Daily news summary News of Radio Prague

07-06-2003

Robertson criticises NATO member states for low defence spending

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson has criticised European members of the alliance for failing to devote enough resources to defence spending. In a commentary to appear in the German Bild am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday, Robertson said it was wrong for European nations in NATO to accuse the United States of taking unilateral action if they are unable to improve their military capabilities. Despite there being a lot of talk about modernising, governments are buttoned up when it comes time to pay, he said. As a result, the trans-Atlantic capabilities gap is growing larger and larger. One such example is that the United States has over 200 strategic transport aircraft, while Europe has four. The Czech Republic has been a NATO member since March 12 1999. A new government plan to decrease the state budget deficit has significantly reduced the defence ministry's budget, leading to the resignation of Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik.

Zahradil: EU campaign leaves citizens misinformed

The opposition Civic Democrats' shadow foreign minister Jan Zahradil has criticised the Czech government's EU accession campaign. In a Czech TV discussion programme on Saturday, he said the ongoing campaign lacks objectivity and leaves citizens misinformed. However, according to Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, who was also a guest in the programme, the campaign hides nothing from Czech citizens. He added that all open queries on EU membership are furthermore attended to by the ministry; in May alone, it replied to 40,000 telephone calls and one million e-mails.

Group of protesters hold demonstration against EU membership

A small group of some twenty people gathered at Prague's Old Town Square on Saturday to protest against the Czech Republic's accession to the EU. Representatives of the Citizens' Against the EU Association urged Czechs to vote "no" in the upcoming referendum, saying EU membership would threaten the Czech Republic's independence, as it would be greatly influenced by international organisations, and affected by more corruption and organised crime. The Czech Republic goes to the polls on Friday in a two-day referendum on joining the European Union. Unlike in neighbouring Poland or Slovakia, the result of the EU referendum in the Czech Republic will be binding. Should Czechs say "no" to EU membership, the country will have to wait two years before a new referendum can be held.

St. Lucia foreign minister elected as next UN General Assembly president

The U.N. General Assembly has elected St. Lucia's Foreign Minister Julian Hunte to preside over the body when it opens its new annual session in September. Hunte will replace Jan Kavan, the former Czech foreign minister, when the 191-nation assembly opens its 58th session on September 16. The session will hear addresses by heads of state and government on topics ranging from conflicts to the world economy and the degrading environment. The presidency rotates among regions in the world, which are called to agree on a single candidate to avoid unnecessary last- minute competition for the mostly ceremonial post. Hunte, like his predecessors, was elected by acclamation. The assembly is responsible for budgetary decisions, the administration of the world organisation, its specialised agencies and election of the secretary general as well as judges at the International Court of Justice.

Weather forecast

Sunday has been forecast with partially clear skies and scattered showers in the southern parts of the country. Day-time temperatures will reach a maximum of 31 degrees Celsius.

07-06-2003