News Thursday, OCTOBER 21st, 1999

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm Nick Carey and this is the news. First, a look at the headlines.

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

Super coalition negotiations to continue today

The leaders of the opposition centre-right Civic Democrats and the ruling centre-left Social Democrats will meet today to continue negotiations on the formation of a super coalition government that would consist of all of the parties in parliament except for the Communists. The Civic Democrats proposed the idea of a super coalition last week in place of the opposition agreement, which the party concluded last year with the minority government of the Social Democrats and which has kept the government in power for the past fifteen months. The Civic Democrats want the negotiations to continue despite the fact the other two centre-right parties that would be needed for a super coalition, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union, have refused to participate. The Social Democrats have said that this means that the concept of a super coalition is now unrealistic, but want to discuss the future of the opposition agreement.

Deputy Prime Ministers asks Roma leaders for patience over Maticni Street wall

Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky has promised Roma representatives that the government will resolve the problem of the Maticni Street Wall in Usti nad Labem. The controversial wall was built last week between white residents and a predominantly Roma housing estate, and has been the subject of fierce debate for some months. He asked them for patience while the situation is sorted out and said that the government will do all it can to resolve the problem. The Roma representatives said they were satisfied with the results of the meeting with Rychetsky, but told journalists that they still intend to participate in a meeting that will be held on Friday to protest against the wall.

Lower house rejects budget for the year 2000

The Czech lower house of parliament voted against the ruling Social Democrat's budget plan for the year 2000 on Wednesday, by a majority of hundred to seventy four. All of the centre-right parties voted against the plan, as had been expected, and the Communist Party abstained from the ballot. The lower house then called on the government to prepare a new proposal for next year's budget within thirty days. The new plan should be split between items that are absolutely necessary, and those that can be reduced, in order to reduce the planned deficit. The government also has to lower the level of mandatory spending by state institutions. According to Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik, if the demands of parliament are met, then these institutions will have only seventy percent of the funding that was available to them in 1998. Civic Democrat leader Vaclav Klaus, who abstained from the ballot, expressed his concern that the result might damage coalition discussions between his party and the Social Democrats.

Erste Bank wants to sign deal for Ceska Sporitelna by the end of the year

Austria's Erste Bank would like to conclude a contract by the end of the year to purchase a state-owned stake in Ceska Sporitelna, one of the Czech Republic's leading banks. This is contingent on the decision of the Ministry of Finance whether or not to sell the stake to Erste Bank. The Austrian bank intends to keep the name Ceska Sporitelna, as it is well-known here in the Czech Republic, and will provide the Czech government with a binding offer to purchase the stake on October 29th. Erste Bank has been given a month where it has the exclusive right to place a bid for Ceska Sporitelna.

Russian ambassador defends Russia's actions in Chechnya

At a press conference on Wednesday, the Russian ambassador to Prague, Nikolai Ryabov, defended what he called the fight against international terrorism that is currently underway in Chechnya. This was in reaction to a statement from the Czech Foreign Ministry on Tuesday which expressed the ministry's dissatisfaction with the situation in Chechnya, and which emphasised that military operations in the region will not achieve a long-term solution within the region. Russia, Ryabov said, is not fighting against Islam, but against a group of terrorists and bandits that have no nationality, beliefs or qualities that could be called human.

Irish presidents gets key to the city of Prague

On a lighter note, Irish president Mary McAleese, who is in the Czech Republic on a four-day state visit, received the keys to the city of Prague on Wednesday from Prague's mayor Jan Kasal. The Irish president responded by saying she already felt at home in the Czech Republic.


And finally the weather. The weather today will continue to be quite chilly, with cloudy skies. Maximum temperatures should reach ten degrees centigrade. And that was the news.