News Thursday, SEPTEMBER 23rd, 1999

Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. I'm Dita Asiedu, first we start with a look at the main headlines of the day:

You are tuned to Radio Prague. Those were the headlines now let's take a look at the news in full:

Havel / Constitution

Czech President Vaclav Havel has expressed concern over the planned changes to the constitution. He says that in some circumstances, they could work against the country. These are the long planned changes which the ruling Social democrats and the opposition Civic Democratic party intend to implement. After his first meeting on the issue with MP's Vaclav Havel said that he objects in particular to the move which would limit his powers and rule out the possibility of his setting up a government in times of crisis.

The Czech President speculated that the complicated changes to the President's authority could take place after his term in office expires. This has met with some opposition, notably from deputy Chairman of the Civic democratic Party Ivan Langer. He said that introducing the changes after Havel leaves office is illogical and said they would take place by 1st January 2001 at the latest. President Vaclav Havel warned MP's at the end of August, that he would not be able to continue in office if the changes went ahead. Ivan Langer was quick to comment in front of journalists on Wednesday that the changes were not being brought in with a view to forcing Havel to resign.

Blair / Romanies

British Prime Minister Tony Blair called on his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman on Wednesday to introduce measures which would deal with the migration of Romanies to Britain. In a letter to Mr Zeman, Tony Blair indirectly said that if the flood of Romanies seeking asylum in England could not be stemmed, a visa requirement for Czechs visiting Britain may be introduced. He suggested that greater co-operation is needed if the problem is to be resolved.

Although the Czech Government has indicated in the past, that Romanies are leaving for Britain because of economic reasons, it declared its intentions on Wednesday through a spokesman to do all it can to alleviate the situation. There has been much controversy in the media recently over the number of Romanies who have arrived in Britain seeking asylum on grounds that they feel racially threatened in the Czech Republic.

Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky told ministers and reporters on Wednesday that one way of resolving the problem could be the project to build a village in Ostrava, where Czechs and Romanies could live together without any tension. He added that he intends to indicate to parliament that the erection of the infamous Maticni Street wall, in the town of Usti nad Labem could be interpreted as a lack of desire to resolve problematic Czech-Romany relations. The wall is intended to separate two neighbouring communities, one Romany, the other Czech.

This comes after United Nations Special Envoy for human rights Maurice Glele- Ahanhanzo spent Wednesday holding talks in Prague with the deputy Ministers of the Interior and Justice, Jaroslav Kopriva and Alois Cihlar. Top of the agenda was the issue of steps the Czech government is taking to combat the threat of racism in the Czech Republic.

Speaking later to Czech Radio, Mr Kopriva said the discussion had centred on answering questions asked by the visiting United Nations official. According to the deputy Interior Minister, Romanies who feel they are being discriminated against may contact a government commission to lodge a complaint. As far as equal opportunities are concerned, he added that the state is aiming to employ a greater number of Romanies in the police force.

The Deputy Justice Minister said that his talks focused on the Czech legal system and its provision for people who are victims of racism. He explained to Maurice Glele-Ahanhanzo that while there is no single Czech law on racism, there is an enactment containing laws which deal with racially motivated crimes. The conclusions of Maurice Glele-Ahanhanzo's visit to the Czech Republic will be published in a report on the country's relationship with its ethnic Romany community.

EU / Candidates / Conference

Prague is preparing to host a meeting on Thursday, of six teams representing states who would like to become members of the European Union. The teams were invited to Prague by deputy Foreign Minister Pavel Telicka.

He said on Wednesday afternoon, that the first day will see Poland, Hungary, Cyprus, Estonia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic discussing finances, regional politics, budgets, cross border movement and EU legislation on the free flow of capital.

On Friday discussions will focus on the possible outcome of a forthcoming meeting of the European Council in Lisbon.

Lansky / Resignation

More members of the ruling Czech Social Democrat party have been calling for deputy Premier Egon Lansky to resign from his position.

Suspicious circumstances surrounding a bank account in Austria and slow preparations for the country's entry to the European Union have provoked much speculation both within and outside the party that Premier Milos Zeman could ask Lansky to step down.

Along with calls from the party's Central Bohemian Committee, Deputy Chairwoman of Parliament Petra Buzkova and Head of the deputies Club, Stanislav Gross have now also publicly stated that Lansky should resign. The deputy Premier has rejected these calls, saying he will only leave if Premier Milos Zeman asks him to.

Havel / Speeding

Czech President Vaclav Havel said on Wednesday that he is willing to pay a fine after speeding on Monday. Mr Havel was test-driving the new Skoda Fabia earlier in the week, when he kept his foot pressed to the floor and in a 70 kilometre per hour zone, drove at 160 kilometres per hour.

Although he has diplomatic immunity, Havel has been called upon by MP's to at least publicly apologise, for setting a bad example. Havel's spokesman in the meantime reminded MP's that they have no proof that the President broke the law.

Lithuania / CR

Lithuanian President Valdus Adamkus said on Wednesday, that he is convinced his country will become a member of NATO and the European Union. Speaking in Prague at the end of his state visit, Adamkus expressed his gratitude to Czech President Vaclav Havel for his support and willingness to compare experiences the Czech Republic underwent on its path to NATO membership. Later a member of the Czech Parliament's committee for European Integration said both the Czech Republic and Lithuania appreciate the European Union's policy of expansion.

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

We are expecting warmer temperatures during the day on Thursday ranging from to 20 to 26 to degrees Celsius. Skies will be clear, with some mist in the early morning which should clear up as the day progresses. There could be some showers towards the evening, with cooler temperatures of 12 to 16 degrees Celsius.

I'm Dita Asiedu and that's the end of the news.