News Tuesday, OCTOBER 20th, 1998

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Havel - Britain

President Vaclav Havel is in Britain for a four-day state visit. Prime minister Tony Blair has promised the Czech president to help the Czech Republic achieve membership in NATO and the European Union. The two leaders met for 50 minutes ahead of a visit by Havel to Northern Ireland on Tuesday where he will congratulate John Hume and David Trimble on the Nobel Peace Prize they won last week for their efforts to end the province's long lasting conflict. Blair's spokesman said Havel also outlined to the Prime Minister measures being taken in the Czech Republic to improve the situation of the Czech Romany community.

Kavan - Czech foreign policy

In response to British concern about the position of the Czech Romany minority, the Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, who is accompanying the president, said that his government intends to lay greater stress on respecting human rights in the Czech Republic. He added that the Foreign Ministry is preparing a comprehensive document on the main goals of Czech foreign policy. Addressing the Royal Institute for International Relations in London, the minister said that establishing good and stable relations with its neighbours is a high foreign policy priority.

Farmers - protests

The Czech Agrarian chamber crisis team has - for the time being - suspended the planned protest actions, designed to force the cabinet to take steps which would protect the Czech food market against the imports of subsidised food from abroad. Czech farmers' leaders have accepted premier Milos Zeman's offer of further negotiations. If talks with the premier and the Agriculture minister fail, the farmers are ready to take action, including - among other things - a blockade of all access routes to Prague.

Mayor versus president

The Mayor of the North Bohemian town of Usti nad Labem, Ladislav Hruska, has called upon President Vaclav Havel to apologize to the citizens of the town for his statements, broadcast on Sunday in an interview for Czech Radio. President Havel accused some mayors of behaving as though the town belonged to them and of ignoring international opinion. Without referring specifically to the mayor of Usti nad Labem, who supports the idea of building a wall to isolate a mainly Romany housing estate in the town, the President claimed that some mayors felt entitled to embrace all the racial prejudices of their voters. The mayor, Mr Hruska, has responded to the charges by accusing the President Havel of raising emotions and accelerating tensions among citizens, without offering constructive solutions.

Czech Republic - EU

The progress recently made by the Czech Republic in its preparations for EU membership is less than satisfactory, according to the Czech ambassador to the European Union, Pavel Telicka, speaking on Monday to an international conference on EU enlargement held in Prague. He added that this view also reflects recent comments by the European commissioner, Hans Van den Broek, who said during a visit to Prague that Brussels felt the pace of integration in the Czech Republic to be somewhat slower when compared with other EU candidates. Mr Telicka warned that in the course of negotiations the EU will take into account whether Prague is aware of its weak points and whether it is ready to find a quick solution to them.

Tennis - Korda

And finally tennis: Top seed and home favourite Petr Korda has crashed out of the 1 million dollars Czech Indoor tennis tournament, losing in the first rounnd to 18-year-old Russian Marat Safin. Korda was beaten 6-4 6-2.