News Wednesday, APRIL 01th, 1998

Radio Prague E-News Date: April 1st, 1998 Writter/read by: Vladimir Tax

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.

EU enlargement negotiations launched

On Tuesday, the European Union began detailed accession negotiations with six candidate countries: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia. A final date for their membership yet to be set, but E.U. officials say they could be in by 2002 or 2003.

The membership process got underway on Monday when E.U. foreign ministers met their counterparts from the former communist nations and Cyprus to launch the enlargement process.

Czech foreign minister Jaroslav Sedivy said he hoped the negotiations would be completed by the year 2000 so that the Czech Republic could join the Union during the first decade of the next century. He stressed that the Czech Republic was prepared to accept and apply EU "acquis communautaire" and said it was not asking for any exceptions from EU legislation.

Elections yes, solution no

According to the latest opinion poll conducted by the Institute For Public Opinion Research, 73 percent of Czech citizens are convinced that early elections should take place, however, only six percent of those asked expect them to improve the political situation significantly.

Havel meets political prisoners

On Tuesday, about a thousand former political prisoners met at Prague's Zofin palace to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the political prisoners' club.

President Havel, himself a prisoner of conscience, said in a speech at the session that former political prisoners must testify about the communist dictatorship, because young people today take freedom as a matter of course and need to be warned against totalitarianism.

Minister Sedivy opens Czech NATO mission

Czech Foreign Minister Jaroslav Sedivy opened the Czech NATO mission in the Alliance's political headquarters in Brussels. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland were invited to join NATO by the Alliance's Madrid summit last July. The admission protocols were signed in December. The accession procedure will be completed after all 16 currennt NATO members have ratified the enlargement. Denmark, Canada, Norway and Germany have already done so.

Railwaymen ready to back miners by going on strike

The Railway Workers' Union is ready to launch a nationwide strike in support of north Bohemian miners who are fighting the planned completion of the local coal mining industry privatisation, railway union leader Jaromir Dusek told CTK on Tuesday.

The railway workers' union is considering organising a one-day token strike next week. The launch of the strike, however, is up to the miners' unions concerned.

The coal miners' trade union called a strike alert last week after the cabinet approved a plan to privatise three North Bohemian coal mining companies. The government asked the miners in to call off the strike alert and offered them negotiations which are to start on Wednesday.

China protests against senate resolution

China protested against a resolution adopted by the Czech Senate last week which criticizes human rights abuses in the country. On Tuesday the Chinese ambassador to Prague, Je Peng, expressed the protest to Senate deputy chairwoman Jaroslava Moserova. Mrs. Moserova said China warned it may adopt unspecified retaliatory measures if the Czech Republic repeats such a step.

The other house of the Czech parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, has been considering the adoption of a similar resolution, which may be the step the Chinese ambassador referred to.

Mr. Peng said China considered the resolution as serious interference into China's internal affairs and proclaimed that there are no human rights abuses in the country.

However, Czech senators are convinced that the opposite is true. In the resolution they call on the Chinese government to release all political prisoners in China and Tibet and to put an end to the oppression of the Tibetan nation.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather. We are expecting a mostly sunny day with highest daytime temperatures between 17 and 21 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.