News Friday, JUNE 04th, 1999

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Vladimir Tax and here's the news. First the headlines.

These are the main points and now the news in more detail.

Czech politicians welcome peace plan approval

Czech government officials as well as members of parliament have welcomed Yugoslavia's approval of the peace plan put forward by the West and Russia. However, foreign minister Jan Kavan stressed that the Czech Republic fully supports NATO's view that the bombing should stop only after Belgrade accepts a UN Security Council resolution, including NATOþs five conditions for a cease-fire. Kavan said that the Czech Republic would participate in the economic and political renewal of the Balkans as well as in the planned peacekeeping forces to be deployed in Kosovo.

CR hands in National Programme for EU membership

The Czech Republic has handed over the National Programme of Preparation for EU membership to EU commissioner Catherine Day. The document, approved by the Czech government in May, will serve as a basis for the European Commission's assessment of the Czech Republic's preparedness for EU admission.

Trade Unions hold talks with government

Representatives of the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions are to meet with Premier Milos Zeman and four deputy premiers today to discuss the countryþs economic development and its impact on the social sphere, mainly unemployment. Deputy chairman of the trade unions confederation, Milan Stech said that the unions have already handed over to the government their own suggestions on how to solve some of the most urgent problems.

Cooperative Guard '99 ends, successful

NATO military exercise Cooperative Guard 99 ends today in Vyskov, Southern Moravia. According to supreme commander of NATO forces in central Europe, Joachim Spiering, the command and staff exercise was very successful. The exercise was attended by 2,000 soldiers from 29 NATO and Partnership for Peace countries. Conducted mostly on maps and computers, the military exercise focused on NATO strategies when planning and carrying out a peacekeeping operation and improving inter- operability between NATO and Partnership for Peace countries.

Asylum bill approved in first reading

The Chamber of Deputies has approved ,in its first reading, an asylum bill designed to limit the inflow of refugees to the Czech Republic and newly define the conditions for asylum on Czech territory. The bill defines the notion of a safe country of origin. A state whose government observes human rights and where people are not persecuted or subject to brutal treatment is to be considered a safe country and although the bill does not rule out granting asylum to citizens of these countries, they will be unlikely to obtain it.

Czechs write to Usti in support of wall erection

The Usti nad Labem city hall has received dozens of letters from all over the Czech Republic in support of the planned erection of a wall in Maticni street. The letters call on the Usti local authorities not to back down in their dispute with the government over the wall which is to enclose several apartment blocks for rent-defaulters, inhabited mostly by Romanies, to protect the rest of the street against noise pollution and discarded waste.

Prague slow in preparations for EU

The European Union's envoy to Prague, Ramiro Cibrian, said on Thursday that top Czech politicians have done little to accelerate reforms necessary for membership. He said, however, that it is too early to say if the country is no longer on the fast track to joining. Cibrian told Reuters that despite harsh criticism from Brussels, Prague still has time to reform the large volumes of legislation required to join, and make other changes before a crucial review of fast-track applicants next year. In its annual report on applicants last summer, the EU said the Czechs had shown a "worrying slowdown" in reforms. However, Cibrian denied that the Czech Republic's status has changed in any way.

Ruml criticises SocDem govt

The opposition Freedom Union also voiced its concern about the slow preparation for EU membership. Party leader Jan Ruml said that if the Czech Republic fails to qualify for EU membership in the first wave of post-communist applicants, it would be the fault of the current Social Democratic government and its poor performance. Ruml said that fast accession should be the top priority for all parties represented in parliament. He stressed that the approach towards European integration is a crucial factor for the Freedom Union's cooperation with other political parties. His party colleague Vladimir Mlynar said the Freedom Union might re-consider its position towards the senior opposition Civic Democrats, whose leader Vaclav Klaus spoke rather negatively about fast accession to the EU in Thursday's newspapers.

Communists on the war path with everyone

The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia has started preparing its own experts for the posts of cabinet ministers. Party leader Miroslav Grebenicek said the Communists will no longer tolerate the Social Democratic government as they were fed up with its behaviour - mainly its deal with the senior opposition Civic Democrats. Grebenicek recalled that 95 percent of Czechs are dissatisfied with the current economic situation. In his opinion, not only the former right-wing cabinets but also the current Social Democrat goverment bear responsibility for this state of affairs.

Czech and German police ally against illegal immigrants

The Czech Republic and Germany will sign an agreement on police cooperation to fight illegal immigration from the East. Interior ministers of the two neighbouring countries, Vaclav Grulich and Otto Schilly, met on Thursday in Prague to discuss a common approach to illegal immigrants and harmonisation of legislation concerning border protection. The two ministers said that experts from both countries would prepare an agreement to be signed later this year. Minister Schily also appreciated the Czech republic's progress in adopting the Schengen Agreements on the protection of the European Union's outer borders.

Police warn against riot

Prague authorities have announced that police is prepared to take action against any criminal offence on Saturday when another Street Party is to take place in the Czech Capital. A year ago, an event with the same name ended in rioting and looting in downtown Prague. The Street Party is organized by extremist environmentalists who want to protest against consumerism and economic globalization. Police said they would arrest anyone carrying anything resembling a weapon and that they were ready to dissolve the gathering if participants begin marching on the city center.

Czechs on the environment - poll

About 50 percent of Czech citizens consider the state authorities' approach to environmental protection to be inadequate. However, on a national scale, satisfaction with the state of the environment has been increasing, and 49 percent of Czechs are content with their local environment. These are the results of the latest opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research. Compared to last year, less people are now critical of legislation in this field, the extent of resources extraction and the effectiveness of energy consumption. On the other hand, around 80 percent of Czechs are dissatisfied with the approach of companies towards the environment and insufficient legal action taken against those who damage the environment.

Rumanian senate chairman in CR

Chairman of the Romanian senate Petre Roman continues his official visit to the Czech Republic. He is to meet with Czech premier Milos Zeman and deputy premier Egon Lansky to discuss Rumania's chances to join NATO.

Czech weather report

And finally, a brief look at the weather. We are expecting a cloudy and rainy day, afternoon highs should range from 18 to 22 degrees Celsius. The weekend should also be cloudy with showers, and highest daytime temperatures between 19 and 24 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.