News Friday, FEBRUARY 26th, 1999
Czech and Polish presidents, Vaclav Havel and Aleksander Kwasiewski, are expected to jointly sign on Friday the instruments of ratification of their countries's accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
The signing will be broadcast live by televisions of both countries on Friday afternoon.
The two countries and Hungary are formally to become NATO members in the second week of March.
In a rare live interview to Czech Radio on Friday morning, Havel said membership of NATO has also other than military aspects.
This alliance is destined to defend certain values -- human rights, parliamentary democracy, free market economy, Havel said. NATO defends a whole set of Euro-American values on which it was built. By accepting this country, the alliance has shown with utmost clarity its conviction that the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland share these common values.
The Czech Republic has now met the minimum military requirements for joining the alliance. It was announced on Thursday in Brussels. Meeting these requirements was the last formal step to be taken before entering NATO.
German President Roman Herzog has issued a fresh plea for reconciliation between Germans and Czechs, who are still at odds over territorial claims dating from World War Two.
The appeal came at Thursday's ceremony in Berlin at which Herzog presented the German Grand Order of Merit to the Czech Roman Catholic primate, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk.
At a ceremony attended by his Czech counterpart Vaclav Havel, President Herzog said both peoples had to make more effort as reconciliation could succeed only when they live in truth.
Herzog praised Cardinal Vlk -- an outspoken proponent of Czech- German reconciliation -- as a pillar of this process.
Switzerland's highest court has banned the American brewing giant Anheuser-Busch from selling beer in Switzerland under the brand name "Bud", handing victory to its smaller Czech rival Budvar in a long-running trademark spat.
The Czech brewing business, run by state-owned Budvar, was established more than a century ago in the South Bohemian town of Ceske Budejovice, known in German-speaking Europe as Budweis.
Several international brewers are widely believed to be interested in the Czech brewer's privatisation, which has been held up by trademark litigation in several countries.
The Czech counterintelligence agency BIS has strongly denied allegations that it conspired against President Havel.
BIS spokesman Jan Subert said the allegations, which appeared on Thursday in the Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique, were lies and the agency would strongly protest.
The paper wrote that BIS has collaborated with Slovakia's secret service, which was blacklisted by its Western counterparts. It wrote that Slovakia's SIS conspired in June last year to help the right-wing Czech Civic Democratic Party return to the political limelight following the country's early parliamentary elections.
Relations between this party and President Havel have long been rather cool.
The Czech Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that authorities and volunteers in this country are ready and willing to join the rescue efforts in the neighbouring Austria where hundreds of people have been stranded in the avalanche-devastated Alpine village of Galtuer.
Two Czech families were among those waiting to be rescued by helicopters on Thursday.
Here in the Czech Republic, an avalanche alert is still in force in the Krkonose or Giant Mountains and in the Ash Mountains, or Jeseniky. Entire regions have been declared off limits for skiers.
Farmers in the Czech Republic are bracing themselves for a series of protests to begin on Monday against subsidised agricultural imports from EU countries. The protests have been called by several chambers of agriculture and the association of pork producers.
The organisers said on Thursday they plan a blockade of key government buildings and other offices.
Skoda Plzen's former chairman of the board and general director Lubomir Soudek on Thursday resigned as head of the board of directors of the Czech auto maker Tatra Koprivnice.
Soudek, who was sacked from the engineering giant Skoda Plzen's board earlier this week, said he no longer represented his company, a majority owner of Tatra.
Czech Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich has been taken to the Prague Military Hospital. His spokesman cited long-term health problems but he did not elaborate.
Minister Grulich was supposed to attend Thursday's meeting of the parliamentary defence and security committee.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the procurement of advanced Western jet planes to replace the air force's aging Soviet-built fleet. Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy told members of parliament that a tender would be announced next month.
Customs officers in Prague reported on Thursday a seizure of 60 kilograms of heroin from a car used by two Czech nationals.
The Prague police spokesman said that the contraband, seized on Wednesday, had a street value of about two million U.S. dollars.