News Monday, APRIL 19th, 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.

Govt will agree with NATO planes landing on Czech territory

The Czech government will give its consent to the possible use of Czech military airports by NATO aircraft in connection with the Kosovo conflict, deputy premier Pavel Rychetsky told journalists. He said it would be absurd if the government which has consented to the military operation blocked it later. According to foreign minister Jan Kavan, NATO will most likely ask the Czech Republic for approval of NATO refuelling planes landing at one or two Czech military airports. He said that given the complexity of the NATO aircraft's weapons systems and the necessary service, Czech airports could only be used by refuelling aircraft or military carrier aircraft. Under the Constitution, the deployment of NATO planes, which amounts to the presence of foreign troops on Czech territory, would also require approval by parliament.

Legislation harmonisation talks

The Czech Republic starts the third round of accession negotiations with the European Union on today. Czech chief negotiator with the EU, Pavel Telicka, meets with ambassadors of the 15 EU members states for the so-called inter-governmental conference. The accession process formally began a year ago, on March 30, 1998. So far, 11 chapters of EU legislation have been open for harmonisation and four other will be open by June, so that the talks will include half of the total of 30 chapters. At the same time, the screening process is underway. In this process, legislation of an applicant country is analyzed for the preparation of position documents on both sides. Czech ambassador to the EU, Josef Kreuter, said that the preparation of the position documents, tuning them up and providing the most accurate and credible information was the most difficult negotiation the Czech Republic has ever been involved in. Originally, it was planned that accession talks would start after the screening has finished. In reality, Kreuter said, the screening is still underway and talks are at the half-way stage. Despite this acceleration, which is positive, the process will be long and very difficult, Kreuter said.

Czech harmonisation with EU law lagging behind

Earlier, Deputy Premier Egon Lansky said that the harmonisation of Czech legislation with EU standards was seriously lagging behind the original schedule. He told journalists after a meeting of the government committee for European integration at the weekend, that there were serious inadequacies in the work of many ministries concerning bringing Czech laws into line with EU legislation.

Freedom Union proposes three sources of aid to Kosovo

The opposition Freedom Union has recommended that the one billion crowns which has been earmarked for aid to Kosovo refugees be gained by a combination of three sources, party chairman Jan Ruml has told journalists. The money could be gained by cuts in government spending, export of food to Kosovo with the use of state reserves and an emission of state bonds. He said that the Union disagreed with gaining the money by raising the deficit of the state budget as proposed by the ruling Social Democrats. To cover the whole assistance by state bonds, as proposed by the senior opposition Civic Dmeocrats would require a new law which would take a very long time. The aid must be provided as quickly as possible, Ruml stressed.

Continuous readings from Solzhenitsyn's work starts

Continuous readings from Alexander Solzhenitsyn's work started in Prague's St Saviour Protestant church on Sunday and will last until Wednesday afternoon. The readings were launched by Prague Lord Mayor Jan Kasl. Environment Minister Milos Kuzvart has also confirmed his participation. The church was the venue of a similar happening last year which featured the work of U.S. writer Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Unlike Ferlinghetti, who was present during the reading, Solzhenitsyn, who turned 80 last year, cannot arrive for health reasons.

Finmin sees room for interest rate cuts

Finance minister Ivo Svoboda is convinced that there still is room for further cuts in the interest rates. Svoboda told the CTK news agency that if the inflation rate at the end of the year meets the Czech National Bank's target of around four percent, the interest rates could be cut down closer to interest rates common in the United States. He added that the government would not take any steps that would prevent hitting the inflation mark. The Central bank lowered the key two-week repo rate to 7.2 percent ten days ago.

Zeman goes East

Czech premier Milos Zeman has started an official visit to the former Soviet Republics of Kazachstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The journey to Central Asia follows a three day visit to Russia. The Czech premier is accompanied by industry and trade minister Miroslav Gregr and transport minister Antonin Peltram, as well as about 70 Czech businessmen. Besides negotiations on the former Soviet countries' outstanding debts towards the Czech Republic, the main aim of the visit is to find new markets for Czech companies.

Dienstbier about Kosovo

United Nations human rights envoy for former Yugoslavia and former Czech foreign minister Jiri Dienstbier has repeated his criticism of NATO's approach to the Kosovo crisis. He told Czech commercial TV Prima that bombing of Yugoslavia was a fatal mistake which could weaken the Alliance. Dienstbier stressed that NATO's hesitation with a ground operation only showed president Milosevic that the Alliance is not willing to risk the lives of its soldiers. In his opinion, the return of Kosovo refugees is becoming more difficult every day, and warned against the further increase of tension in the whole region.

Economists agree that revitalisation plan can help

Economic experts agree that the freshly approved revitalisation programme can help revive Czech industry. Under certain circumstances, the plan is a possible solution for restructuralisation and renewing economic growth, financial expert Miroslav Singer and economist Miroslav Zahradnik said in a televised debate on Sunday. However, they admitted that there are certain risks and stressed that it was absolutely necessary that the Revitalisation agency which is supposed to perform the programme, be independent. In their opinion, it is also necessary to strengthen the position of creditors. Should these conditions remain unfulfilled, the whole programme could fail. Finance minister Ivo Svoboda who also participated in the discussion said he believed that the programme will attract foreign investors who will help finance it and push forward the restructuralisation process.

Czech weather report

And finally, the a brief look at the weather. On Monday, a high pressure area will start influencing weather in the Czech Republic. We are expecting a partially cloudy day with occasional showers, afternoon highs should range from 7 to 11 degrees Celsius. Tuesday should be also partially cloudy with highest daytime temperatures around ten degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.