News Saturday, DECEMBER 05th, 1998

Those are the headlines, I'm Ray Furlong, and now the news in more detail.


A Czech government report has cleared the former mayor of Vienna, Helmut Zilk, of allegations he worked for Czechoslovakia's communist-era secret police, the StB. The Czech ambassador in Vienna, Jiri Grusa, said the report showed StB material contained no evidence that Zilk collaborated with it. In response, Zilk welcomed the news, and added that it confirmed what he had said all along. Zilk will now come to Prague next week, to discuss the matter further with President Havel - who witheld a Czech state decoration from Zilk in October because of the allegations. In the meantime, the Czech Foreign Ministry has sent a note to the Austrian government expressing regret over the affair.

Havel in Usti nad Labem

President Havel has visited the northern town of Usti nad Labem, where local authorities planned a wall around buildings inhabited by Romanies. After a brief walkabout in which he met residents, Havel said the Vize 97 foundation - set up by his wife Dagmar - could provide financial and other aid for "those seeking ways of co-existence between two communities with different cultural traditions." He also said the situation on the street seemed to have improved. However, some local residents complained that the Romanies had tidied up in advance and that Havel had not seen an accurate picture of the situation on the street. The wall had been originally justified by of residents' complaints about the state of the Romanies' side of the street.


After his stop in Usti nad Labem, President Havel continued to the German city of Dresden for the annual conference of the Czech- German Discussion Forum - a body set up as part of the bilateral reconciliation accord signed by the two countries in 1997. Havel and his German counterpart, Roman Herzog, began the conference with speeches underlining the importance of dialogue for a better future. Before the conference began there was also a meeting of the Fund for the Future, which finances projects aimed at improving relations between the two countries - such as compensation for Holocaust victims and student exchanges.


A study of the health of 35 European countries, carried out by the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit, has put the Czech Republic on 13th place - just behind its former federal partner, Slovakia, but ahead of Britain, Germany and Belgium. The top three places went, traditionally, to Scandinavian countries - while Ukraine, Latvia and Russia were the unhealthiest. The study used 14 key indicators: including death rate, average lifespan, immunisation programmes, or the frequency of AIDS. The Czech Republic's worst statistic was the ratio of deaths from cancer, which left it in 30th place. Generally, east European countries were found to have poor diet coupled with expensive and inefficient hospitals - but very good vaccination programmes.

Human Rights

And finally, delegates from a number of countries - including South Africa, Canada and Malaysia - have begun a conference in Prague marking the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The conference, which is accompanied by an exhibition of photographs, is divided into two sections: firstly, the philosophical aspects of human rights, and secondly the practical questions of their application. And that's the news.