News Thursday, JANUARY 21st, 1999

Welcome to RP. Those were the main points, and now the news in more detail, read by Alena Skodova.

British ambassador in Ostrava

During a visit to the North Moravian city of Ostrava, the British ambassador to the Czech Republic, David Broucher said that the problems which Ostrava's Romany community is facing must be solved by the city and not be exported to Britain. Broucher added that the Roma problems cannot serve as a reason for the Romanies to ask for asylum abroad under the Geneva conventions. Ostrava, home-town to a strong Roma community, was one of the Czech towns from where Romanies fled - mostly to Canada, Britain and France - in 1997 and 1998. Most of them have since returned home, according to the Czech government human rights commissioner Petr Uhl. In Ostrava, Mr.Broucher also met with representatives of several joint Czech-British entreprises and discussed the possibility of increasing the level of British investment in the region.

EU and NATO enlargement in lower house's committees

The aspects of EU and NATO enlargement are the main themes discussed today by several lower house committees. While the foreign affairs comittee has invited Czech ambassador to NATO and the West European Union, Karel Kovanda, members of the defence and security comittee are discussing the matter with Foreign minister Jan Kavan. Mr.Kavan is expected to brief deputies on the priorities of Czech foreign policy this year.

Shadow cabinet in session

The opposition Civic democratic party's shadow cabinet is in session today outlining its basic tasks and priorities. Among the themes under discussion are the reform of state administration and measures designed to jumpstart economic growth. Shadow Defence minister Petr Necas, who is also chairman of the lower house's defence and security committee, will take up several issues related to the Czech Republic's planned entry to NATO in March and the reform of the Czech army. The shadow cabinet was set up last September, with the aim to analyze the steps taken by the Social democrat cabinet of Milos Zeman and express its own views on the government's policy.

Four-party coalition - no agreement

Chairmen of four right-of centre parties, the Freedom Union, the Christian democratic union, the Civic democratic alliance and the Democratic Union, met in Prague on Wednesday to discuss the possible signing of a new agreement outlining their further cooperation. The meeting, though, did not produce any positive results. Acting chairman of the Christian democrats, Jan Kasal said that cooperation within the coalition seems to be good and that he sees no need to reinforce it by pact. On the other hand, Freedom Union leader Jan Ruml insisted on an agreement being signed. After the meeting Ruml told journalists that its outcome does not indicate any rejection of future agreements. It could be signed in February, Ruml noted.

Vision 97, assistance to Romanies

The Dagmar and Vaclav Havel foundation, Vision 97, intends to allocate 100 thousand crowns for detail the social situation of Romany residents living in council flats in Maticni street, in the north Bohemian town of Usti nad Labem. President Vaclav Havel had promised assistance via his foundation in solving the problem of - as he put it - "coexistence between two communities with different cultural and historical traditions, different types of criminality and a different value ladder." The Usti nad Labem suburb made the headlines in both the Czech and foreign newspapers last year, after local councillors announced that a wall dividing the Roma and Czech residents was to be erected.

Approval ratings

The ruling Social democratic party has substantially strengthened its position on the Czech political scene and remains the strongest political power in the Czech republic. The outcome of the latest public opinion-poll shows that in January, 34 percent of those polled would vote for the Social democrats - 8 percent more than in December 98. The approval ratings of the strongest opposition party, ex-premier Vaclav Klaus's Civic democrats, is slightly lower - at present it enjoys the support of 23 percent of voters.


And finally a brief look at the weather on Thursday: we can expect morning mists and cloudy skies with occasional drizzle. Daytime highs between zero and 4 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.