News Thursday, MARCH 12th, 1998

Radio Prague E-news Date: March 12th, 1998 Written/read by: Daniela Lazarova

Hello and welcome to the programme. We begin as usual with a look at the main newsstories this hour

Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail

Government- deregulation

The Czech government on Wednesday approved a price deregulation plan effecting electricity, gas and rents. As of July 1st, Czechs will be paying 24% more for electricity supplies, 27% more for gas deliveries and, on average, 27% more in rent money. A valorization of old age pensions by 7,25% -that is approximately 400 crowns a month - should also come into effect of that date. The decision has been sharply criticized by trade unions who insist a rise of more than 15% is socially untenable. They have promised to back public protest actions but have expressed the view that Czechs would do better to make their dissatisfaction felt in the upcoming general elections.

EU -Czech trade row

EU farm ministers are to decide next week on ending preferential import tariffs on pork, poultry and apple juice from the Czech republic. The planned measures are to be effected in retaliation for Czech restrictions on EU apple imports. Under severe pressure from Czech fruit growers the government recently introduced an import quota of 24,000 tonnes a year on EU apples. Apple imports in excess of that amount would attract a 95% import tax. Potential losses to EU apple growers have been estimated at seven million ecus. The European Commission says the planned counter-measures would inflict corresponding losses. The Czech government has reacted cooly to the news, saying it would stick by its decision.

Lobkowitz -medals

Czech defense minister Michal Lobkowitz has decorated four Czech soldiers who served in international peace-keeping missions abroad with medals for bravery. One is lieutenant colonel Jaroslav Kulisek, recently held hostage by opposition forces in Georgia, the other three , who served in the UNPROFOR mission in Bosnia, were abducted and held at strategic locations as "live shields" by Bosnian Serbs in 1995. In a short speech the defense minister thanked the four officers for their acts of courage and professionalism which he said not only raised the credit of the Czech army but helped avert tragedy at their respective posts.

Havel -Poland

Ending a three day official visit to Poland on Wednesday President Havel visited the central town of Zelow, where Czechs have lived since 1802 and retained their language and Protestant faith in a predominantly Catholic country. "I would like to express my admiration for the wonderful way you have managed to preserve your language and faith in Poland, " Havel told people in a local Protestant church, adding " this is the most appropriate moment to speak of this, at a time when Europe is uniting and there are fears about preserving identity." The Czech president also travelled to the nearby city of Lodz where he paid a sombre visit to Europe's largest Jewish cemetery, which is also a mass burial ground for Polish and Czech Jews murdered by Nazi German invaders during World War II.

Mlynar - resignation

Government spokesman Vladimir Mlynar has resigned from the post on account of his membership in the recently established Freedom Union. Mlynar, who says he wants to pursue a career in politics was hand- picked by prime minister Josef Tosovsky who hoped that as a former journalist Mlynar would help establish a better working relationship with the press. Although the Cabinet on Wednesday accepted Mlynar's resignation they have asked him to stay on the job until a suitable replacement can be found.

And finally the weather

Thursday should be partly cloudy to overcast, with scattered snow showers. Day temps two degs below to two degs above zero. Nighttime lows minus 5 to minus 10 degs.