News Tuesday, FEBRUARY 16th, 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.

Confusion about admision date clarified

The confusion about the date for the admission of new members into NATO has been clarified. At the weekend, the Czech foreign ministry announced that the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary would become NATO members on the 12th of March, but NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General Wesley Clark and other officials at NATO headquarters, told Czech deputy premier Egon Lansky on Monday that the date had not yet been confirmed. However, Czech ambassador to the United States, Alexand Vondra, did confirm the 12th of March as the date when the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland will hand over the ratification protocols to the depositor of the North Atlantic Treaty, the United States. Vondra said that the date was proposed by the United States and military officials at NATO's headquarters did not know about it most likely because the United States had not informed them.

Gregr's plan turned down

The government's economic council has rejectd Industry and Trade minister Miroslav Gregr's revitalisation programme for the Czech industry and recommended that it be reworked. Deputy premier for economic policy Pavel Mertlik told reporters that the council raised objections mainly to the way if financing the programme, the position of company owners and the participation of banks in the programme.

TU would welcome ODS/CSSD coalition

The Czech-Moravian Chamber of Trade Unions would not object if the so-called opposition agreement between the two strongest parties, the Civic Democrats and the Social Democrats, turned into a coalition pact. Union leader Richard Falbr said it was vital to ensure political stability, otherwise the country would not attract any foreign investors. The opposition agreement, signed after the early elections last year, made it possible for the Social Democrats to form a minority cabinet.

Macek recommends an audit of SocDem finances

The Civic Democrats' deputy leader Miroslav Macek is convinced that the Social Democrats are dragging their feet on an independent audit of party finances probably because they are afraid of what might come out of it. Although almost all the mainstream policitacl parties have had problems with financing, the Civic Democratic Party was the only one which had its accounts checked by an independent company. Macek told the CTK news agency he would strongly recommend that the Social Democrats do the same. The Social Democrats have been considering an audit in connection with a dubious loan that the party took before the elections last year, but some members of the party leadership strongly oppose the idea.

Czechs best prepared for EU

Of all the reform countries of the central and eastern Europe, the Czech Republic is the best prepared for entering the EU, according to the results of a survey commissioned by the Austrian government from that country's Economic Research Institute. Estonia and Hungary scored almost the same results, Slovakia placed fourth, followed by Slovenia and Poland. Hungary was found the best in the privatisation of banks and most attractive for foreign investors.

Electricity consumption expected to accelerate

Electricity consumption in both Western and Eastern Europe is expected to accelerate in the next decade. According to a study published by the UNIPEDE-EURPROG workgroup, the demand for electricity in Europe is expected to go up by 17.3 percent, an acceleration of 0.6 percent when compared to the previous decade. In Central and Eastern Europe, the acceleration figure is expected to reach 2.5 percent. Experts consider the results of this study to be the most accurate prediction of development in this sphere. The UNIPEDE-EURPROG workgroup has been issuing reports on expected and real development in the energy sector since 1970. Originally they included only EU members, but since 1994 they have issued reports on a total of 21 European countries.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. On Tuesday, weather in the Czech Republic will be influenced by a low pressure area from the North. We are expecting a mostly cloudy day with scattered snow showers. Afternoon highs should range from 2 degrees Celsius below zero to 2 above. The next two days should be much the same, cloudy or partially cloudy with occasional snow showers, with highest daytime temperatures hovering around zero.

And that's the end of the news.