News Sunday, DECEMBER 13th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News Written/read by: Libor Kubik

Welcome to Radio Prague. Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail, read by Libor Kubik.

CZECH-GOVERNMENT-ATTACK

Lower House Speaker Vaclav Klaus, a former Czech premier, has bitterly attacked the new Social Democrat government of Prime Minister Milos Zeman, accusing them of incompetence.

Klaus on Saturday told a meeting of his opposition Civic Democratic Party in Prague that the government had backed down on all its election promises and said the economic situation of the country was rapidly worsening.

Our commentator says that after their election victory in June, the Social Democrats were able to form a minority cabinet only thanks to a backing from the Klaus party.

CZECH-CHRISTIAN-COALITION

Jan Kasal, the acting chairman of the opposition Christian Democrats, has said his party would be ready to form a government with the Social Democrats and the Freedom Union in case the two strongest parties -- the Social Democrats and the Civic Democrats - - abrogate their stability pact.

Kasal on Saturday told his party's conference that the pact between the two giants was not a way to achieve economic prosperity in the Czech republic.

He said the new government should be pro-European, have a majority backing in parliament, be non-communist and without the Civic Democrats who he said were extremely non-communicative.

CZECH-SPAIN-PREMIER

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar arrived in Prague on Saturday at the start of a visit to discuss the situation in the European Union, its enlargement, and problems of European security.

During his visit -- the first ever by a Spanish premier -- Mr. Aznar is expected to meet his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman, President Vaclav Havel and Lower House Speaker Vaclav Klaus.

CZECH-EU-PREMIER

Austrian President Thomas Klestil on Saturday met in Vienna with top officials from 11 associate EU countries including Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman.

Klestil, whose country hosted a European Union summit at the weekend, said the EU's eastward extension was both a challenge and an opportunity for European stability in the 21st century.

CZECH-EU-DUTYFREE

Britain, France and Germany failed on Saturday to win a cast-iron commitment from their EU partners to postpone the abolition of duty-free sales next July.

After hours of wrangling at their summit in Vienna, European Union leaders agreed to stand by a seven-year-old decision to abolish tax- and duty-free sales of tobacco and alcohol at air and sea ports within the EU's single market.

Austria is annoyed by the existence of free shops on its borders with the Czech Republic, in particular the Excalibur duty-free shopping centre at the Hate crossing near Znojmo, which is partly owned by Austrian businessman Ronald Seunig.

Prague and Vienna have agreed to close these outlets by the middle of next year.

CZECH-COMPUTERS-MILLENNIUM

A senior expert says the Czech Republic has lost at least one year in preparing for the millennium bug computer problem.

Karel Berka, director of the Office for the State Information System, on Saturday told the CTK news agency that the government would be meeting to discuss his appointment as coordinator for computer problems expected in the year 2000.

Berka, who was attending a millennium bug conference at United Nations headquarters in New York, said the delegates had praised the creation of his post, as the Czech Republic is one of the few countries which do not have a coordinator for dealing with the problem.

Companies, organisations and governments around the world are working hard to prepare themselves for January 1, 2000, when systems using old software might mistake the two-digit "00" as 1900 instead of 2000.

CZECH-ROMA-CONFERENCE

An international conference on the theme of Roma population and multi-ethnicity in central Europe is under way in the Czech holiday resort of Stirin.

A hundred Czech and foreign experts including Roma activists and scholars are discussing the situation of the Roma ethnic group in the region and its future in the newly emerging integrated Europe.

Czech authorities have recently found themselves under a barrage of criticism over their approach to the Roma issue.

CZECH-CHRISTIAN-LEUKAEMIA

Former Czech Christian Democrat leader Josef Lux, who has leukaemia, on Saturday told his party's conference in Litomysl that his illness had given him strength and he was prepared to fight against all odds.

Mr. Lux, who is 42 and has six children, said he was preparing for bone marrow transplant but his doctors still had not found a suitable donor.

Lux resigned as party leader in September after being diagnosed with a chronic form of leukaemia.

CZECH-FIRST LADY-ART-AUCTION

"My Year of 1998", an amateur collage by Czech First Lady Dagmar Havlova, was auctioned on Saturday to the man the presidential couple are suing for slander.

Premysl Svora, whose controversial book brings allegations about a love affair between Mrs Havlova and her secretary, bought the collage for 42,000 crowns. He said the purchase had a symbolical meaning for him.

Svora's book has been criticised as a lampoon.

CZECH-THIEVES-PAPER

Czech thieves steal on average 10 billion crowns' worth of property each year and rob every citizen, including babies, of about 1,000 crowns -- that's almost 35 dollars. This according to a report carried on Saturday by the Lidove Noviny daily newspaper.

Car thieves are by far the most prolific and last year alone they stole one billion crowns' worth of items from burglarised motor vehicles. The paper reports that well-organised gangs specialise in stealing car stereo systems, or whole cars. Last year, 25,000 cars were stolen in the Czech Republic, causing a damage of almost four billion crowns.

I am Libor Kubik and that's the end of the news.