News of Radio Prague

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Officials warn of increasing drug use

The number of drug users in the Czech Republic has been increasing steadily throughout the country, a Czech official said on Monday. There are now around 100,000 registered drug users in the Czech Republic, 35,000 of whom are regular users. Of the more than 4,000 new drug users registered last year, forty-two percent were between the ages of fifteen and nineteen years and over five hundred were known to be addicted to heroin. The statistics, released to journalists on Monday, are double the figures from 1995. Marihuana, ecstasy and the Czech-produced pervitin are the most popular drugs.

Lord Robertson gives Prague summit new importance

NATO's Secretary General, George Robertson, said on Monday that the issuing of invitations to nine candidate countries for membership would not be the only important aspect of the alliance's summit in Prague this year. In an interview for the CTK news agency, Lord Robertson noted that the alliance's enemies were clearly changing and NATO member states will have to think about a new strategy for the future, which should include finding joint solutions with non-NATO countries for global threats. Lord Robertson is expected to come to Prague for a two-day visit on Wednesday to see how preparations for the November summit are going.

New law sanctions prison sentences for the illegal cutting down of trees

Three men found guilty of having cut down trees illegally were sentenced to prison by a court in North Moravia on Monday. The sentences ranged from 14 months to 3.5 years and were made possible thanks to a new law on the protection of the environment, which came into effect at the beginning of the year and allows for offenders to be given tougher punishments. The accused were found guilty of causing damage worth 40 million Czech crowns or close to 1.2 million U.S. dollars.

Member of European Parliament criticises Verheugen over Benes decrees

A member of the European Parliament and representative of Austria's far-right Freedom Party, Daniela Raschhof said on Monday that the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, had "gone down on his knees" before Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman. Mrs Raschhof's remark came in response to Mr Verheugen's refusal to make the Benes decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion of 2.5 million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia, an EU problem. Mrs Raschhof added that Mr Verheugen should have waited for the European Parliament to present its view on the Benes decrees before assuring Prime Minister Zeman that the decrees would not influence EU enlargement. The failure to do so proved Mr Verheugen's 'ignorance', Mrs Raschhof said.

Opinion poll: two-thirds of population to vote during June elections

A public opinion poll conducted by the GfK Prague agency at the end of February and beginning of March showed that a little under two-thirds of Czech citizens intend to cast their votes at the general elections in June. Estimates from experts in the field, however, are more positive, expecting up to 75% of the population to vote. This would bring figures closer to those recorded in 1998, when 74% of Czech citizens voted at the parliamentary elections.

Weather

And finally a quick look at the weather forecast. Monday night is expected to have partially clear to overcast skies with night-time temperatures ranging from 2 to 6 degrees Celsius. Tuesday will have cloudy skies with occasional rain and temperatures between 9 and 13 degrees Celsius.