News Sunday, JULY 19th, 1998

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Radio Prague E News Written / Read by: Pauline Newman Date: 19.7.98

Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. First let's take a look at the main headlines of the day:

Those were the headlines, now let's take a look at the news in full:

On Saturday, the central executive committee of the Czech Social Democrat party, overwhelmingly approved the new minority cabinet presented by Premier Milos Zeman. Zeman's cabinet comprises four deputy Premiers and 15 ministers, including Justice Minister Otakar Motejl, a sixty-five year old independent politician. There are however no women in the government. President Vaclav Havel will swear in the new cabinet on Wednesday. Zeman officially presented his cabinet line-up to the party executive body after being named the new Czech Premier on Friday by President Havel.

Reactions to Zeman's government have been varied. President Vaclav Havel has refused to make any statements for the press, saying it is nobody's business what he thinks but his own. He says he wishes to be loyal to the government and give his support if at least some of the worthwhile proposals on the Social Democrat programme are to be carried out. The Civic Democratic Party, the ODS, which came to an agreement with Zeman, enabling him to set up a government has given its stamp of approval to the government, but very reluctantly. A party spokesman expressed doubts over the nominations of Jan Kavan and Vaclav Grulich as Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Interior respectively. Both are thought to have been involved in various scandals.

Future Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy told journalists on Saturday that as far as he is concerned, the Czech Republic's main security priority will be NATO membership. He added that complete integration would be a long term process, which could take up to ten years. Although Vetchy outlined a few plans he has in mind for the Czech armed forces, such as improving the legislation, strategy, and structure of the army, he said he needs to become familiar with all aspects of the Czech defence system. Vladimir Vetchy, also said that he intends to bring some Social Democrat specialists in to the Ministry to help him in his task. The Czech Republic is one of three former Warsaw pact countries slated to enter NATO next April. Only four states of the 16 member states have yet to ratify the Czech Republic's integration.

A conference on European Union membership and asylum policies has started in Prague. The two day meeting organised by the European Council for Refugees is being attended by specialists from non - governmental organisations from all eastern and western Europe. Discussions are focusing on how Central and Eastern European countries should seek to make their policies towards refugees compatible with those of the EU. Czech representatives said at the start of the conference that they would like to see an improvement in relations between Czechs and refugees living on Czech soil. They reminded all present that thousands of Czechs were granted political asylum in the west during the seventies and eighties.

The White House announced on Friday that Czech President Vaclav Havel will pay a state visit to the United States in September. A statement released to the press stated that the visit will recognise President Havel for his extraordinary contributions to the development of democracy and human rights in central and eastern Europe and throughout the world". The statement added that the visit will also celebrate the Czech Republic's anticipated membership in NATO and the deepening of Czech - American ties as allies.

I'm Pauline Newman and that's the end of the news