News Wednesday, MARCH 17th, 1999

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.

EC resignation will not influence accession talks - Telicka

The unexpected resignation of the European Commission on Monday night will not endanger the Czech Republic's accession talks with the EU, according to Czech chief negotiator Pavel Telicka. He told reporters that EU bodies involved in the talks should not be affected by the move. He admitted however, that it might delay the process. Deputy premier Egon Lansky agrees that the resignation can complicate the talks but will not endanger them.

Chilean president in CR

Chilean President Eduardo Frei has begun an state visit to the Czech Republic. He is meeting with president Vaclav Havel, deputy premier Egon Lansky and other high-ranking Czech officials. President Frei has also pay tribute to Czech national hero Jan Palach who immolated himself in protest against the 1968 Russian invasion to Czechoslovakia.

Social Democrat MPs support Gregr

Social Democrat MPs have supported industry and trade minister Miroslav Gregr's plan to help Czech industry and recommended the government to adopt it. The MPs rejected an alternative plan worked out by deputy premier for economic policy Pavel Mertlik. Minister Gregr's revitalisation programme for the Czech industry has recently been turned down by the government's economic council which raised objections mainly to the way of financing the programme, the position of company owners and the participation of banks in the programme.

Zeman flies south

A delegation of Czech government officials headed by premier Milos Zeman has left for a three day official visit to Romania and Bulgaria. The main issues to be discussed include accession to the European Union, further expansion of NATO and exchange of experience with economic reforms. Besides premier Zeman, the delegation comprises finance minister Ivo Svoboda, industry and trade minister Miroslav Gregr and agriculture minister Jan Fencl.

Czechs and Slovaks join effort to enter EU

The Czech Republic and Slovakia will support each other on their way to the European Union, according to Czech Deputy premier for foreign policy, Egon Lansky. Mr. Lansky told reporters after meeting with the Slovak ambassador to Prague, Jozef Stanko, that the two countries could establish joint centers whose task would be to translate EU legislation. Lansky noted that the Czech Republic and Slovakia shared the same legal system for decades, so that there should be no problem cooperating with the implementation of EU standards. In Lansky's opinion, the relationship between the Czech Republic and Slovakia is currently better than it was before the split of Czechoslovakia back in 1993.

Stopping Temelin would send CEZ bankrupt, CEZ claims

Halting the construction of the Temelin nuclear power plant would send its constructor, Czech energy monopoly CEZ, into bankruptcy. CEZ claims that stopping the project would change the company's economic situation so seriously that it could not avoid bankruptcy. CEZ issued this statement as information for cabinet ministers who are supposed to discuss the future of Temelin next Monday. An expert commission set up by the government to assess the economic aspects of completing Temelin said in its report that that the Czech Republic would not need electricity from Temelin for at least a decade, and that CEZ should be able to survive.

Party popularity - opinion poll

The Social Democrats have secured their leading position on the political scene and remain the strongest party, according to the latest opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research, If elections were held in March, the poll disclosed, the Social Democrats would win with 31 percent of the vote, a two percent increase on the previous month's results. The Civic Democratic Party would finish with 23 percent, slightly less than in February. The Communists' popularity rose to 14 percent. The Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union would gain around ten percent.

1/5 of Czechs prefer communist regime

According to another poll, 20 percent of Czech citizens prefer the former communist regime to democracy. The latest survey conducted by the Sofres-Factum agency revealed that 56 percent of Czechs favour the current regime. For comparison, in February 1998, almost thirty percent of poll respondents would opt for the communist regime. Most of those who, in the latest poll, would welcome the return of communism, were voters for the Communist party and the Social Democrats.

Czech weather report

And now, the weather forecast. We are expecting a cloudy day with scattered snow showers, afternoon highs should range from 4 to 8 degrees Celsius. Thursday and Friday should be less cloudy, but with similar daytime highs: between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.