News Tuesday, SEPTEMBER 28th, 1999

Hello and a very warm welcome to the program. 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:

ODS .v. Havel

The main opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), has challenged President Vaclav Havel to appear in a live televised debate on the planned controversial changes to the constitution. President Havel's office was quick to turn down the proposal on Monday evening. A Presidential spokesman told reporters that holding "A televised duel is not the correct forum for discussing changes to the constitution".

Havel's reaction has met with sharp criticism from members of the Civic Democratic Party, who believe that Czechs should become more familiar with the changes. The party and the ruling Social Democrats are planning to introduce changes which would to a certain extent limit the President's authority. Vaclav Havel has stated several times that he could not possibly continue in office if the changes go ahead.

Swedish Visit

Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson is set to begin a visit to the Czech Repunlic which will last two days. Top of the agenda are Tuesday's private talks with Czech Premier Milos Zeman on the topic of internal reforms within the European Union, and their influence over the Union's expansion.

A spokesman for the Czech government said prior to Mr Persson's arrival that promoting bi-lateral ties and increasing Czech - Swedish investments will also be discussed. The visiting Prime Minister intends to speak on NATO membership and all it involves. Sweden joined the alliance in 1995.

Confidence Vote in Gross

The Social Democrat Deputy Club is preparing to hold a vote of confidence on Tuesday in its highly popular Chairman, Stanislav Gross. This is at the request of Gross himself, who stands accused of using a mobile telephone provided by a private advertising agency which may have paid the bills. Four high ranking Social Democrat officials received mobile telephones for use just before the 1996 elections. Although Gross maintains that this is when he received his, there are no records to prove it. His inability to recall the specifics of the affair have prompted politicians and newspapers to questions his honesty.

On Monday, Karel Kobes, Chief Aide to Czech Premier Milos Zeman said that the affair is ridiculous. In this latest episode of the affair, Karel Kobes told journalists that the party paid the bills. "I know we paid the agency" he said, adding that the affair is a storm in a teacup. There has been recent widespread speculation in the Czech media that Gross is being publicly victimised for having said that deputy Premier Egon Lansky should resign in the aftermath of a banking scandal.

Draskovic and Havel

Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic said on Monday he wanted President Slobodan Milosevic ousted in a free early election, adding he saw little point in public protests currently underway in Serbia.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Czech President Vaclav Havel at the Presidential retreat in Lany, west of Prague, Draskovic said he had organised demonstrations for 10 years with no result.

"It is clear that Milosevic cannot be defeated by concerts and street walks," said Draskovic, who helped organise 88 days of massive street protests in 1996-1997.

Draskovic, the charismatic leader of the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement, has been refusing to join the daily demonstrations against Milosevic organised by the opposition group Alliance for Change. The Alliance wants Milosevic's resignation followed by the appointment of a caretaker cabinet which would call elections.

"What the opposition groups say, is first end the regime and then call elections. What I say, is make the regime, then call the elections...Milosevic's departure must be smooth, legal and quick," Draskovic said. Draskovic served in the government briefly this year before rejoining the opposition.

Czech President Vaclav Havel, however, who came to power following mass street demonstrations in 1989's anti-communist revolution, said he believed public pressure may be necessary.

"Pressure will make the regime create a temporary government. The temporary government will become a guarantor of quick elections," the Czech leader said.

"I am afraid it will not be possible without pressure from the public, but I do not recommend confrontation and am not in favour of policy being made in streets and squares," Havel said.

Up to 50,000 people marched through Belgrade on Sunday, the sixth day of a campaign which has been growing in strength. But turnouts still represent only a fraction of Belgrade's two million population and opposition leaders acknowledge that more people must show up to put real pressure on Milosevic.

Kavan delivers Zeman's letter

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has delivered a letter from Czech Premier Milos Zeman to the London Government. The letter which was handed to British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook on Monday was a reply to Tony Blair's letter last week on the issue of Romanies seeking asylum in Britian. On Monday, the Czech Foreign Minister said that in his letter, Milos Zeman has summarised steps his government is taking to curb the flood of Romanies arriving in Britain as well as outlining a number of proposals to improve Czech - Romany relations.

Speaking in Bournemouth, Mr Kavan expressed hopes that London would not impose a visa requrement on Czechs visiting Britian. According to Jan Kavan, the issue of Romany migration concerns the whole of Europe and should be dealt with froma wider perpective. He believes that the European Union should provide the Czech Republic with money for integration and educational schemes.While in Bournmouth, Jan Kavan took part in a panel discussion as part of the Labour Party Conference on the expansion of the European Union. In his speech, he stressed that the Union should set a date for enlargement.

EU postpones Expansion Date and Schroeder

The European commission said on Monday it would be postponing setting a date for enlargement talks to begin. The candidate countries of Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia, Cyprus and the Czech Republic have been hoping that a date will be set in two weeks time. This comes as German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder prepares to make an official trip to the Czech Republic later this week. Schroeder is due hold talks with President Vaclav Havel, Prime Minister Milos Zeman and other officials on the one-day visit. The Czech Republic's bid for European Union membership and other bilateral issues are expected to dominate talks. Schroeder will host a reception in the German embassy marking the 10th anniversary of a dramatic deal with the former Prague government which allowed East Germans, who had fled to the embassy, travel to the West. Accompanying Schroeder will be the former German foreign minister, Hans- Dietrich Genscher, who brokered the accord which won freedom for the thousands of East Germans camping out at the embassy prior to the Berlin Wall's opening.

Coaching for Social Democrats

Finally, Social Democrat MP's are about to return to the classroom. By the end of the year, many party officials will undergo lessons in how to deal with journalists, how to present their opinions and make a pleasant impression. Deputy Chairman of the Party Zdenek Skromach made the announcement on Monday, saying experts from Germany, Great Britian and Sweden will be engaged in teaching these new skills. This comes after members of the party, including Premier Milos Zeman have been bombarded with criticism for their bad manners and lack of finesse.

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

We are in for a cloudy, cool start to the day on Tuesday, with temperatures reaching 21 degrees Celsius. There could be some scattered showers overnight and tempretures will drop to about 8 degrees celsius.

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