News Friday, AUGUST 21st, 1998

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Radio Prague E News Written / Read by: Pauline Newman Date: 21.8.98

Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. I'm Pauline Newman, first let's take a look at the main headlines of the day:

Those were the headlines, now a look at the news in full:

Anniversary / 1968

Various services took place in Prague on Friday, to mark the anniversary of the Soviet led invasion thirty years ago. The wife of President Vaclav Havel accompanied by Prague politicians will lay flowers outside the Czech Radio building, before various religious services are held in churches round the Czech capital.

Czech President Vaclav Havel said on Thursday that the general resistance among Czech people to the Soviet led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, was a remarkable phenomenon. Recovering in hospital after an operation, Havel said the Prague Spring had been wonderful. "For the first time, we could breathe and speak freely" he said adding, "I don't think that anyone who lived through it can ever forget what it was like".

A group of Russian intellectuals arrived on Thursday in Prague in memory of the crackdown on Czechoslovakia's Prague Spring reform movement. They were received by deputy head of the Czech Senate Jaroslava Moserova in the afternoon. On Friday, the group began the ceremony by laying a wreath of flowers on Wencelsas Square at ten am. Among the delegation is head of the Russian Duma's Foreign Committee Vladimir Lukin. He announced recently along with other intellectuals, that he shares responsibility for August 1968. 95 other politicians and prominent Russian figures also signed the statement.

Russia on Thursday marked the 30th anniversary of the invasion. Commentators say this was the event which set the tone for the last generation of Soviet totalitarian rule. Poets, activists and former dissidents gathered in Moscow, to recall the events of August 1968. President Boris Yeltsin, in a telegram to Thursday's gathering, described the doomed Czechoslovak movement as: "An attempt to escape from ideological dogmatism and lies".

Funding / Education

The Czech government is preparing to discuss an increase in funding for the education sector. Educations minister Eduard Zeman, who took up office at the end of July, said schools in the Czech Republic need more money, in order to avoid total financial collapse.

The teacher's Trade Union is asking for a twenty percent rise in wages, they say however that Mr Zeman's expected financial injection into educations will only fulfil one third of their demands. Last year, experts ranked the Czech education system as being among the top five in the world.

Privatisation / Investigation

The opposition Christian Democratic party announced on Thursday afternoon, that it has no objection to various governmental investigations into privatisation cases. A party spokesman told journalists that this government plan will only clarify the state of things on the Czech economic scene. He added however, that it should not become a political issue. This comes after the new Social Democrat government announced that on Friday it would look into some cases of privatisation which it believes are dubious.

Floods / Soldiers

Although last Saturday saw some 200 soldiers leaving the Rychnov nad Kneznou district where catastrophic flooding took place last month, almost 600 soldiers are staying put in order to continue the clean up operations. A spokeswoman said on Thursday that there is still much work to be done; rebuilding communications, reinforcing riverbanks and distributing drinking water. She added that the army will be busy in the stricken areas of southern Bohemia for quite a long while yet.

Police / Foreigners

The Czech police has released a report according to which, there were almost 56 000 non-Czechs working in the Czech Republic at the end of June this year. Police say their statistics show that over 45 000 are labourers mostly from eastern Europe from countries like the Ukraine, while just over 7000 are people with university degrees. A police spokesman expressed concerns on Thursday that while these are official figures, the real number of foreigners living and working in the Czech Republic illegally, is much higher, over 100 000 at a rough estimate. Police officials say conditions are becoming harder for illegal workers, since work is scarcer and companies caught employing these people are being heavily penalised.

Weather

The weather should cool off slightly on Friday, with temperatures during the day dropping to 23 degrees celsius. Skies will be cloudy with the possibility of thunderstorms in the afternoon. A ridge of low pressure moving over the country from western Europe, means more rain overnight with temperatures dropping to as low as 12 degrees celsius.