News Wednesday, OCTOBER 20th, 1999

Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. I'm Dita Asiedu , first we start with 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:

Klaus calls upon Ruml to talk

Vaclav Klaus, leader of the opposition Civic Democratic party, wrote a letter, on Tuesday evening, to Jan Ruml, head of the opposition Freedom Union. Klaus invited him to hold talks as soon as possible, preferably on Thursday, on finding a solution to the country's political problems. Jan Ruml, says he is not sure yet, whether or not he will accept.

This comes as two small Czech center-right parties on Tuesday, rejected an invitation to join what has been dubbed a "Super Grand coalition". According to a spokesman, the Christian Democratic Party and its partner the Freedom Union turned down the idea and decided to try and prevent the resurgent Communist party from being the only opposition party.

The Civic Democratic Party which has kept the Social democrat government in office for the last 15 months, under a power sharing agreement had proposed the new four party government in order to end recent political turmoil. The smaller parties, however, are refusing to budge, until this opposition agreement has been scrapped. The Civic Democratic Party says that until a new government is formed, the agreement stays. Its leader Vaclav Klaus, said on Tuesday that his party would move to delay consideration of the 2000 state budget, by at least a week, until the political situation was sorted out.

MP's adjourn the budget reading

The fifth October session of the Czech Parliament which was adjourned yesterday, is set to continue on Wednesday. The main item on the agenda is the reading of the Budget proposal for next year. MP's called off Tuesday's session after members of the opposition expressed their outrage at some aspects of Premier Milos Zeman's speech. Ivan Pilip of the Freedom Union dismissed Zeman's comments on a low deficit between the end of September and the beginning of October as nonsense. Other MP's also criticized the Premier for his comments on the government's fight against inflation. Pilip told journalists that Milos Zeman was taking the praise for work which the Czech National bank had carried out and which in Pilip's words "Zeman criticizes at every opportunity". Czech Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik spoke to MP's just before the reading took place, reminding them that the government is expecting an economic upturn next year. He evaluated the Macroeconomic situation in the Czech Republic, noting that the economy has been in a long recession and indicated that unemployment was likely to rise to 11.1% next year.

Shortly after the session began, much speculation arose among deputies as to whether or not the reading would go ahead. Although MP's did not want to confirm this to reporters, there was concern that the Social democrats would postpone the debate on the budget until another session. The Social democrats who hold 74 seats in Parliaments do not have enough power to push the budget through in its first reading. The opposition parties are all against the budget. Although the communists have kept everyone guessing, their added support would still not be enough to ensure its safe passage through parliament.

EU tells CR and Poland to improve

The European Union's top environment official on Tuesday had words of warning for Poland and the Czech Republic. Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom urged the two countries to work harder to improve environmental standards before they can join the bloc. She said she was particularly worried about the remaining Chernobyl style nuclear power stations in eastern Europe. The two countries were singled out after the commissioner said they were not serious enough about the need to adopt European Union environmental norms. Speaking to the European Parliament's environment committee, Wallstrom said Poland and the Czech Republic would have to apply the laws of the EU if they want to become members.

Dual nationality easier for Czechs in Slovakia

The Czech Center in the Slovak capital of Bratislava announced on Tuesday evening, that it will be easier in the future for Czech living in Slovakia to gain dual citizenship. This comes as the Slovak Interior Ministry released a questionnaire for Czechs applying for Slovak citizenship. After the two states of separated in 1993, many Czechs living in Slovakia were forced to opt for Slovak nationality which lead to much confusion. Observers say this is well timed move and another step towards improving Czech - Slovak ties.

Irish visit

Irish President Mary McAleese who arrived in Prague on Monday evening, officially began her state visit by holding talks with President Vaclav Havel. Both heads of state discussed Czech - Irish ties and emphasized that the two nations are also bound by their Celtic heritage. Mrs McAleese who comes from Belfast, spoke to President Havel about the situation in Northern Ireland. He later told reporters that the recipe for Ireland's success story is "Patience, persistence and much hard work".

The Irish President said her country was ready to offer advice to the Czech Republic on the issue of European Union membership of which Ireland has been a member since 1973.

Later in the day she also met with Czech opposition leader Vaclav Klaus. He told reporters that he is confident Ireland will support the Czech Republic's bid for membership of the European Union. He said talks had focused on the Irish experience of gaining membership and said that as a lawyer Mary McAleese understood only too well the issue of adopting European legislation. Mary Mc Aleese is set to spend four days in Prague.

Thumbs down to Czech Politics

Almost 83% of Czechs believe that politicians in this country are only interested in power and do not pay attention to the needs of the people. According to a survey, 68% of those asked, believe politics to be a filthy game. Many people expressed the opinion that a politician should set realistic goals and not try to achieve an utopian state of affairs. This comes as the communist party has been placed second in electoral preference with giving it in theory almost 20% of the vote.

And we end as usual with brief look at the weather:

We're in for a foggy start to the day, which will Clare up by mid morning, producing a some typical sunny but chilly autumn weather. Daytime temperatures will range from 5 to 9 degrees Celsius, dropping to as low as minus four overnight.

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