News Saturday, MARCH 07th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-news date: March 7th, 1998 Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm Daniela Lazarova and we begin as usual with a brief domestic newsbulletin

Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail:

Czech-Austrian talks

Bilateral cooperation, European security and nuclear power are issues high on the agenda of talks between Heinz Fisher, Speaker of the Austrian Lower House and leading Czech representatives. On a three day visit to Prague, mr. Fisher has met with President Vaclav Havel, interim prime minister Josef Tosovsky and chairman of the Czech Senate Petr Pithart. The two countries representatives agreed an exchange of know-how would be mutually beneficial. Austria is a relatively new member of the EU while the Czech Republic is gaining experience in accession to NATO. Heinz Fisher expressed the belief that his country may decide to abandon its neutrality in the not-too distant future and join the North Atlantic Alliance. The Austrian side is still pressing for the Czech government to review its nuclear power policy and abandon plans to operate the Temelin nuclear power plant under construction in southern Bohemia.

Social Democrats reveal plans

The leading Czech opposition party of Social Democrats, widely expected to win the upcoming general elections, has revealed the main points of its future government programme. The main points on its agenda are a Clean Hands campaign, to battle corruption and settle with past illegal practices, de-politicizing of state administration, creating new job opportunities, assisting small entrepreneurs, and creating a sound social network to help the underprivileged.

ODS says country could develop "a mild form of socialism"

In a related development, the ODS of ex-premier Vaclav Klaus has warned against the possibility of a future coalition made up of the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the newly established Freedom Union, a party of renegades from the ranks of the ODS and ODA. ODS leader Vaclav Klaus told newsmen Friday that such a coalition entailed the possibility of the Czech republic reverting to what he called " a mild form of socialism".

Election tactics

Meanwhile, aiming to improve their chances in the elections some of the weakened right wing parties on the Czech political scene are feverishly courting popular non-party members of the interim cabinet. Prime minister Tosovsky on Friday responded to speculation that the Freedom Union had asked him to run for premier under their party colours with the terse comment that his sole aim was to guide this country to early elections. He has stressed on numerous occasions that he wants to return to the banking sphere. The Freedom Union has been more successful in persuading government spokesman and minister without portfolio Vladimir Mlynar, who has now become a fully fledged member of this party.

ODA still hopes to make it

The ODA has announced it would be prepared to tolerate a minority government of Social Democrats if that party, widely expected to win the June elections, should fail to set-up a coalition which would give it a majority in Parliament" Under the circumstances, a minority government of Social Democrats would be a blessing for it would prevent the leading opposition party from implementing some of its more radical projects" ODA leader Daniel Kroupa told the ctk newsagency. Although it comes from one of the parties of the current governing coalition, the statement does not carry a great deal of weight since the ODA's chances of passing the 5% margin to gain seats in Parliament are meagre.

Romanies invited to join police force

Following increased racial violence in the country, the Czech interior ministry is encouraging more Romanies to join the ranks of the police force. Interior ministry officials and representatives of the Romany Initiative have agreed on the criteria for admission of Romany applicants and the possibility of special schooling for those who fall short of the requirements, but there is still controversy over whether to introduce a special quota for Romany applicants within the police force and if so how high it should be.

BERD -doubling investments

The European Bank for Reconstruction and development /BERD/ has announced plans to double investments in the Czech republic. The director in charge of Central Europe and the Baltic states, Alain Pilloux told the ctk newsagency the investment sum earmarked for 1998 was over 120 million ECU - as compared to 57 million invested in the course of 1997.

And finally, a look at the weather - a cold front moving across Central Europe will make it a grey and rainy weekend for most of us. The next two days should be cold, wet and windy with day temps between 5 and 8 degrees C. Nighttime lows between 5 and 2 degs. With wishes for a nice weekend -that's all from the newsroom.