News Wednesday, OCTOBER 14th, 1998

Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail:

Hillary Clinton - address

Addressing the Forum 2,000 conference in Prague US First Lady, Hillary Clinton called for the creation of a strong civil society in which the free market benefited everyone. Mrs. Clinton spoke of a world in which the three pillars of society - the government, the economy and civil society- were strong and in balance, a future in which a vibrant civil society would foster free and active citizens. In an upbeat speech the US First Lady urged the international community to meet the challenges ahead with optimism and vigour and advocated the motto " honour the past and imagine the future".

EU commissioner - address

Speaking at the same Forum, EU commissioner Hans van den Broek said he was optimistic that Europe would resolve its problems and meet the challenges ahead. He stressed the importance of the US presence in Europe saying "whenever the EU and NATO work together they do achieve the desired results, and the opposite is true as well." The EU commissioner said one of the main challenges ahead was helping Russia overcome a crisis which could seriously effect the rest of the world.

Van Den Broek - Kavan

Meanwhile in bilateral talks with Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan, the visiting EU commissioner hinted that the Czech Republic had been expected to fulfil EU membership requirements at a brisker pace. Hans van den Broek mentioned in particular the need to progress faster in modernizing the judiciary, privatizing the banking system and reforming local administration.

Havel - budget

President Havel has expressed the view that next year's budget deficit could be even bigger than that proposed by the Social Democrat government on condition that the money was "wisely invested". Addressing a Parliament session which is to discuss the proposed budget, the president said that every billion of the planned deficit would be worthwhile if it were to reap profit in future years. President Havel has set a precedent in accepting the possibility of a steep budget deficit in 1999. For the time being the entire opposition is united against it.

OSCE - Czech

The Czech Republic has expressed readiness to participate in an international observation mission which is to supervise the peace process in Kosovo. Under an agreement reached with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is to assemble an international team of 2,000 "compliance verifiers" who could be stationed in Kosovo within a week. Apart from this offer, which is yet to be specified, the Czech Republic has offered to send a field hospital to Kosovo.

Refugees - investigation

The police is still investigating the identity of the 106 refugees who arrived at Prague Airport on a Moldavian carrier on Monday. In place of the scheduled flight the authorities found an airload of allegedly Afghan refugees with false passports, who threatened to burn the plane down if they were asked to turn back. Several passengers even smashed emergency exit windows and climbed out onto the wings of the plane. A seven year old child was actually pushed off a wing but was luckily caught by one of the police officers surrounding the plane. All 106 passengers, among them 31 children, have been taken to a refugee camp.

Sula says Operation Clean Hands is shaky

Jan Sula, the man who was to have spearheaded the government's anti- corruption drive and who resigned just days after being appointed head of a respective government commission, has now laid the blame on poor planning, amateurism and general mismanagement of the whole operation. Initially Sula said he had resigned under pressure of repeated threats made to his family. His statement today will be a bad blow for Prime Minister Zeman whose operation Clean Hands is already under fire from the media for exactly the same reasons cited by Sula.

EU centre in Prague

The former Soviet propaganda centre in the heart of Prague has been transformed into an EU information centre. It was opened on Tuesday in the presence of visiting EU commissioner Hans van den Broek and Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan. Mr. van den Broek noted that it was the first EU information centre to open in Central and Eastern Europe and described it as "a gift for the EU". The Czech foreign minister pointed out that the road to the EU would not be easy and the government needed full public support in implementing the necessary changes. This centre will bridge an information gap and contribute to a better understanding of why it is in our best interests to join the European Union, Kavan said.

And finally, a look at the weather -

Wednesday should be a fairly nice day, with partly cloudy skies and temps between 8 and 12 degs C. Slightly higher temps are expected towards the end of the week.