This week in Mailbox we answer a question about Radio Prague's annual listener's competition and reply to a comment regarding Radio Prague's broadcasts on the topic of free movement of labour within the EU. Listeners quoted: Alon Raab, Andrew Rusch, US; David Eldridge, UK.

Welcome to Mailbox.

Today we'll start off with a question from Alon Raab from the United States.

"Hello, has this year's writing competition topic been announced?"

The topic of Radio Prague's annual listeners' contest will be announced around the time of the change of our broadcasting schedule, that is at the end of March. The deadline is usually around mid-June.

We also received an e-mail from David Eldridge from England.

"Several times I have heard it reported on Radio Prague that Vladimir Spidla and Cyril Svoboda are stating that there has been no unexpectedly large influx of workers from the new EU states to Britain, Ireland and Sweden in search of work. However, all reports I hear from Britain seem to indicate this is not the case. A recent report on BBC radio says that [...] despite a government report estimated 5,000 to 13,000 workers from the 10 new EU countries would want to stay in the UK, in fact 293,000 immigrants have applied for work permits since May 2004."

Photo: European Commission
And Mr Eldridge continues:

"I am not particularly worried about events, more the accuracy of the statements on Radio Prague. I would hardly think that an original 5,000 - 13,000 expected migrants ending up with an actual 293,000 applicants being in line with original expectations. Vladimir Spidla needs to argue his case truthfully with accurate information from the Czech Foreign Ministry."

I searched the archives and found a number of reports on the topic of free movement of labour in the European Union. For example, this is part of a report we broadcast last year in August:

"A British government study conducted last year forecast that between 5,000-13,000 workers from the new EU member states would register for work every year. But that number has been the average registered every month."

And this is what Foreign Minister Svoboda told Radio Prague last November.

"In my view, the problem is a totally artificial one. Free movement of persons is a fundamental freedom in the European Union and the Czechs do not bring any problem to any labour market in Europe. In my view it is just a question of courage, political courage to liberalise the labour markets to be open to everybody. That's only a fair solution to all member states."

He was speaking only about Czech workers not workers from all ten new members, for example the situation with workers from Poland or the Baltic States is, I believe very different. Andy Burham, the UK's Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, whose statement we also aired in November, had a similar message.

"Well, the British experience has been very positive. Around about 15,000 people from the Czech Republic have come to work in our labour market and it's our view that that's good for Britain, but also good in the long term for the Czech Republic in terms of giving people experience of our country and that both of us will benefit from it. So we think it's been good all round."

I may have missed some quotes in the news, for example, but this is what I found in Radio Prague's archives in our current affairs section.

Onto a different topic. Andrew Rusch from the US is writing a thesis on the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and he tried to listen to some of our archive files on the internet.

"I attempted to access your web page at the hyperlink of However none of the RealPlayer files can be accessed. If you have any information as to why the Real player files cannot be accessed it would be greatly appreciated."

We apologise because in this particular case the problem was on our server. But if your RealPlayer refuses to play some of our archive files, then it needs updating. I am told that this should take place automatically if you have sufficient administrator rights for your computer. But if you are not listening at home, you might need to ask an IT professional to help you do that.

And now we are almost out of time, so I have to repeat our competition question for February.

"An ancient people, known to us as Hittites, lived in what is now Turkey, in the 2nd millennium BC. They spoke an Indo-European language which was deciphered by a Czech archaeologist at the beginning of the 20th century. He was also the one who determined the Hittites' language was indeed Indo-European."

Since last week we have received 14 correct answers. So please keep them coming. The address is [email protected] or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague 2, Czech Republic and the deadline is February 28th. Till next week, thanks for listening and good bye.