News Tuesday, MARCH 16th, 1999

Hello and welcome to RP. Those were the headlines, now the news in full, read by Alena Skodova:

Czech flag hoisted outside the NATO headqurters

The Czech, Hungarian and Polish flags have been hoisted outside the NATO headquarters in Brussels, in the presence of the premiers of the three new members of the Alliance - Milos Zeman, Viktor Orban and Jerzy Buzek, who have reviewed the guard of honour of the Supreme Command of the NATO allied forces in Europe. The festive ceremony in Brussels attended by NATO Secretary General Javier Solana is considered a symbolic full stop on the Czech Republic's journey to the North Atlantic Treaty organization, after Foreign minister Jan Kavan handed over the ratification documents to US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright last Friday.

Chilean president in Prague

A three day official visit of Chilean president Eduardo Frei in the Czech Republic which starts on Tuesday is to revive good contacts that the two countries used to maintain back in the 1920s. Although mutual relations since then had been alternatively interrupted and resumed again, they became more intensive within the past nine years. Mr.Frei's visit follows Czech president Vaclav Havel's tour of Latin America three years ago, when the two presidents pointed to the similarity of the transformation processes in their countries. The Chilean head of state will meet with president Vaclav Havel, Speaker of Parliament Vaclav Klaus, Chairwoman of the Senate Libuse Benesova and deputy premier Egon Lansky.

60th anniversary of German occupation

Members of the Czech Union of Freedom Fighters, soldiers and students of secondary military schools and military academies on Monday commemorated the 60th anniversary of the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany and the creation of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. At a seminar held at the Defence ministry in Prague, historians and anti-Nazi resistance fighters agreed that the 15th of March 1939 ranks among the most tragic days in the history of the Czech nation. The Union's deputy chairman Slavomir Klaban noted that most Czech and Moravian people do not fully realize the hard times their predecessors experienced six decades ago, when the very existence of the Czech nation was at stake.

German occupation - Havel

President Vaclav Havel has issued a statement on the 60th anniversary of the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany. In it he said that Czechoslovakia's bitter experience with the German occupation was one of the reasons why the Czech Republic had done all it could to become a NATO member. "Although now we belong to the Alliance and Germany is our ally, we must never forget March 1939," the president noted. "Czech- German relations have developed into partnership, but the hundreds of thousands who were victimized by the Nazi occupation must stand as evidence which should never disappear from our memory," Havel said, adding that he thought this sad piece of history would never be repeated, because our accession to NATO would defend our independence and our democratic system.

Vetchy - NATO

According to Czech Defence minister Vladimir Vetchy, more and more people have come to understand why their country has entered the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and welcome this move. Vetchy does not attach great importance to the anti-NATO protests that occurred in Prague on Saturday. "We are a democratic state," Vetchy told the CTK news agency. "People can freely express their views, and protest actions were expected. But it is quite important that the number of people supporting our NATO membership has been on the rise, while in Poland it is stagnating at present," Vetchy noted. Last Saturday, communist and anarchist youth protested against the Czech Republic's accession to NATO on Hradcanske square, outside Prague castle.

NATO - cooperation

Staying with NATO, the Czech ambassador to the alliance, Karel Kovanda, has stressed that just because the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary became NATO members on the same day does not mean these three countries will in the future express the same views on various issues. There are no tri-lateral consultations scheduled for the days to come, Kovanda noted, adding that Hungarians and Poles for us will be only two out of 18 alliance members. "We can already see," said Mr. Kovanda, citing an example, "that our views in the sphere of European security differ," -- but he did not elaborate.

Living standards - poll

54 percent of Czechs consider their household living standards satisfactory. 85 percent of these are managers and highly qualified people, not ordinary workers. These are the results of the latest survey carried out by the Public Opinion Research Institute, and the figures have not changed substantially within the last two months. The opinion poll has also revealed that 44 percent of those polled consider their living standards bad, out of which 63 percent are unqualified workers. Those who expressed the most satisfaction were supporters of right-wing parties, while the most dissatisfied were backers of the Communist party of Bohemia and Moravia. Women were more critical of the present situation than men.

Doctors plan strike

At their congress, which will be held in Prague on Tuesday, members of the Doctors' Trade Union will debate a possible strike of medical employees. They cite the appalling situation in the Czech health-care system and the Health Ministry's unwillingness to deal with it as the main reasons for their planned protest. The congress is to decide if the strike will be called, which form it will take, and and when it will be staged.