrat government. Zeman reiterated his support for the agreement on Sunday, saying that in the circumstances last year, when the smaller parliamentary parties were unable to form a coalition, his coming to an agreement with the Civic Democratic Party was the only solution.

Spiegal / EU / Prague

Although news agencies reported over the weekend that Gunter Verheugan, the future Commissioner for the expansion of the European Union again expressed his fears to Der Spiegal magazine, that the Czech Republic is unlikely to be among the first wave of countries admitted to the Union, news has just come through that this was Der Speigal's own interpretation.

While initial information about the interview for the German magazine said that Verheugan indicated doubts about Prague's application for membership, he did actually tell the magazine that all candidate countries currently stand the same chances. What he did emphasize was that: "The former government of Vaclav Klaus did not take entry to the European Union too seriously and that Mr Klaus was more interested in a free trade zone rather than membership." He stated that the current Social Democrat minority government in Prague is truly interested in becoming a fully fledged member of the Union and noted that this government also knows it needs more time, which is why it's not setting any dates or asking for deadlines. Mr Verheugan concluded by saying that enlargement will be more expensive than previously thought and warned that expansion before the year 2006 is unlikely.

Kavan / Changes / Havel

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on Sunday that the planned changes to the constitution should not in any way affect President Vaclav Havel's powers. Shadow foreign Minister Jan Zahradil agreed with him, saying the changes were negligible and were aimed at improving the constitution. The Social Democrats agreed over the weekend, that the changes should restrict immunity for politicians to the period of their time in office and enable Parliament itself to shorten the election period. The debate over this issue has been the focus of much attention in the Czech Republic during the last few months, especially after President Havel repeatedly said that if the changes went ahead he, would not stay in office. He has spoken of attempts by the two ruling parties, the Social Democrats and the Civic Democratic Party to turn him into "a mechanical puppet, or a President run by batteries". Although he has been assured that the changes would not affect him, there is speculation that he stands to lose his right to deciding who presides over the supreme court and who sits on the board of the Czech National Bank. The move also means that he would no longer be able to grant amnesties.

Poll / Impulse '99 / Halik

A recent opinion poll has indicated that 55% of Czechs have never heard of Impulse '99, a movement established in July, aimed at integrating the Czech Republic into European structures and improving dialogue between politicians and ordinary people. Signatories are mostly leading figures from the Czech cultural scene. Of the people asked, supporters of right wing political parties, think it is necessary, while those who vote for the Communist party, outright rejected the organisation. There has been some speculation in the media that Impulse '99 is a successor Charter 77, signed by dissidents during the Communist era, and that one of the signatories, a priest Tomas Halik, could take over from his friend Vaclav Havel as President. Speaking in New York on Saturday, Halik did not completely reject the idea.

Advert / Klaus / Free

A Prague newspaper editor, who placed an advert in his paper last week, offering 5 million crowns for the removal of Chairman of the Czech Parliament and leader of the opposition Vaclav Klaus, is unlikely to have to explain himself in court. An investigator said over the weekend, that after speaking to the editor Josef Kudlacek and a private television station which filmed a controversial report on the advert, police have come to the conclusion that there is very little evidence to suggest that a crime has been committed. Kudlacek himself said that the advert calls for Klaus's removal from politics, not his assassination. This comes after NOVA television station released a recorded telephone conversation between a journalists and the editor, which suggested to viewers that the reward was for Klaus's assassination. Kudlacek has in the meantime told reporters that the conversation was distorted and taken out of context. He says he intends to sue the television station.

CR / SR / Property

A Commission looking into the issue of settling property between the Czech and Slovak Republics, left over from when the two states formed the Czechoslovak Federation, discussed over the weekend in Prague, various proposals from both sides aimed at resolving the problem. Deputy Premiers representing both governments were present and although they refused to reveal any details to journalists, both indicated that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Czech Minister Pavel Mertlik said that although the proposals are more or less the same, Prague and Bratislava still hold opposing views on some issues. In the meantime, his counterpart, Ivan Miklos told reporters that hopefully, an answer should soon be found to finally dividing former joint property and ending the problematic affair.

The talks have seen both governments breathe a sigh of relief since it is an issue which has dogged Czech - Slovak relations for the last few years. The main stumbling block is the Czech National bank's claim to 29 billion crowns, dating back to when the money was held in the vaults of the Czechoslovak State bank. Bratislava has never recognized this and the Czech National Bank still has the Slovak gold.

Mertlik said that once this is resolved the two neighbouring states are expected to sign an agreement outlining their relationship based on the outcome. According to the Czech deputy Premier, an agreement should be reached by the end of autumn after a series of top level meetings, the first of which is to take place in America. As a result, Mertlik's parting words to Miklos were: "See you in Washington".

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

A ridge of high pressure over the Czech Republic, means that on Monday, there will be more of the hot sunny weather we had over the weekend. Skies will be clear and temperatures are expected to reach 28 degrees Celsius.

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