News Wednesday, AUGUST 12th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-news Date: 12.8.1998 Written/read by: David Vaughan

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm David Vaughan. First the headlines.

And now the news in more detail.

Cabinet to Meet

The Czech cabinet is meeting today to discuss where to find money to undo this year's flood damage in Eastern Bohemia. The government's flood committee has recommended it find 475 million crowns from this year's state budget. The total cost of damage is estimated at nearly four times that figure. The finance minister, Ivo Svoboda, has acknowledged that it will not be easy to find the money in the already strained state coffers. The cabinet is also to decide what strategy to take on the completion of the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant. They will decide whether to accept a planned assessment to look into the viability of completing the plant, as agreed between the environment and industry ministers on Monday. On Tuesday one of the deputy leaders of the ruling Social Democrats, Petra Buzkova, said she would favour a referendum, so the people themselves could decide whether the plant should be completed.

Palach Ceremony

Only a handful of people attended a ceremony in Prague on Tuesday to commemorate what would have been the fiftieth birthday of Jan Palach last weekend. Palach was a student at the time of the Prague Spring and died in 1969 after setting fire to himself on Wenceslas Square in protest against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. Members of the Jan Palach Association, set up to honour his memory, laid wreathes at the site of the tragedy and at his grave in Prague. The association's head, Vaclav Zeman, described Palach's sacrifice as a first step in the liberation of the country from totalitarian rule. He attributed the low attendance at the ceremony to a current lack of interest among Czechs in basic moral issues, and an over-emphasis on the economy. On Tuesday the Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, himself joined the Jan Palach Association, in honour of his memory.

Opinion Poll

According to a series of opinion polls conducted by the Sofres- Factum agency, public support for the governing Social Democrats increased significantly immediately after they won June's general election, but has since begun to fall sharply. The agency's findings suggest that Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democrats, which came second in the election, have shown exactly the opposite trend. After a sharp fall in support, they have once again returned to the level seen in the election result. The polls also suggest that support for the Pensioners' Party and the far-right Republicans remains well below five percent.

German Social Democrats Criticise Zeman

Prime Minister Milos Zeman's own sister party in Germany has added its voice to those criticising his recent controversial comments about Sudeten Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War Two. Mr Zeman caused anger in Germany after he seemed to compare the largest organisation representing Sudeten Germans with the Czech extreme right wing Republican Party and the far left Communists. The German Social Democrats' parliamentary spokesman for foreign affairs, Gunter Verheugen, has called on Mr Zeman to explain his comments, and to put matters straight by saying outright that he believes Sudeten Germans to be a reliable and democratic partner./ However, Mr Verheugen also criticised the right-wing Bavarian Christian Social Union for fuelling the row, as part of their election campaign.

President Havel's Health

Despite earlier complications President Havel is continuing his recovery after an intestinal operation last week. The President's personal doctor, Ilja Kotik, said on Tuesday that his temperature had been back to normal for over 24 hours, and that Mr Havel was able to read the papers, and was already beginning to walk. But he added that it was still not clear when it would be possible to reverse a trachaeotomy, introduced to help Mr Havel's breathing.

Health Minister Leaves Chamber

The health minister, Ivan David, has resigned from the Czech Chamber of Physicians, the professional organisation representing Czech doctors. He said that he had left in protest against the chamber's insistence that all doctors become members. Mr David accused the organisation of breaking its own ethical codes.

Weather

And I'll end with a glance at the weather... It's another very hot day with temperatures as high as 34 degrees Celsius, although we can also expect thunderstorms in the course of the afternoon and evening. It will be cooler on Thursday, at around 25 degrees with showers and further thunderstorms.

And that's the end of the news.