News Sunday, OCTOBER 17th, 1999

Hello and a very warm, welcome to the programme. I'm Pauline Newman, first let's take a look at the main headlines of the day:

You are tuned to Radio Prague. Those were the headlines, now let's take a look at the news in full:

Romany representatives on Saturday held a debate outside Prague on the position of the minority within the Czech Republic. They debated the issue of the controversial Maticni Street wall and decided to hold nationwide protests in the near future. The wall, separating Romanies from their neighbours, in the northern town of Usti nad Labem, has been the object of much international and domestic criticism. Czech President Vaclav Havel on Friday evening, repeated calls to dismantle the wall. He believes the affair is turning the Czech Republic into a symbol of xenophobia and discrimination. Vaclav Havel said that although the issue of building and destroying the wall was becoming a debate for lawyers, the solution should come from the conscience of the people. He expressed fears that the wall is becoming a barrier, isolating the country. In spite of President Havel's grave concern that the issue is a national disgrace, a member of the European Parliament, Jurgen Schroder who visited the town on Friday, said the wall is not blocking the Czech Republic's entry to the European Union. He called the Romany question an issue which concerns the whole of Europe and not just the Czech republic.

The Prime Ministers of Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic held an informal meeting in Slovakia on Saturday and pledged closer co-operation, especially to combat organised crime. The Visegrad Four groups the most advanced of the former communist states in Central and Eastern Europe. Once seen as a useful instrument for regional co-operation and a potential vehicle for joint European Union accession plans, the group nearly petered out as Slovakia's previous government bickered with Hungary over ethnic minorities. It was effectively re-established in May of this year. The most important decision from Saturday's meeting was the creation of a commission of experts to look into organised crime within the four countries. According to analysts, the ten years since the fall of communism has seen an explosive increase in money laundering, drug trafficking and prostitution in the region, which could be a major stumbling block to hopes of European Union membership.

Deputy Chairman of the opposition Civic Democrat Party (ODS), Miroslav Benes, rejected calls on Friday, from Parliamentary opposition parties, to end to the so called "opposition agreement". This follows a proposal by Civic Democrat leader Vaclav Klaus that a new government be created - a super grand coalition with the representation of all parliamentary parties except the communists. The right wing opposition party, the Freedom Union, which would be a part of this Super Grand Coalition, says it wants to hear the proposal directly from the Civic Democratic Party. The Christian Democrats, the other centre right party, says it is prepared to negotiate, but definitely wants to see the opposition agreement between the Civic Democratic Party and the Social Democrats cancelled. The Communist party said on Saturday that its popularity would only increase even more from its current 20% if the Super Grand coalition is created. After last year's inconclusive election results, the Civic Democratic party has under the agreement, been lending its support to the minority Social Democrat government in return for various highly placed positions. Mr Benes told journalists that the creation of a replacement government would take into account first and foremost the wishes of Czech voters. Although he said he personally could not imagine how a large anti-Communist coalition would function, he stressed that it would almost certainly work better than the current arrangement. High ranking officials from the Civic Democratic Party are to meet on Monday with Social Democrat representatives to discuss Vaclav Klaus' latest solution to the potential political crisis hovering over the Czech Republic.

And we end as usual with a brief look at the weather:

Sunday will see a bright but cold start to the day, with the possibility of snow in the mountains. Daytime temperatures will range from 9 to 11 degrees Celsius, dropping to a chilly minus one overnight.

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