News Wednesday, MAY 20th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News Date: May 20, 1998 Written/read by: Vladimir Tax

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Vladimir Tax and here's the news. First the headlines.

These are the main points and now the news in more detail.

Havel's surgery postponed

The team of doctors who care for President Vaclav Havel's health recommended that a planned surgery to remove his colostomy bag should be postponed until the second half of July, head of the team Miroslav Cerbak told reporters on Tuesday.

Cerbak said the docotrs decided so after considering all the possible risks of the operation.

He said it was "purely for health reasons" and explained that Havel was weakened after his recent difficult operation and needed more time to recover.

Chamber refuses to strip Strasky of immunity

The Chamber of Deputies failed to strip former health minister Jan Strasky of the immunity enjoyed by parliamentary deputies, perventing his prosecution.

Strasky allegedly misused his powers as health minister in connection with a tender for the West Bohemian helicopter ambulance service.

Czechs disaffected with market economy, democracy -- EU poll

Of all ten former communist countries seeking EU admission, Czechs and Slovaks are the least satisfied with the market economy, according to an EU poll published by the European Commission.

When asked whether the creation of a market economy independent of state control was right for the nation's future, only 28 percent of Czechs and 35 percent of Slovaks said it was. One half of Czechs and 45 percent of Slovaks are opposed to the notion.

Sixty-two percent of Czechs complain about the functioning of democracy, while only 33 percent are satisfied with it.

Farmers protest

Czech farmers are demonstrating today in Prague to protest against worsening of living conditions among farmers and people in rural areas. Farmers' trade Unions official Ivan Kaspar said that after Saturday's riots in Prague the Unions revised their intent to bring farm animals and machinery to the center of Prague.

SocDem want Pilip's scalp

Social Democrats will ask premier Tosovsky to initiate removing of finance minister Ivan Pilip, Social Democrat leader in the Chamber of Deputies, Stanislav Gross, told reporters. Ministers are appointed and removed by president upon premier's suggestion.

The reason for replacing minister Pilip is his position on price deregulation. Mr. Gross said minister Pilip clearly despised a parliamentary motion asking the cabinet to stop price deregulation and privatisation of strategic companies.

Gross said the Social Democrats are also considering initiating a vote of no-confidence in the cabinet.

Unions/Tosovsky/payrise

Trade Unions on Tuesday failed to reach an agreement with premier Tosovsky on a pay rise for civil servants. The rise, amounting to a total of three billion crowns this year, would affect almost 800 thousand public service employees. The Unions claim that public sector pay has been rising more slowly than inflation.

Cabinet spokesman Petr Studenovsky told reporters after the meeting that premier Tosovsky refused the Unions' demands because there is no extra money in the state budget. But at the same time the premier admitted that low salaries in the state sphere affect its quality. A freeze on public sector salaries was one of the austerity measures adopted by the former cabinet of Premier Klaus, a policy also followed by the current cabinet.

However, Premier Tosovsky did agree with another Trade Union demand -- to make it possible for Union representatives to take part in drafting the state budget for next year.

Police to establish new unit

Police president Oldrich Tomasek announced on Tuesday he was planning to establish a special police unit of about 500 men which could be deployed in case of mass riots.

Tomasek said this plan was a reaction to a brawl which took place at the weekend when several hundred young people smashed shop windows and looted shops in the center of Prague.

The police have about 200 men in Prague and admitted after the incident that it had not been prepared for so large and aggressive a mob.

NATO/support

Almost two thirds of Czech citizens support their country's entry into NATO. This is the result of the latest opinion poll conducted by the Center for Empirical Research. 60 percent of those asked said joining the military alliance was the best way to ensure the Czech Republic's security.

At the same time, more than half of them said they would welcome more information about the political and economic consequences of the step.

Another recent survey by the Institute for Public Opinion Research said 55 percent of Czechs favoured joining NATO.

ODA not running for seats in parliament but campaigning

The right-wing Civic Democratic Alliance will not take part in the early elections in June. However, it will run an election campaign calling on people to go to the polls and vote for other right-wing parties.

The Civic Democratic Alliance was a junior coalition partner in the former cabinet of premier Klaus and its popularity is currently hovering around one percent after it plunged from more than ten percent a few weeks ago.

Aircraft/crash

A military aircraft crashed on Tuesday afternoon near the south- Moravian town of Zdar nad Sazavou. According to Czech air-force spokesman Patr Fajl, both pilots of the Russian-made MiG 23 jet fighter survived the accident unharmed.

He said Czech Army will discard outdated MiGs 23 by the end of this year because their service life is expiring.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather. We are expecting a mostly clear day with afternoon highs from 19 to 23 degrees Celsius. On Thursday and Friday a cold front will be moving across central Europe. It should be mostly cloudy with scattered showers, with temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius on Thursday and 15 on Friday.

And that's the end of the news.