Daily news summary News Wednesday, OCTOBER 13th, 1999

13-10-1999

You are tuned to Radio Prague. Those were the headlines, now let's take a look at the news in full:

EU / CR

Senior European Union representative Michaele Schreyer, said on Tuesday that the Czech Republic should not be removed from the first group of European Union enlargement front runners, despite shortcomings in several key areas. This comes as the European Union is set to release progress reports on Wednesday on countries queuing to join the 15-nation bloc.

The Czech Republic, one of the front runner countries is expecting some severe criticism of its EU preparations and calls to overhaul its administration so it can implement existing EU laws properly. Prague is also expecting demands for the reformation of the Czech civil and judiciary service.

Speaking in the Czech capital at the end of a visit, Mrs Schreyer, who is the European Union Budget Commissioner, said she expected the status report to be critical but not fatal to Czech hopes of joining.

Without elaborating, she said: "Some policy areas are still problematic…more efforts must be made by the government, but the report should be taken rather as an opportunity to make improvements than a risk.

The Czech Republic once regarded as a post-communist success story in the early 1990's has just begun recovering from a long recession and has fallen behind other front runners in economic growth and reform of the economy. The last European Union report in 1998, criticized Czechs mainly for slowness in introducing legislative changes and a frequently hostile approach to minorities.

ODS / CSSD

The two largest political parties in the Czech parliament, the Social Democrats and the Civic Democratic Party are meeting on Wednesday to discuss the future of the opposition agreement they signed last year after inconclusive elections. Vaclav Klaus, leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party, the ODS called for the meeting last week after a one of his deputy Chairmen said that the party is preparing to end the opposition agreement.

Czech Premier and head of the Social Democrats Milos Zeman has invited the head of the Communist party Miroslav Grebenicek to attend a meeting of his party later in the evening. Mr Zeman has so far refused to reveal the reasons for this move, some experts are already predicting that the Social Democrats and Communists are strengthening their relationship in anticipation of working closer together in the future.

Klaus said on Tuesday that early parliamentary elections and a grand coalition consisting of his party and the ruling Social Democrats could be a way out of the current political problems in the country. Although political observers in the Czech Republic were quick to pounce on Tuesday, saying this is an unrealistic option, they are speculating that this will be the chief topic during talks between the two parties. Vaclav Klaus however, is remaining tight lipped and said that he does not want to reveal his plans or "strategies".

NATO / CR

Admiral Harold Gehman, Supreme Commander of NATO allied forces in the Atlantic region begins the official part of his three day visit to the Czech Republic on Wednesday. Observers say the main item on his agenda will be discussing progress made by the Czech Republic on integrating into NATO. He will be holding talks with Czech Defence Minister, Vladimir Vetchy, Chief of Staff, Jiri Sedivy and Premier Milos Zeman. A spokesman for the Defence Ministry, said on Tuesday evening that Harold Gehman will also discuss the situation in the Balkans and some of NATO's joint operations with Partnership for Peace countries.

ROI / Maticni

The Romany Civic Initiative (ROI) held a demonstration in the northern town of Usti nad Labem on Thursday. The participants were protesting against the building of a wall in Maticni Street, which is to separate a Czech residential area from a predominantly Romany housing estate. The notorious wall, of which a quarter is already built, is due for completion on Wednesday. Deputy Chairman of the Romany Civic Initiative, Ivan Vesely, said on Tuesday afternoon, that the state should resolve the problem by buying the residential houses from their Czech owners thereby putting an end to the problem. The demonstration was seen as disappointing, since no politicians turned up. The organisers had invited President Vaclav Havel, Premier Milos Zeman and the heads of both chambers of Parliament. Romanies tore down the beginning of the work on the wall last week, and the town has come under much criticism both at home and abroad.

Visas / Ukraine

The Czech Foreign Ministry is preparing to establish a visa requirement for the former Soviet Republics by the end of October. By November, the same will be done regarding Bulgaria and Rumania. The state which is of most interest in the Czech Republic as far as visas are required is, the Ukraine. This is because many labourers from the Ukraine, travel to the Czech Republic to work illegally while others belong to organised crime rings. The issue of visas for the Ukraine and former Soviet Republics, has caused a dispute between the Czech Foreign and Interior Ministries. While some Prague politicians believe visas to be necessary for national security, others fear it may damage economic ties between Prague and the countries in question.

Kasal / Havel

Jan Kasal, leader of the center right wing oppositions party, the Christian democrats assured Czech President Vaclav Havel on Tuesday, that his party does not intend to support the proposed Parliamentary changes to the Czech constitution. Vaclav Havel has repeatedly objected to the changes which would limit his presidential authority.

Jan Kasal later told reporters that discussions had focussed on the state of affairs across the political spectrum in the Czech Republic. He was also asked whether or not talks had touched on the possible participation of the Christian Democrats in a new government. Kasal replied that he had made it fairly clear that as long as the opposition agreement between the Social Democrats and the Civic Democratic Party exists, there can be no question of negotiations.

And we end as usual with a quick look at the weather:

Wednesday will see warmer weather over the Czech Republic compared to the last few chilly days. There could be some fog in the morning, but this will clear up as the day continues, making way for brighter skies. Temperatures during the day will range from 11 to 15 degrees Celsius, dropping to as low as 2 degrees Celsius overnight.

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

13-10-1999