News Tuesday, OCTOBER 05th, 1999

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I am Libor Kubik and here's the news. First the headlines.

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


Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman, a Social Democrat, has said the election success of the extremist Austrian Free Party, led by the nationalist Joerg Haider, should make all democratic politicians think. He said it was a signal that even people in a successful EU country can prefer xenophobia bordering on racism.

Haider's party won 27 percent of the vote in Sunday's Austrian elections and has probably relegated the coalition People's Party to third place. The winning Social Democrats collected over 33 percent.


The Czech National Bank shocked the foreign exchange market on Monday by cutting a key interest rate and heavily selling the crown. The central bank said the surging currency threatened the fragile economic recovery.

The bank's governing board, despite announcing a neutral bias for future monetary-policy moves last month, cut its repo rate a quarter of one percentage point, to 5.75 percent, and then began selling crowns for foreign currencies.


The American embassy in Prague says there was a mistake in including the Czech Republic in the list of countries which failed to provide Washington with data on their preparedness to face the millennium bug problems in the field of civil aviation.

The embassy was reacting on Monday to a report in The Washington Post that the Czechs are among 17 states from which the United States has not obtained sufficient data on the problem.

The embassy said in a written statement that it was not clear how this erroneous information could be released.


Lower House Speaker Vaclav Klaus insists that the constitutional amendments, jointly proposed by his Civic Democrats and the ruling Social Democratic Party, were not meant to offend President Vaclav Havel, but rather to upgrade the fundamental law on which the Czech Republic is built.

But Klaus told Czech Radio on Monday he was not sure if Mr Havel could be persuaded at a one- on-one meeting scheduled for the near future.

Mr Klaus, a former prime minister, told Czech Radio that Havel was more concerned over the constitutional changes than anyone else.

Havel has criticised the two strongest parties for their alleged attempts to curb the presidential powers. On Sunday, he told a private TV station he was convinced the changes had been proposed by one particular political leader -- without naming Mr Klaus, his long-time rival.

Our correspondent says the proposed constitutional amendments would strip the head of state of important powers.


The German car giant Volkswagen wants to acquire full ownership of the Czech carmaker Skoda and is offering Prague the equivalent of over 240 million dollars for the government's 30 percent stake in the Mlada Boleslav-based plant.

But insider sources here in the Czech Republic said on Monday that the Social Democratic government in Prague would probably view the offer as being low.

Our correspondent says Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik said a few weeks ago that the government wanted to sell its stake in Skoda by the end of the year.

Volkswagen first bought into Skoda eight years ago, gaining a 70 percent stake in the formerly state-owned car manufacturer.


Roma activists warned on Monday their community's exodus to the West will continue unless the northern Bohemian city of Usti nad Labem abandons plans to erect a ceramic fence which would separate a housing estate lived in mainly by Roma from houses inhabited by other local residents.

A meeting of regional Roma groups in Prague described the plan to build the wall in Usti nad Labem's Maticni Street as a deliberate escalation of inter-ethnic tensions on the part of the Usti Town-hall. The activists threatened a mobilisation of Roma forces at home and abroad in the struggle for elementary human and civic rights.

The Usti nad Labem town-hall decided to build the wall in order to protect local residents against excessive noise created in the night hours by residents of local council flats, many of whom do not pay their rents.

Czech and foreign opponents of the wall, including President Vaclav Havel and government officials, consider the planned ceramic fence in Usti a threat to human rights in general, and those of the Czech Roma community in particular.

In the summer, a record-high number of Romany people from the Czech Republic asked for asylum in Britain.


And finally, a look at the weather in the Czech Republic.

On Tuesday, this country will find itself under the influence of a cold wave coming from the north- west. We are bracing ourselves for a wet and cloudy day with frequent showers and snowfalls in the mountains. Morning lows between two and eight degrees Celsius will give way, later in the day, to daytime temperatures between 10 and 14 degrees.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the cold air intrusion will continue, bringing along even more precipitation and snow in the higher elevations. We expect night-time lows between three and seven Celsius, and afternoon highs on both days from eight to 12 degrees.

I'm Libor Kubik and that's the end of the news.