Hello and a warm welcome to Radio Prague. I'm David Vaughan. First the headlines.
Central European cooperation
The Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary have agreed to hold regular summits to help revive regional cooperation, which has flagged over recent years. Meeting in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, they discussed ways of coordinating foreign and internal policy, as each country tries to move closer to the European Union, citing such examples as the attempt to control illegal migration. They also discussed setting up multi- national cultural and sporting projects, and agreed to establish a joint fund to realise such projects. All the Prime Ministers agreed that regional cooperation had become a great deal easier since the recent change of government in Slovakia. Their next summit will be held in Prague in a year's time.
In a further gesture of regional cooperation the Presidents of nine Central European countries, including the Czech Republic, have begun a two-day summit in the West-Ukrainian city of Lvov, hosted by the Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. Such meetings have been a regular occurrence since they were initiated by President Havel in 1994. Two regular participants are not represented - Slovakia, where presidential elections are currently under way, and Italy, where a new President was elected this week.
The Czech government's decision this week to complete the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia, is continuing to arouse fury among the plant's opponents. The prefect of the Lower Austria region which is close to the plant, Erwin Proell, has accused the Czech Republic of ignoring the interests of its neighbours, and the Austrian press has unanimously condemned the Czech government's decision. Austrian politicians have also threatened that the decision could complicate the Czech Republic's ambitions for European Union membership. The Czech President Vaclav Havel, who has himself made no secret of his opposition to Temelin, said on Friday that he hoped his fears would not be confirmed, that the government had failed to consider the wider implications of completing the plant.
President Havel has welcomed the Czech-Greek initiative to end the conflict in Kosovo, outlined at the beginning of this week by the Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan. The President said that such initiatives are the obligation of NATO member countries. However he expressed doubts about its possible success, saying that the main hope lies in last week's proposal put forward in Bonn by the G8 group of countries. A number of right-of-centre opposition parties have criticised the Kavan inititiative, saying that it gives the impression of a lack of unity and coordination within the Alliance.
The Czech government's financial policy has come under heavy fire at the May session of the Czech parliament. Members of parliament from the right-wing opposition Civic Democrats accused the government of doing nothing to reverse the current economic decline, and of trying to lay all the blame on its predecessors. The finance minister, Ivo Svoboda, defended his government, saying that it was the first administration since the fall of communism to make a genuine attempt to fight against tax evasion. In a further blow to the government's pride, a majority of deputies voted on Friday in favour of a resolution demanding that in future the government only tell the truth about the state budget. This follows the government's recent admission that this year's budget deficit will probably be far larger than had originally been expected. However, the right-of-centre opposition failed to agree on a broader condemnation of government economic policy.
The British conductor and afficionado of Czech music, Sir Charles Mackerras has been awarded an honorary doctorate by Prague's Academy of Musical Arts. The academy, where Sir Charles himself studied fifty-one years ago, presented him with the doctorate in honour of his contribution to international awareness of Czech music, in particular the work of Leos Janacek. On Wednesday Sir Charles conducted the Czech Philharmonic for the opening concert of the Prague Spring international music festival.
And I'll end with a quick look at the weather. We can expect colder weather over the weekend, with temperatures between 12 and 16 degrees Celsius. It will be quite windy, and overcast with scattered showers.
And that's the end of the news.
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