News Saturday, JULY 11th, 1998

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Hello and a warm welcome to the programme. I'm David Vaughan. First a bulletin of Czech news.

President Will Appoint Zeman

An advisor to President Vaclav Havel has confirmed that the president will appoint the Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman to be the new Czech prime minister. This is despite Mr Havel's strong opposition to a deal reached between Mr Zeman's left-of-centre Social Democrats and the right-wing Civic Democrats of former prime minister Vaclav Klaus. Under the deal the Civic Democrats have agreed to tolerate a minority left-of-centre government led by Mr Zeman, in return for influential parliamentary posts. At a press conference on Friday the Civic Democrats warned President Havel not to try to undermine the deal, saying that it was a standard democratic agreement, and that Mr Havel was wrong in seeing it as a threat to political pluralism. The Civic Democrats and Social Democrats have already begun discussing how to carve up key parliamentary posts, and the Civic Democratic Party leadership has recommended Vaclav Klaus for the influential position of parliamentary chairman.

Responses to Deal

In the meantime reactions to the deal between the two parties have been diverse. The chairman of the upper house of parliament or Senate, Petr Pithart, has reacted with scepticism, saying that he does not expect the government to last. He said that the deal was also giving the wrong signals abroad, and undermining the basic role of the opposition. However trade union leaders on Friday welcomed the deal. The leader of the Farmers' Union, Bohumir Dufek, said that the two parties had acted responsibly, in avoiding a political stalemate that would inevitably have led to early elections.

Zeman Plans for Church Property

The Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman has said that if he heads the next government he will halt the return of Catholic Church property, confiscated during the communist period. He said that the only exception will be the property of Jewish communities, which was confiscated earlier - during the Nazi occupation. He added that the party also has no plans to increase the independence of the church from the state. Mr Zeman's comments were immediately condemned by Catholic Church leaders in the Czech Republic.

Industry Growth

Figures have been released for May indicating that industrial output in the Czech Republic is increasing rapidly. This represents a significant improvement on April's figures, when industry seemed to be stagnating. Analysts agree that a major reason for the improvement is the continued growth in car and other transport manufacturing industries, but that growth has also been recorded in other sectors. Industrial output in the twelve months since May last year went up by seven-and-a-half percent.

German CSU Milder

The right-wing Christian Social Union (or CSU) which rules in the German state of Bavaria, and is a junior partner in the ruling coalition in Bonn, has toned down some of its recent statements heavily criticising the Czech Republic. In a document presented to its party congress earlier this week, the party had called for the Czech Republic to be refused membership of the European Union, unless the country revoked the so-called Benes Decrees, which formed the legal basis for the expulsion of Czechoslovakia's German minority after World War Two. However the European policy document approved at the end of the congress is less forthright, and does not directly link the party's demands to Czech membership of the EU. The milder tone was adopted under heavy pressure from Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Singapore President in Prague

At a meeting at the Czech President's official residence near Prague, President Havel and his Singaporean counterpart, Ong Teng Cheong, have pointed to common features in the two countries' economies. They agreed that while the Czech Republic is a gateway to the markets of Central and Eastern Europe, Singapore is a gateway to South East Asia. Mr Havel said that it was a complement to the Czech Republic that Mr Ong chose the country as the only European country to visit after his stay in Britain. Both leaders stressed the importance of the visit primarily as a step towards broadening trade.

Weather

And I'll end with a quick glance at the weather for the weekend...

Saturday will be another cloudy day with showers, and temperatures between 20 and 24 degrees Celsius. It will be much the same on Sunday, although it could be a little colder, but we can expect some improvement at the beginning of next week.

And that's the end of the news.