News of Radio Prague

Ecologists blockade Temelin

A group of around thirty environmental protestors temporarily blockaded the main entrance to the Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia on Monday morning. The Czech demonstrators were there to protest against technical problems at the plant that have caused test operations to be halted several times in the recent past. The most recent shutdown at Temelin was caused by a fault in steam pipes that are apparently not directly related to the plant's nuclear reactor. The company in charge of constructing the facility, CEZ, hopes to renew tests in late February. The protest lasted more than an hour and coincided with a visit to Temelin of an international safety inspection mission, which includes experts from the US, and around Europe.

UN report: Czechs will catch up with the West in 10-15 years

According to a report compiled by the United Nations European Economic Commission, the economic differences between East and West Europe are the largest for decades. The recessions that hit post-communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe in the early 1990s have gradually been overcome as these countries transform into free market economies. But, the report, says, it will take many years for these countries to catch up with the poorest states in the EU. This process could take 10-15 years for the Czech Republic, and 20-25 years for fellow front-runner EU candidate countries Hungary and Poland.

Zeman in Belgium for talks on EU and investment

In an official visit to Belgium, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman has been holding talks with the Belgium government on EU expansion. During these talks, Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt announced that he had asked the European Commission to put forward the release of evaluation reports on the accession preparations of candidate countries by one month. These reports, the Belgian prime minister said, could then be discussed and assessed at an informal EU summit in Gent in October. Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman said that the current EU presidency of Sweden, and that of Belgium, which begins in June, will be key for the EU enlargement process.

Havel returns from Kuwait

Czech President Vaclav Havel has returned to Prague after falling ill during a visit to the Middle East. President Havel had to cut his visit short while in Kuwait, and arrived back in Prague on Monday afternoon on a special Kuwaiti government aeroplane. The president, who has had frequent health problems in recent years, was met at the airport by medical services and rushed to hospital. According to President Havel's personal physician, the president is suffering from bronchitis and early signs of pneumonia, but his illness is not serious.

Three soldiers seriously injured ion helicopter crash

Two pilots and a mechanic have been seriously injured in a helicopter crash to the east of Prague. The W3-A Sokol helicopter crashed for unknown reasons on Monday afternoon, and the crew were pulled to safety by passers-by. The three men are in serious condition in a military hospital. This latest accident follows a series of fatal crashes in the Czech air force in recent years.

Telicka: 2001 watershed year for EU accession

The Czech Republic's negotiator for EU accession, Deputy Foreign Minister Pavel Telicka, says that 2001 will be a watershed year for expansion of the Union. Mr. Telicka's statement came after a meeting with the head of the European Commission for Enlargement, Enek Landaburu, in Brussels. According to Mr. Telicka, Mr. Landaburu said that this year will definitely bring progress to the expansion process, and will depend not just on the accession negotiations, but also the European Commission's evaluation report for candidate countries, due out in the autumn. This report will apparently set the criteria for which candidates will accede to the Union in the first wave of expansion. The main issues facing Czech membership are, according to Mr. Telicka, whether the country functions as a free market economy and national debt.

And finally, a quick look at the weather forecast

Wednesday should bring overcast skies, with fog in places and scattered snow showers. Daytime high temperatures should reach five degrees Celsius. Night-time lows are expected to drop to minus four degrees Celsius.