News Thursday, AUGUST 26th, 1999

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

You are tuned to Radio Prague, those were the headlines, now lets take a look at the news in full:

Cabinet - EU

On Wednesday, the Czech cabinet, meeting for the first time since the end of the summer holidays, discussed the country's preparations for EU membership, managing to avoid the predicted conflicts.

This comes after several deputy Chairmen criticised various Ministries for being behind in their work. The cabinet discussed a proposal by deputy Premier Egon Lansky, that the Czech Republic improve the standard of foreign language skills, and provide civil servants with some training. According to Lansky's programme, this will take place in the form of workshops aimed at making employees aware of EU issues and problematic areas.

The government also approved its new policy on visa requirements. This is intended to bring the Czech Republic into line with current EU guidelines. A spokesman said later that visas will be necessary for some seven states of the former Soviet Union. He added that the cabinet is considering a change in policy for Rumanians, Bulgarians and Cubans, all of whom currently need visas to enter the Czech Republic.

Slow aid - Turkey

Members of the Czech government finally admitted on Wednesday that it did initially take some time for them to provide Turkey with help after last weeks earthquake. They say, that the main problem was not poor communication between the various ministries, but the decision making which followed. A special committee has been set up to investigate the issue. The government has been under widespread attack all week. President Vaclav Havel slammed ministers on Wednesday, for what he called their "inert approach" to sending aid to Turkey. He praised independent institutions which managed to get aid workers out to the devastated region almost instantly and said state organisations took longer because of bureaucracy and complicated procedures.

In an interview for Czech Radio, Vaclav Havel said that although the experts were ready to leave and desperate to help, the state unfortunately was not. He said that a little more good will and consideration for others would have released the aid workers sooner.

This comes after a rescue team returned from Turkey on Tuesday and slammed the government for procrastinating, when every minute was vital to the victims who needed help. To make matter even worse, a team set to leave for Turkey has asked foreign Minister Jan Kavan to dismiss his deputy Otto Pick. They believe that Pick, who is in charge of organising Czech humanitarian help for the region, has failed completely. In a letter addressed to Jan Kavan they called Mr Pick "unprofessional and insensitive", referring to the fact that the deputy had to be told by journalists when the first team left for Turkey.

A spokesman for the Ministry told journalists on Wednesday afternoon, that Otto Pick is one of the Czech Republic's top foreign policy experts and that no such action will be taken on the basis of one embarrassing press conference.

Election - Senate

The by-election campaign to the Czech Senate officially ended on Wednesday at two o'clock. By law, all eight candidates are now forbidden to make any move, written, spoken or visual which could damage each others chances. This is to last until Saturday. Public opinion polls from the 20th August indicate that the hot favourite is businessman Vaclav Fischer, who as an independent, does not represent any party. His main opposition comes from the popular actress Jirina Jiraskova, candidate for the ODS

There has been plenty of mud slinging throughout the campaign. Some of which has been aimed at the Social democrat candidate Karel Srp, accused of collaboration with the Secret police in the eighties. The latest incident is an ODS advert, attacking Vaclav Fischer, claiming that his motives for entering the election are purely business orientated.

Spidla - Miners

Czech Minister for Labour and Social affairs, Vladimir Spidla faced miners from the north Bohemian town of Most on Wednesday, who were demonstrating outside the cabinet meeting. He promised their Trade Union leader that he would discuss the situation with the Minister of Trade and Industry. There are fears that the mine will be closed, leading to a substantial loss of jobs in the area. Spidla allegedly personally promised the Trade Union leader, that if the mine is closed, a social programme will be set up for the workers. A group of independent experts is to look into the case and decide the future of the mine.

Zeman - Venturoni

On Wednesday evening, Czech Premier Milos Zeman met and held talks with the head of NATO's military committee Guido Venturoni. A government spokesman said later that talks focused mostly on the situation in Kosovo. The two men discussed the problem of demilitarising the zone and restoring stability to the region.

Havel - Turkey

Czech President Vaclav Havel has postponed his trip to Turkey, which was planned for the end of September. This comes in the wake of last weeks devastating earthquake which has so far claimed almost 13 000 lives. Mr Havel wanted to visit Turkey in order to discuss the Kurdish problem and work at improving the situation. As soon as news broke of the disaster, Mr Havel sent his Turkish counterpart a telegram of condolence. A Presidential spokesman said on Wednesday that no further date has been set for the visit.

UDV - Show trial

The Office of Documentation and Investigation into the crimes of Communism, has welcomed a decision by the Supreme court to cancel the suspension of charges levelled against Karel Vase. he stands accused of having taken part in the show trial of General Heliodor Pika in the 1940s. A spokesman for the office said that Karel Vases activities could be condemned as murder, rather than merely having taken advantage of his position as military prosecutor. Heliodor Pika was executed in 1948 after his show trial.

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

Thursday will see the end of the hot, sunny weather we've been having recently. Although temperatures during the day, will reach 28 degrees Celsius, falling overnight to nine degrees Celsius, skies will become cloudier and it will be fairly chilly over the weekend.

I'm PN and that's the end of the news.