Daily news summary News Tuesday, MARCH 24th, 1998

24-03-1998

Radio Prague E-News Date: March 23, 1998 Written/read by: Libor Kubik

These are the top Czech stories at this hour, now the news in more detail, read by Libor Kubik.

CZECH-SOCDEM-SCANDAL

Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman's former deputy and today's rival Karel Machovec was removed on Sunday from the list of the party's Central Bohemian candidates for June's parliamentary elections. The move was supported by 70 out of 56 delegates of a regional Social Democratic conference in Prague.

Zeman has accused Mr Machovec of lying about the circumstances of a potentially explosive scandal after some Czech media alleged last week that the two men had signed a money-for- political posts deal almost three years ago with a group of Swiss-based Czech entrepreneurs.

A facsimile of the document, reportedly signed in the German town of Bamberg in 1995, was shown on Czech TV last week and what many believe is an identical text was published in two leading papers on Saturday.

Mr Zeman said in a televised debate on Sunday the case was part of a smear campaign against the country's strongest opposition party. He described the incriminating document as a fake and said further provocations against his party were in the pipeline.

At least one delegate at the conference is said to have insisted that Mr Zeman should resign.

SOCDEM-CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS

Social Democrat Zeman and Christian Democrat leader Josef Lux did not rule out on Sunday the forming of a post-election coalition government.

Zeman said on private TV NOVA channel the Social Democrats would never form a grand coalition with the newly founded Freedom Union -- a right-of-centre party formed by defectors from ex-premier Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party, the ODS. He described the Freedom Union as an ODS in disguise.

Christian Democrat Lux said parties should wait for the outcome of June's early elections before opening coalition talks.

CZECH-EU-APPLES

The Czech government indicated on Sunday it stood by its decision to impose import quotas on apples from EU countries. Interior Minister Cyril Svoboda said in a televised debate the decision was correct and economically justified.

He said the government considers EU retaliatory measures, including prohibitive customs duties on Czech pork, poultry and fruit juices, an invitation to a further dialogue.

Minister Svoboda predicted the Czech Republic will be in for a number of similar conflicts with the EU before it joins the union.

CZECH-BISHOPS-GYPSIES-APPEAL

In a joint appeal on Sunday, Czech and Moravian Catholic bishops urged congregations country-wide to build islands of good will and coexistence with the nation's Gypsy or Roma ethnic minority.

In a pastoral letter, read in all Catholic churches on Sunday, the bishops said that brutal fanatics, and not ethnic groups, should be treated as a scum of society. The letter highlights the bravery of a Czech Radio presenter, who earlier this year attempted to rescue a drowning Roma woman who had been thrown into a river by two skinheads.

Racially motivated attacks on Gypsies have lately acquired alarming proportions in the Czech Republic.

CZECH-MACEDONIANS-HAVEL

In a related development, ethnic Macedonians in the Czech Republic on Sunday appealed to President Vaclav Havel to throw his weight behind their Greek compatriots' efforts to be recognised as an ethnic minority by Athens.

Most members of the community settled in former Czechoslovakia in the late 1940s, following a massive exodus of Greeks from their country, then torn apart by civil war.

The Macedonian community in the Czech Republic today numbers about 2,000 people, most of them third-generation exiles.

CZECH-BRITAIN-HOLOCAUST

The man who helped save almost 700 Czech and Slovak Jewish children from deportation to Nazi concentration camps says he saw nothing unusual about his bold action 60 years ago.

Ninety-year-old Briton Nicholas Winton, who in 1939 arranged for the escape of hundreds of Jewish children to Britain and Sweden, met in Prague on Sunday with some of the Czechs and Slovaks whose families later died in the Holocaust.

Mr Winton, a retired clark, kept silent about his bravery until re-discovered, some 50 years after the outbreak of the war, by those he had helped to keep alive.

He arrived in Prague late last week at the invitation of the Prague Jewish community.

GOVERNMENT-POLL

The cabinet of Czech Prime Minister Josef Tosovsky continues to enjoy considerable popularity but its approval ratings are not as high as in February.

A poll by the Sofres-Factum agency, released on Sunday, shows that the government now enjoys the support of almost 58 percent of those questioned. In contrast, a little over a fourth of those asked said they don't trust the government.

CZECH-WEATHER

Well, spring has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, but the weather in Central Europe certainly does not seem to support this scientific claim.

Monday's afternoon highs will be from one to five degrees Celsius in the Czech Republic, although the skies will be mostly clear, with only scatted showers and some snow in the mountains.

By Tuesday, Central Europe will find itself under the influence of a higher-pressure area, followed by a cold front advancing from the northwest. We expect brief sunny spells alternating with scattered snow showers. Nighttime lows between three and seven degrees below freezing, afternoon highs from one to five above zero.

And that's the end of the news.

24-03-1998