News Wednesday, SEPTEMBER 08th, 1999

Hello and a very warm welcome to Radio Prague. I´m Rob Cameron, first the news headlines.

Those were the headlines, now for the news in detail

Telicka: EU membership in 2003 "very ambitious, but not realistic"

The Czech Republic´s chief negotiator for entry to the European Union, Pavel Telicka, has described his country´s chances of joining the EU in 2003 as very ambitious, but not unrealistic. Mr Telicka said a progress report due to be issued by Brussels next month would be critical, but described recent speculation that the Czech Republic would be excluded from the first wave of expansion as premature and irresponsible. The German news weekly Der Spiegel suggested last week that the Czech Republic would not be ready to join the EU in five years time along with fellow front-runner candidates Hungary and Poland. The magazine made the claims in an interview with the European Commissioner responsible for expansion, Gunter Verheugen.

German President makes first official visit

Germany´s new President Johannes Rau makes his first official visit to the Czech Republic today, for a summit with his Czech counterpart Vaclav Havel in the South Bohemian town of Tabor. The two presidents are to discuss joint projects financed by the Czech-German Fund for the Future as well as Czech membership of the European Union. The town of Tabor, home of the 15th century Hussite reform movement, was chosen as a symbol of Czech-German reconciliation. President Rau will visit a local primary school, whose reconstruction has been financed by the Fund for the Future.

Policeman faces sack after collecting money "to kill gypsies"

A twenty-three-year-old police sergeant is to be dismissed after pretending he was collecting money to kill members of the Roma or gypsy community. The incident occurred on Saturday evening, in a café in the North Moravian town of Novy Jicin. The sergeant, who witnesses say was drunk at the time, attempted to collect money from a local politician who was sitting at a table with the organisers of a Romany cultural festival. When the man refused to give the officer money, he was physically attacked and later had to be treated for concussion. A police spokesman said the sergeant had been charged with race offences and assault. He will be dismissed from the force today.

Civic Democrat MP warns of growing radicalism in Communist Party

A member of the right-wing Civic Democratic Party has warned of growing radicalism in the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia. Civic Democrat deputy Jiri Drda told reporters the party openly supported a return to totalitarian rule, saying that Communist leader Miroslav Grebenicek had told a rally on Saturday that the era of peaceful protest was over. The rally, which was attended by 5,000 supporters, ended with a rendition of the Internationale accompanied by a clenched fist salute. The Communist Party is the third largest party in the lower house of the Czech parliament.

Lansky admits poor co-ordination responsible for aid delay

The deputy Premier responsible for foreign affairs, Egon Lansky, has admitted that poor co-ordination between the Czech authorities was the chief reason for the delay in sending humanitarian aid to Turkey following the recent earthquake. Mr Lansky said in an interview with Czech Radio that the lack of co-ordination would result in personnel changes at the Interior, Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministries. The government was severely criticised by its own rescue services for bureaucratic delays in sending rescue teams to Turkey. Among the critics was President Vaclav Havel. Members of the rescue services recently signed a petition calling for the resignation of deputy Foreign Minister Otto Pick.

Eighth planeload of Kosovo Albanian refugees leaves Ostrava airport

Another plane carrying Kosovo Albanian refugees back to their homeland left Ostrava´s Mosnov airport on Tuesday morning. The plane was the eighth to leave the Czech Republic, bound for the Macedonian capital Skopje. There the refugees boarded buses organised by the UN to take them back to Kosovo. The programme of voluntary repatriation began on August 13th, and since then more than 800 of the 1,100 ethnic Albanians who were granted temporary asylum in the Czech Republic have been returned to Kosovo. The refugees were given one thousand German marks each as a gift from the Czech government. Refugees with serious health problems were also given three months´ worth of medical supplies.

Novotna announces retirement

The former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna has announced she is retiring from professional tennis at the end of this year. Ms Novotna made the announcement at the U.S. Open on Monday, after losing to Germany´s Anke Huber. She told reporters that the decision had been made easier after fulfilling her lifetime goal of winning Wimbledon. Ms Novotna is the same age as the former world number one Steffi Graf, who announced her retirement last month.


And we´ll end as usual with a quick look at Wednesday´s weather. We´re expecting a mostly clear day here in the Czech Republic, with a chance of showers in eastern parts of the country. Daytime temperatures are expected to reach a maximum of 24 degrees Celsius, dropping to a low of 8 degrees tonight.

I´m Rob Cameron, and that's the end of the news.