News Wednesday, APRIL 08th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-news Date: April 8th, 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 full

Havel- salutes academicians

President Vaclav Havel on Tuesday addressed a gathering of academicians, senators and leading cultural figures at a ceremony marking the 650th anniversary of the founding of Charles University. He emphasized the university's role of educating the mind and cultivating the spirit at a time when economic interests reign supreme. Research need not always be a means to economic prosperity, Havel noted, highlighting the success of Czech egyptologists, who had done more for the country's reputation than any advertisement campaign ever could. The celebrations marking the 650th anniversary of the oldest university in central Europe have been planned on a lavish scale - they comprise some 150 separate events spanning the next 12 months.

White collars' demonstration

Some 2,000 white collar workers, mainly from the financial sector, turned out to demonstrate for higher wages outside government offices in Prague Tuesday. Trade union leaders handed over a petition demanding a 25% valorization of wages as of June of this year, warning that tougher measures would be taken if this condition was not met. Real wages are said to have dropped by 20% in this sector of the economy, the average wage of a fully qualified 50 year old employee is reported to be eight and a half thousand crowns. This was the first demonstration of white collar workers in the country's post-revolution history.

Ruml rejects allegations

Freedom Union leader Jan Ruml told newsmen Tuesday he had no ambition to become the Czech republic's next premier. He also rejected speculation in the press that he had discussed the possibility in one- on-one talks with President Havel. The Freedom Union's unexpectedly high popularity rating has made it the main arch rival of the opposition Social Democrats, who are widely expected to win the elections, and has given rise to speculation whether it might not after all be possible to set up a new centre-right cabinet after the June elections.

53% Czechs say "we're doing fine"

An opinion poll conducted by the Prague-based research agency IVVM reveals that 53% Czechs are currently satisfied with their living standard. 38% described it as "not good" and 7% said it was "miserly". Young and single respondents as well as middle aged couples dominated the satisfied group. Pensioners and families with young children said they had difficulty making ends meet. In a separate poll over 75% respondents said this weaker social group should get more social support but a mere 40% said they would agree to help co-finance it through higher taxes.

Temelin - controversy

Czechs are divided over the controversial nuclear power plant under construction in southern Bohemia. Since the government last week signalled the possibility of halting the project, by requesting both industry minister Karel Kuhnl and environment minister Martin Bursik to submit alternatives to completing and operating Temelin, the issue has been on the forefront of media attention. An opinion poll conducted on the matter has revealed that 53% Czechs are in favour of the plant's completion, 47% respondents said it ought to be scrapped. The issue will be back on cabinet's agenda in June.

Help from Germany

The German Red Cross has provided 43 million marks /23 million dollars/ over the past nine months to assist victims of flooding in the Czech Republic and Poland last year. Red Cross assistance coordinator Achim Mueller said a total of 72 million marks had been collected through donations from the public, of which 25 million marks were sent to Poland, 18 million marks to the Czech Republic and the reminder used to help flood victims in the German state of Brandenburg.

Beer festival in Stockholm

A festival of Czech beer is currently underway in Stockholm, Sweden. A highly popular event in the past two years, it is once again taking place at the Good Soldier Svejk restaurant in the Swedish capital, where beer lovers can sample 20 Czech brews on tap. The opening night was attended among others by Czech hockey gold medallist from Nagano Pavel Patera. The Good Soldier Svejk restaurant has been doing business in Stockholm for a quarter of a century and the Association of Swedish newsmen last year voted it the absolutely best place to go for a pint.

Weather

Wednesday is expected to be partly cloudy, with occasional drizzle and day temps between 9 and 13 degs C. Nighttime lows 8 to 4 degs C.