Kasal at Prague Castle
President Havel has received at Prague Castle acting chairman of the Christian Democratic Union - Czechoslovak People's Party, Jan Kasal. Mr.Kasal informed the president about the position of the Christian democrats on the Czech political scene and in both chambers of parliament, including their vote in favour of the 1999 state budget, which last week gave way to speculations about their closer collaboration with the ruling Social democrats. They also discussed the functioning of a coalition of four smaller right-wing parties, of which the Christian democratic union is a member. The president expressed the wish to meet at a round-table discussion with representatives of the Civic democratic party, the Social democratic party, the Christian democrats and the Freedom Union, that's all parliamentary parties, except for the communists. In reaction to this, communist deputy Vojtech Filip said president Havel's decision proves that he's not a president of all Czech people, something he had promised when he was inaugurated last year.
At a festive dinner at Prague Castle on Wednesday, president Havel will meet with the Lower House leadership. The president wants to take up the most significant themes which will be discussed by the lower house at its upcoming meeting, due to start on February 2nd. The deputies will debate a deputy bill on referendum and senatorial bill on the free access to information. Also discussed will be a governmental bill on lotteries, which - if approved - will again enable foreign companies to run casinos and organize consumers' competitions in the Czech Republic.
President Vaclav Havel met at Prague Castle on Tuesday with Environment minister Milos Kuzvart. They talked about, among other things, the main principles of the government's ecological policy and the country's long- term plan concerning the protection of the environment. Minister Kuzvart also informed the president about the state of the environment and the concept of energy policy in the Czech Republic in connection with its entry to the European Union. The two politicans also discussed more general themes, such as a civic society's responsibility for the environment, and its global problems.
Addressing a conference in Brno entitled "Czech economy and the European Monetary Union", Speaker of the Lower house Vaclav Klaus said that the Czech Republic has no other option than to participate in the present integration process and enter the European Union. However, Klaus expressed scepticism as to whether we'll be able to play an active role in this process and what we can expect of EU membership. "Due to the lack of unity and thanks to internal political squabbles we are too weak to be able to influence developments in Europe," said Vaclav Klaus, adding that this is a relatively new phenomenon, because at the beginning of the 1990s we still had a chance.
The Finance Ministry has changed its prediction for the growth of the gross domestic product in 1999 from 1.8 percent to 0,2 percent, and the inflation rate from 7,8 to 5,1 percent. The Ministry published these figures on Tuesday on the Internet. As for the prognosis for unemployment in the Czech Republic, the Finance ministry predicts that 9,5 percent of the workforce age will be jobless by the end of the year.
The social doctrine and economic programme are the main issues discussed on Wednesday by the Christian democratic Union-Czechoslovak people's party's presidium in Telnice near Brno. Part of the programme will also be negotiations of chairpersons of regional Christian democratic organizations and regional party managers. Acting chairman Jan Kasal will inform his party colleagues about his meeting on Tuesday with president Vaclav Havel.
Trust in president Vaclav Havel has been gradually falling, as shown by the results of the latest survey conducted by the the Public Opinion Research Institute. The number of the president's supporters dropped by seven percent as compared to last September, while the number of his opponents grew by 13 percent.
Now a quick look at the weather: we expect cloudy skies on Wednesday with occasional rain and snow showers, quite a strong wind in the mountain areas, and daytime highs between zero and 4 degrees Celsius.
And that's the end of the news.
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