News Saturday, SEPTEMBER 12th, 1998

Radio Prague E-news Date: 11-12.9.1998 Written/read by: David Vaughan

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm David Vaughan. First the headlines.

And now the news in more detail.

Czech Republic and EU

The Czech Republic has launched political debate with the European Commission on the conditions for the country to join the European Union. Documents making clear the Czech standpoint towards the changes to Czech legislation recommended by the Union were presented on Friday to the Austrian ambassador in Prague, Manfred Scheich. Mr Scheich welcomed the move, saying that the EU commission would immediately start preparations for the 15 member countries to put forward a joint response to the documents. This would then enable the two sides to begin concrete negotiations on the conditions for the Czech Republic to join the Union. He said that this process will begin at the beginning of October at the latest.

Social Democrats to Complain

The ruling Czech Social Democrats have made an official complaint to the constitutional court, after losing a lengthy legal battle over the ownership of their Prague headquarters. The party leadership argues that the party never went out of existence after the communist takeover, because it continued to work abroad. Therefore, they say, the court is wrong in concluding that the Social Democrats do not have a legal claim to their building, which was their headquarters until its confiscation by the communists in 1948.

Civic Democrats Behind Leader

The Civic Democratic Party has rallied behind party leader, Vaclav Klaus, after his decision to refuse to meet his former political ally, and head of the Christian Democrats, Josef Lux. A Civic Democrat representative said that any future trust and communication between the two parties will have to be built up from below, and not the other way round. Tensions have been high between these two right-of-centre parties ever since the Christian Democrats brought down a Klaus-led government at the end of last year.

New Visegrad

Prime Minister Milos Zeman has said that the countries of Central Europe should begin to cooperate more closely - in the spirit of their hopes in the early days after the fall of communism. Speaking at a summit in Prague of the Central European Free Trade Agreement - or CEFTA - he said that such cooperation had fallen into neglect, as each country had feared it might undermine their attempts to integrate into Western Europe, through NATO and the EU. Mr Zeman also recommended that CEFTA expand beyond the purely economic sphere. The Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, offered a similar vision, saying that CEFTA was a living proof that regional coooperation can work in Central Europe. The main note of discord has come from the Romanian Prime Minister, Radu Vasile, who complained that CEFTA was not doing enough to help balance out his country's trade deficit with the remaining members. The deficit currently amounts to around 200 million dollars. Words of criticism also came from Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, who said that trade was being liberalised too slowly. 55

Budget Criticism

The government's chances of putting forward a budget for next year that will be acceptable to the opposition Civic Democrats, which hold the balance of power, have taken a further blow. The Civic Democrats have said they are concerned that the government seems to be increasingly inclined towards a deficit budget, and they have called on the government to look for ways to make further cuts to its outlays. The government is currently considering a deficit of just under 20 billion crowns. A Civic Democrat spokesman said that this would be unacceptable to his party, because it would reverse previous restrictive economic policies put in place when party leader Vaclav Klaus was Prime Minister. 35

And a quick look at the weather...

Saturday looks to be another chilly wet day, with rain and temperatures between 15 and 19 degrees Celsius. On Sunday it will remain gloomy and temperatures are expected to fall still further, although there may also be sunny intervals.

And that's the end of the news.