News of Radio Prague

Vaclav Klaus re-elected party leader

Vaclav Klaus was re-elected leader of the centre right Civic Democratic Party at the party's annual conference in Ostrava over the weekend. His candidacy went unchallenged and he received over 90% of votes. Petr Necas, Jan Zahradil, Ivan Langer and Miroslav Benes were elected deputy-chairmen in a second round of voting. In an hour long address to the conference, Vaclav Klaus said that after four years in opposition the Civic Democrats were ready to accept responsibility for the country's future and lead it on the road to prosperity. He called for the party to undergo a process of "internal pre-election cleansing" which would ensure that the party's candidates were not only competent but morally sound. Assessing the past four years, Vaclav Klaus slammed the governing Social Democrats for allegedly miring the country deep in debt and waging an aggressive campaign against entrepreneurs. The four party coalition, slated as a possible future partner in government, did not escape criticism either. Mr. Klaus said that its members were guided by "injured pride" rather than the interests of the Czech Republic.

Response to criticism

The criticism has not gone unanswered. The leader of the governing Social Democrats Vladimir Spidla said that his party had taken office at a time when the country was "in very bad shape" not least thanks to the former government of Mr. Klaus himself, and suggested that possibly the Civic Democrats were unnerved by his party's achievements. The Four Party Coalition also responded to the public criticism. The leader of the Christian Democrats Cyril Svoboda reminded Mr. Klaus that the Social Democrats are in power solely by the grace of the Civic Democratic Party in which case Mr. Klaus' party inevitably shares responsibility for the present state of the country. The leader of the Freedom Union Hana Marvanova said that judging by Mr. Klaus' words the Civic Democrats were not ready to cooperate with their partners in opposition and that it was likely that they were paving the ground for some kind of opposition deal with the Social Democrats.

Austrian anti- nuclear activists renew border protests

Austrian anti-nuclear activists on Sunday renewed border protests against the Temelin nuclear power plant. About 600 protesters unfurled a two km long banner at the Wullowitz- Dolni Dvoriste border crossing. A spokesman for the group said they had made the banner as a symbolic link between the citizens of the Czech Republic and Austria. "We are not fighting for ourselves alone. The danger is as great for Czech citizens," the spokesman said. The protesters handed over a critical study about Temelin to a member of the Four Party Coalition which he promised to hand over to the Czech President Vaclav Havel. The protesters expressed the hope that President Havel would openly support their cause.

Meanwhile, Austrian politicians clearly remain divided on the degree of pressure that Vienna should apply in negotiations with Prague. Austria's Vice Chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer said on Saturday that the Czech Republic would have to change its position on the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant if it is to join the European Union. She was speaking just one week after Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel rejected the idea of a veto of Czech EU entry over the controversial power plant.

Improved conditions for Roma minority

The Czech Cabinet is to debate measures aimed at improving the education of the Roma minority and eliminating discrimination at schools. The proposed measures, which envisage an increased number of Roma assistants at primary schools and pre-school classes for Roma children where they can overcome the language barrier, are part of a broader effort to improve conditions for the Roma minority in the Czech Republic. Many Czech schools have recently come under fierce criticism for transferring Roma first graders to special schools for handicapped or mentally retarded children simple because they did not speak enough Czech to keep up with their class.

PM on a week long visit to the US

The Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman is in the United States on a week long working visit. In Washington he is scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vice President Richard Cheyney and officials of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

And finally a look at the weather:

On Monday morning fog should give way to partly cloudy skies and temps between 5 and 10 degs C.