News Sunday, OCTOBER 24th, 1999

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I am Libor Kubik and here's the news. First the headlines.

Those were the headlines, now the news in more detail.


The leader of the opposition Freedom Union, Senator Jan Ruml, has warned that the communists have begun to infiltrate the state administration now that their party's approval ratings are growing.

The state-funded IVVM polling agency said earlier this week that the largely unreformed Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia would win the elections if they were held now. But its findings have not been corroborated by any other public opinion surveys.

At a press conference on Saturday, Mr Ruml called for closer interaction among all democratic parties to help break the current political stalemate in the Czech Republic.

He was sharply critical of the performance of the incumbent Social Democrat cabinet, saying this government must go.


Sudeten German leader Franz Neubauer said on Saturday he was shocked by EU Commissioner Guenter Verheugen's attitude towards the Benes Decrees by which Czechoslovakia's first post-war president ordered the expulsion of ethnic Germans from the newly liberated republic.

Mr Verheugen told the Austrian press earlier this week that in the EU's view, bilateral issues shouldn't be a topic in accession talks. He said he was satisfied with the Prague government's statement that the Benes Decrees are no longer relevant. He also said he wouldn't recommend that Austria reopen the issue or make the Czech Republic's EU membership conditional upon cancelling the validity of the decrees, issued in 1945.


The world gypsy organisation -- the International Romani Union -- said on Saturday it planned to propose the creation of a safe zone in Kosovo in order to protect its gypsy population from attacks by ethnic Albanians.

The Union's General Secretary Emil Scuka from the Czech Republic said in Washington that a formal request will be made at the next month's meeting of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, scheduled to take place in Istanbul.

He said Kosovo Romanies were being increasingly targeted by ethnic Albanians who blame them for collaboration with the Milosevic regime. He said violence against gypsies started shortly after the repatriation of ethnic Albanians from refugee camps in the neighbouring countries.

Mr Scuka said that between 30,00 and 50,000 Roma people left the province after the war, heading mainly for Macedonia, Bulgaria and Germany. He said that during the war earlier this year, many members of Kosovo's pre-war gypsy population of 150,000 were coerced to work for the Serbian authorities.


Gay and lesbian activists and friends from the Czech Republic and Slovakia met in the Moravian town of Buchlovice on Saturday to mark the founding of an independent Czechoslovakia 81 years ago. They also signed a petition demanding an early enactment of legislation on partnership between persons of the same sex.

Radek Mensik from the organising agency STUD described the meeting as a spontaneous rally of two closely knit nations -- Czechs and Slovaks, rather than a manifestation of gay pride.

The bill, whose enactment was adjourned two weeks ago by the Czech lower house, would enable gay and lesbian couples to legalise their partnership by means of a formal contract.


Two thirds of the Czech nation consider the New Year's Eve and the advent of the year 2000 an extremely significant moment. This according to a blitz public opinion survey commissioned by the Czech public radio and television.

The research conducted by the STEM polling agency shows, however, that most people fear acts of vandalism could spoil the unique moments.

Here in Prague, the city fathers have proposed that the ancient Charles Bridge, built in the 14th century, be closed for the night in order to prevent accidental damage to its priceless sculptures. But the mayor of Prague 1 borough has said such a move would be bad for business.


And we end as usual with a weather report.

Sunday will be a fairly cloudy day, with scattered showers in the eastern parts of the Czech Republic and with frequent morning fogs. Maximum daytime temperatures between 13 and 17 degrees Celsius.