News Thursday, JULY 23rd, 1998

Radio Prague E News Date: 23.7.98 Written / Read by: Pauline Newman

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 a look at the news in full:

Havel / Hospital

Czech President Vaclav havel is set to enter the Central Military hospital on Thursday, where he will undergo an intestinal operation. A Presidential spokesman said on Wednesday, that Vaclav Havel will first of all be examined, the same as any other patient, before doctors remove a bag bridging a gap in his intestine.

The operation will be carried out Austrian surgeon Ernst Bodner who treated Havel in April, when he was taken ill while on holiday in Austria.

Although Doctors have said they do not wish the President to receive any visits of a political nature, they admitted to journalists on Wednesday that they cannot do anything if this happens.

Slovakia / Floods

The death toll in Slovakia from Monday's floods in eastern Slovakia has risen to 29. These were the latest estimates from the official flood commission on Wednesday.

Several rivers swollen by heavy rains burst their banks late on Monday, sending torrents of water gushing through at least 20 villages and romany settlements. The interior Ministry said earlier that most of the dead were children and that dozens were still missing.

Rescue workers struggled through thick mud throughout Wednesday to dig out bodies and reach flattened houses.

Havel / Government

President Havel appointed a minority social cabinet on Wednesday afternoon, completing the country's first shift of power to the left since the end of communism.

Milos Zeman is to head the centre left government after his party won 74 seats in the 200 seat lower house during last month's general election. The list of ministers approved by Havel prior to a swearing in ceremony at Prague castle had 19 names in total and included several controversial figures, including Foreign Minister Jan Kavan. The new ministers will gradually take up their new jobs between Thursday and Monday.

Zeman has promised to maintain support for Czech membership of NATO and the European Union. He also pledged a so-called "Clean hands" campaign, to stamp out the corruption and theft he said had thrived during the rule of Vaclav Klaus.

Screening / Ministers

The debate continued on Wednesday, around the screening process Premier Milos Zeman is planning for his politicians.

The new Czech Deputy Premier for Security and Foreign affairs, Egon Lansky, told journalists that government members cannot be forced to undergo the screening process if they do not want to. He said: "I am not against it and have nothing to hide, but it is not an official requirement". Lansky said he would discuss this issue with ministers at the earliest possible opportunity.

Politicians are expected to fill in a confidential questionnaire on personal matters, in order to avoid the possibility of being blackmailed. Premier Milos Zeman called this questionnaire their "duty".

Havel / Tosovsky

Czech President Vaclav Havel on Wednesday re-appointed outgoing Premier Josef Tosovsky to his previous post of central Bank governor.

Tosovsky who stepped down from his position at the bank late last year to head a caretaker government, was given a new six year term.

Named head of the Czechoslovak Central Bank after the fall of communism in 1989, and made chief again when the country split in 1993, Tosovsky has been widely praised by economists both at home and abroad for his work, as Czech Premier over the last six months.

Mlynar / US Congress

Former Minister without Portfolio and member of the Freedom Union party, Vladimir Mlynar spoke on Wednesday about the way Czech - Romany ties are seen abroad. He said he fully understands why these relations are being criticised in the US congress.

Mlynar who was a member of Josef Tosovsky's six month caretaker government, was speaking after the Helsinki Committee said Romanies were still facing discrmination in the Czech Republic.

Mlynar said Congress had based its criticism on serious, realistic arguments, and that this is also a call for the next government to work at the problem. He added at the same time that he was pleased Congress had noticed some improvements in Czech - Romany dialogue.

Social Democrat Jaroslav Basta is now set to take over from Mlynar, he says he would like to create a government department with its own budget, to deal with human rights issues.

NATO / Czech

A recent survey by the Public Opinion Research Institute shows that 4 percent more Czechs, compared to last month, consider NATO membership important. 88 percent of people who admitted to being in favour of joining NATO said they were supporters of the ODS party and the Freedom Union. Only 48 percent admitted to supporting the Social Democrats.

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

Although temperatures will be high on Thursday, ranging from 25 to 29 degrees celsius, more rain and cloudy skies are expected. So all in all, it looks like another sticky, overcast day. Temperatures will still be uncomfortably high overnight, at about 20 degrees celsius, again more rain towards the morning is expected.

I'm Pauline Newman and that's all from the newsroom this hour.