News Thursday, SEPTEMBER 30th, 1999

Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. I'm Dita Asiedu, first let's take 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:

Schroeder visits CR

Gerhard Schroeder is arriving in the Czech Republic on Thursday for a one day visit. Political observers say it is a trip which underlines the fact that Germany has played a leading role in Central Europe's economic transformation following the demise of communism across the region 10 years ago.

While the visit is to mark the 10th anniversary of key events in Prague which helped pave the way for the fall of the Berlin Wall, high on the Chancellor's agenda will be talks on extending European Union (E.U.) membership to Central European countries. He is due to hold talks with President Vaclav Havel, Premier Milos Zeman and other officials.

This is Schroeder's first trip to the Czech Republic and he has made it fairly clear that he intends to strengthen ties with the Czech Republic in as many areas as possible. With German investment in Central Europe racing ahead by 220 per cent in recent years, German economic links have already become vital for nations like the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary in their drive for political and economic integration with western Europe.

This comes after a senior German official in Berlin, said on Wednesday, that the Czech Republic needs to make a bigger effort to ensure it is part of the first wave of new European Union members. On the eve of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's trip to Prague, German Foreign Policy adviser, Michael Steiner told journalists that: "A lot of things have not happened in the Czech Republic, which other applicant states have already set about tackling". He did say, however, that since Prague now had the chance to clear away its deficits and although the government is having problems, it is safe to assume the Czech Republic will stay in the first group.

Accompanying Schroeder will be former German Foreign Minister Hans- Dietrich Genscher who brokered the accord which won freedom for the 4,000 east Germans camping out at the embassy prior to the Berlin wall's opening 10 years ago.

Cabinet approves changes

The Czech cabinet on Thursday approved various changes to the country's constitution. President Vaclav Havel told ministers on Wednesday morning, that he has reservations about some of the proposals, notably those which remove his power to grant pardons and decide who sits on the board of the Czech National Bank and presides over the Supreme Court.

Vaclav Havel has already stated several times, that the changes which restrict his authority as head of state are unacceptable from his point of view and could cripple the Czech Republic's integration into the European Union.

A cabinet spokesman told reporters on Wednesday afternoon, that ministers asked the commission which planned the changes, to consider the controversial proposal that after elections, the outgoing and incoming government would be on an equal footing until the new government is approved by parliament. Ministers also called for a change which would enable the President to name the new government once it receives approval from the Parliament.

The changes which were drawn up by the ruling Social Democrat Party and the opposition Civic Democratic Party have met with negative reactions from the right wing parliamentary parties, the Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats.

Crime responsible for close of bank

Highly placed members of the Moravia Bank's statutory bodies investigating the bank and its economic difficulties, say they have uncovered evidence pointing to deliberate crime. The Moravia Bank, tottering on the verge of bankruptcy, has been closed and the Czech National bank is deciding whether or not it should revoke the bank's license.

A member of the Czech National Bank, said on Wednesday, it would appear that workers at the bank have been providing unreliable acquaintances with loans from the bank and then covering up the operations. Investigations are set to continue with more intensity than before. Now all original claims that the Moravia Bank was a financially solid institution are being swept away, clients of the bank took the streets of Brno on Wednesday. Many of the angry protestors are Old Age Pensioners who have lost all their savings. They marched up to the Town Hall with a petition demanding their money back, carrying banners saying "Do not steal our savings". Foreign observers have noted that this is not the first time, ordinary people have lost all their savings when a bank closes down and billions vanish into air.

Lansky varicose vein infection

Czech Deputy Premier Egon Lansky was taken to hospital on Wednesday afternoon with what spokesmen are referring to as "an acute illness" related to Lansky's varicose veins. No further details have as yet been released to the press, although a government spokesman did say that Mr Lansky has for several days now, been complaining of a pain in his legs. Although the deputy Premier is under pressure from several members of the Social Democrats to resign due to an unexplained banking scandal and poor results concerning the Czech Republic's integration into the European Union, he is set to remain in hospital for the next two weeks.

Havel calls for end to bloodshed

Czech President Vaclav Havel delivered a message to journalists on Wednesday, via his spokesman, that the fighting which has escalated in Chechnya in recent days, could threaten Security in Europe. This comes after Russia spent another night carrying out air strikes on strategic locations in Chechnya. According to Vaclav Havel, negotiations are the most important step which must now be taken. He feels that the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe should step in and support talks to stop the destruction and bloodshed. The Czech President, known for his human rights activities, said Russia should find the courage to accept Caucasian identities and ambitions.

Dienstbier and Genscher celebrate at Rozvadov

Former Czech Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier and his former German counterpart Hans-Dietrich Genscher spent a nostalgic day on Wednesday, at the town of Rozvadov which lies on the Czech - German border. The two men shared memories of the day almost ten years ago, when they cut the wires separating the two states. Jiri Dienstbier recalled the euphoria, saying: "Cutting the wire, was a symbolic act, which unified Europe". Genscher echoed these words, saying the event showed that it is impossible to divide Europe. He added that it was a day he will never forget.

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

Thursday will see a cloudy cool start to the day, with temperatures ranging from 18 to 22 degrees Celsius. There will be some showers during the afternoon, and temperatures during the night will drop to around 9 degrees Celsius.

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