News Saturday, MARCH 18th, 2000

Radio Prague E-news Date: March 17, 2000 Written/read by: Ray Furlong

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I´m Ray Furlong and we begin the programme with a bulletin of news. First the headlines.

Now the news in more detail.

Verheugen says Czechs "catching up" on EU preparations

The Czech Republic is making up for lost time and is on the right path for European Union membership, according to EU expansion commissioner Gunter Verheugen. In an interview with the CTK news agency, Mr. Verheugen said the last six months had shown a marked improvement in Czech preparations for EU entry - and that the next annual progess report will be significantly better than last year´s. Mr. Verheugen also praised the cooperation in this respect between the ruling Social Democrats and the main opposition Civic Democrats.

Yugoslavian airlines return to Prague

The Yugoslavian national air carrier JAT is resuming direct flights between Prague and Belgrade from the end of this month. The link was cut in mid March last year, ahead of NATO´s airstrikes. JAT will run flights on Thursdays and Sundays, but the Czech carrier CSA will not be re-establishing its service because the Czech government has not yet joined European Union countries in lifting the air embargo on Yugoslavia.

Social Democrats want new law on Iranian nuclear plant deal

Lower house deputies from the Social Democrats are considering calling for an extraordinary session of Parliament to approve a ban on a Czech company providing air conditioning equipment to the Iranian nuclear plant under construction in Busher. The ban was first approved by the lower house, only for the upper house - the Senate - to reject it on Thursday. Senators want the Czech company to receive compensation. Western governments have pressured the Czech Republic to prevent the deal going through, and without an extraordinary session of Parliament the next chance to do so would be in April.

Court battle begins between PM Zeman and journalist

A libel case has begun at the Prague Municipal Court between the Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, and journalist Ivan Brezina - who is demanding almost ten thousand dollars in damages after Mr. Zeman accused him of writing articles paid for by the Czech electricity company CEZ. The accusations were made in June, at a time when Mr. Zeman had also accused the former foreign minister, Josef Zieleniec, of having bribed journalists. Those accusations were later withdrawn. Mr. Brezina said the prime minister´s allegations against him had destroyed his career.

Irish community marks St. Patrick´s Day

The 17th of March, St. Patrick´s Day, is marked with a night of parties in Irish pubs all over the world - and Prague is no exception. The city has half-a-dozen Irish pubs (although some are more authentic than others), all of them with special events for the occassion. But you don´t have to be Irish to enjoy the celebrations - Radio Prague wishes all its listeners a happy and, if possible, hangover-free time of it.

And that´s the news.