News Wednesday, FEBRUARY 16th, 2000

Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. I'm Pauline Newman, first we start with a look at the main headlines of the day:

You are tuned to radio Prague. Those were the headlines, now let's take a look at the news in full:

Havel / Rychetsky

Czech President Vaclav Havel on Tuesday praised moves made by the Czech Government to bring the country's legislation into line with that of the European Union. According to a spokesman, Havel said during a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky, that he was pleased the government had prepared most of the laws which the Union said were lacking in October when it issued a report criticizing legislation in the Czech Republic. During the meeting Rychetsky allegedly informed the President that of the 31 laws which are necessary for the country’s membership of the European Union, 28 have been prepared. The spokesman said that the laws now only need to be approved by the lower and upper houses of the Czech Parliament. He added that Vaclav Havel hopes to see MP’s placing the interests of the state above the interests of their own parties. President Havel received Rychetsky before his trip to Strasbourg on Wednesday where he is to address the European Parliament.

Telicka / EU

Czech Secretary of State for European Affairs Pavel Telicka also praised the government moves to reverse last year's negative evaluation of the Czech Republic's efforts at EU integration. But, did warn on Tuesday, that the country faces more change and emphasized that there is still much work to be done. He told journalists that he hopes the EU would differentiate between the pace of readiness of the candidate countries and not lump them together.

Zeman / Portugal /

Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman on a visit to Lisbon, on Tuesday, met with representatives of the Portuguese Parliament. They expressed their support for the Czech membership bid of the European Union and said they would like to see the ratification of internal EU reforms taking place at the same time as the eastward expansion of the Union. According to a Czech government spokesman, Zeman's visit to Portugal has been timed to coincide with the beginning of the Portuguese rotating Presidency of the European Union.

Zeman also called for increased investment in the Czech Republic. He stressed to Portuguese businessmen, that there are plenty of promising opportunities notably within current privatization programmes and said his minority government guarantees political stability in the Czech Republic. A spokesman for the Czech Government said the main areas for potential investment are tourism and banking. Milos Zeman is in Portugal for an official two day visit.

Mertlik / London / Investments

Czech Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik was in London, on Tuesday taking part in a conference organized by the British government aimed at boosting British investment in the Czech Republic. Mertlik said that the British share of foreign investment currently stands at around 5 % adding that there is potential for improvement. Later, during a speech, Mertlik said the Czech government is determined to conclude the privatization of the banking sector and has made European Union membership its main goal.

MP's / Regular contact with the President

Controversy continues to surround ties between President Vaclav Havel and the leadership of the lower house of the Czech Parliament. Some politicians said on Tuesday that enmity between Chairman of the lower house Vaclav Klaus and President Havel are to blame for the lack of contact. Others believe that there is no point in holding regular meetings and said that the President himself has broken this tradition. This comes amid recent reports in the media, that poor dialogue between Klaus and Havel is harming the state, since they rarely meet for talks.

IVVM / Rightist tendencies in Czech society

A Public Opinion Research Institute which has been reviewing political orientation within Czech society, revealed on Tuesday that there is still a strong following for centrist and rightist parties. A report carried out over January, shows that although there were fears after a strong showing for the communist party in the opinion polls, 33% of Czechs still support centrist policies, and 35% are in favour of a right wing leadership. 22 % said they would like to see a leftist, communist government.

Experts say that those who support a centrist government would vote for the Christian Democrats or the Social Democrats, while those who wanted a rightist leadership, preferred the Freedom Union. The Research Institute, says the main conclusion to be drawn from the report, is that political orientation among Czech people has hardly changed over the last five years.

Nuclear power stations / EU

A western expert on European nuclear power stations, warned on Tuesday that sub standard nuclear reactors in some east European countries seeking membership of the European Union, could hurt admission prospects. Richard Bye a senior official at the Western European Nuclear Regulatory Association (WENRA) said that nuclear safety in the candidate countries is a major issue which needs to be addressed as part of the enlargement process. The Czech Republic began negotiations to join the Union in 1998. The EU's Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom has already said she would like to see all risky nuclear power stations in candidate countries closed down. As far as the Czech Republic is concerned, Richard Bye said he was impressed with Czech engineers at the Dukovany plant, but was less optimistic about Temelin, which lies near the Czech - Austrian border. He called Temelin "a hybrid", adding that it is an old design that is being upgraded with modern features.

The association which comprises nuclear watchdog bodies from EU countries will publish a review of nuclear safety in the applicant countries before the end of the year.

And we end as usual with a brief look at the weather:

Wednesday will see a cool, wet start to the day with cloudy overcast skies. Temperatures during the day will range from 4 to 8 degrees Celsius, dropping overnight to around zero.

I'm Pauline Newman and that's the end of the news.